You know a flower is oh so special when it blooms in December and January. It’s the perfect time for the bright colors and gorgeous palettes of Poinsettias. There are over 150 different varieties that range in colors from orange to green, and from a traditional red to a speckled hot pink.
They originate from Mexico (like their friends the succulents) but are often referred to around the world as a Christmas Star because of its gorgeous star shaped leaf pattern. Everyone knows what a Poinsettia is and they are popular across the world during the holidays.
They are warm weather loving tropical plants that can get up to around 2 feet in size and up to 10 feet in its native area. Most people assume that they only last for a season, but in fact they can live much longer! They are a finicky plant but that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn to take great care of them. Let’s learn how.
Light & Water
Poinsettias, like most flowers, prefer a lot of sun. Even in the winter they will need at 6 least 6 hours of bright indirect light. They are best indoors because they are also quite temperature sensitive. If you keep them indoors, they prefer any window to a North-facing window. South, East, and West facing windows are all preferred. Poinsettias should never be in a place that’s less than 50°F for extended periods of time. Even front doors or drafty windows can be a problem.
If you are in tropical environment like Florida or Texas, Poinsettias can be kept outdoors but should be bright in at night when temperatures drop below 55°F – 50°F.
Any outdoor plants will also need more water than indoors, so you will likely be watering your Poinsettias 2-3 times per week. For an indoor Poinsettia, you will likely water 1-2 times per week. The important thing is to allow your Poinsettias to dry out completely between waterings.
Soil & Pruning
In general, keep your eyes on the flower bracts to understand your plant’s overall health. The bracts are the colored parts and include tiny buds on the interior of the star leaf formations. The colored parts are technically not flowers. I recommend looking at these before you purchase a new Poinsettia and continue to look at them during the season to ensure that you are giving them adequate light and water.
Because Poinsettias like to dry out between waterings, prefer well draining peat based soil. They won’t need any pruning or deadheading during their blooming season of December and January. Instead they will only need their dead leaves trimmed back and a once a year pruning in the Spring.
Year Round Care
Most people thing that Poinsettias only live for 1 season but they can actually live much longer! It’s a bit high maintenance of a plant, but doable in any home if kept in a container. Unfortunately, they are not suitable to be planted in the ground in any home garden but could be in a greenhouse if that greenhouse is kept over 55°F all year long.
Each spring, preferably April, a Poinsettia should be pruned to around 4 inches tall. It should be repotted in May with completely fresh soil. Then it should be fertilized only once per year in the spring. An everyday fertilizer is perfect, just be sure that it’s high quality.
Now here’s where it gets tricky. To get your Poinsettias to bloom again the next year, you will need to follow a strict procedure. Starting in October, you need to perfectly regulate the amount of light it gets.
Poinsettias are “short-day plants.” That means their buds are affected by the length of daylight. That’s what makes them bloom. Poinsettias need at least 10 consecutive weeks with 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of total darkness per day. These conditions are best when artificially created by placing your Poinsettias in a closet or interior bathroom at night. This has to be done everyday, correctly for your Poinsettia to bloom again.
It’s commonly thought that Poinsettias are poisonous to humans and animals. And although the shouldn’t be eaten, they are purely ornamental, they are not actually poisonous. Instead, they do produce a milky sap when broken that can be irritating to the skin. This sap can cause contact dermatitis and those with a latex allergy more commonly have a reaction. Their plant family is called Euphorbias, and includes Poinsettias and Milkweed. It’s best to use safe handling like washing your hands after trimming and being careful to not rub your eyes after touching them.
When trimming and pruning, wear gloves or just be sure to wash your hands.
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