Master Gardener: Welcome Holiday Additions: Poinsettia Care

Published 2:00 am Saturday, December 11, 2021

By John Green

Orange County Master Gardener

 

Another year is rapidly coming to an end and Christmas is close at hand and with it the joy of spending time with friends and family. Many of us will be shopping for gifts, food, and sweet treats. Why not include a bright, festive holiday plant or two for yourself or as a wonderful holiday gift! Poinsettias make dramatic focal points as holiday decorations and when placed strategically throughout your home, command attention from anyone who views them.

But caring for them once the holidays are over seeming to be something most people do not remember to do, and invariably, they are left out to be retrieved with the post-holiday trash.

However, it doesn’t have to end this way for these beautiful plants. In fact, with the

proper care, poinsettias can live for many years, and if unfettered by a terrible freeze, can reach heights greater than ten feet when planted in a landscape!

Caring for Poinsettias

Poinsettias prefer bright, indirect light, and lots of it. Six hours of bright light every day is recommended, however, they do not thrive in direct sunlight. Plants kept indoors, need to receive diffused light such as near window with thin curtains. They also prefer cooler daytime temperatures, so a normal household with fans or air-conditioning should do them well. If the temperature is too high, the plants will graciously respond by becoming tall and “leggy” in appearance. Avoid drafts and do not place them near heat sources.

Like many house plants, poinsettias prefer soil which is slightly moist but not wet. Well-drained soil is a must for them, or they will suffer from root rot if water is allowed to stand at the plant’s base. Soil that is dry to the touch one inch from top indicates it is time to water them, as would drooping bracts or leaves.

The beautiful red, pink, white or variegated bracts of the poinsettia are what appear to be the plant’s flowers. They are in fact leaves and will remain beautiful for weeks at a time and can reappear each year if proper care is given to the poinsettia plant. Once the bracts lose their color, near spring’s arrival, cut the plant back to approximately seven to nine inches in height. Within a month or so, new growth will appear. Begin fertilizing monthly with a weak mixture of commercial fertilizer (at half strength).

Keep the plant pruned throughout the summer to ensure the plant remains compact, but do not prune after August 31. Continue to keep the plant watered properly and provide indirect lighting all year round. Poinsettia bracts recolor as the nights in autumn begin to get longer. Place the plant where it can enjoy these longer nights remembering that exposure at this time to too much light will inhibit the plant’s natural tendency to put on colorful bracts and will remain green.

Once a year, repot your poinsettia in a good quality potting soil. This is best done after pruning and just before the new growth appears in Spring. I hope with these easy-to-follow directions, you can have a beautiful poinsettia plant which renews its holiday beauty year to year!

 

Poinsettia Care: Quick Reference for year-round care guide

Christmas Holiday Care

  • Poinsettias require bright, indirect light while inside
  • Water when potting mix feels dry to the touch
  • Keep away from drafts (hot or cold)
  • Begin fertilizing once color begins to fade
  • Protect from temperatures below 50°f

 

After Holiday Care thru Early Fall

  • Place Poinsettia in a sunny indoor location and keep soil barely moist
  • Trim to about 7-9” tall once leaves fall in the Spring, keep watered and fertilized
  • After new growth appears and repot. Place outside in morning sun and fertilize weekly
  • Pinch back tips of the Poinsettia by one quarter to foster branching
  • Bring indoors when night temperatures fall below 50°F

 

October 1 to December 15

  • Total darkness required from 4PM to 8AM. Ensure the poinsettia receives no light between these hours
  • Allow the plant to receive only 8 hours of sun light daily
  • Once bracts begin to color, discontinue long nights and fertilizer
  • Poinsettia can now be placed in its holiday location

 

For more information or to have your gardening questions answered please contact us:

Orange County TX Master Gardeners

Website: https://txmg.org/orange

Facebook: Orange County Texas Master Gardeners Association.

Orange County Master Gardner Helpline: (409) 882-7010

Email: extension@co.orange.tx.us