Rebecca is a retired special education teacher, a freelance writer, and an avid recycler.
How to Save Poinsettias From Year to Year
Given the relatively low cost of the poinsettias, many prefer to toss them out with the Christmas tree or add them to the compost pile after the holidays. If you are one of those people, read no further. If, on the other hand, you really enjoy a gardening challenge and tend to think of your plants almost as pets, then consider pampering your poinsettias through the seasons.
When you see last year’s plants produce showy new blooms, you will get a self-satisfaction that is priceless. Indoor houseplants consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, which can be beneficial to your home's air quality.
Re-blooming a poinsettia for next Christmas is a challenge that will bring you great satisfaction.
How to Care for Poinsettias
Poinsettia care should begin immediately. Before purchasing, shop for healthy-looking plants that have been kept away from drafts and excessive heat. Touch the soil and make sure it is neither too wet nor overly dry. Take care not to give your new plants a cold ride home if you are in an area with a chilly climate.
Poinsettias are usually sold with the containers wrapped in colorful foil. Remove the wrapper as soon as you get home to allow for proper drainage. Place your new plants in a sunny location. Avoid areas with high heat and cold drafts. Because they are tropical plants, they crave humidity. Place them on a tray of wet pebbles and spritz them with a water sprayer daily. Keep the soil moderately moist.
Although the Poinsettia leaf is not deadly, place it where you can monitor small children and pets around it. Ingesting enough of it can induce gastrointestinal distress.
After-Christmas Care for Poinsettias
Continue to keep your poinsettias in a place with plenty of light and water, as directed above. The plants will enter a dormancy period and will begin to lose leaves—this is normal. Do watch for shriveled brown stems, which are an indication that your lovely Christmas flower may be dying a slow death.
At this point, move your poinsettias to a good "resting place" that is a little cooler and gets a little less sunlight. Water them only when they are dry and do not fertilize them. Continue to keep them away from drafts and high heat.
Continue to let your plants lose leaves naturally. Next, cut back all the branches to a few inches above the soil line (two to four inches should be appropriate). Leave two or three leaves on the old stems, as new growth comes from buds on the leaf. The actual flower of the poinsettia is the yellow middle. The colored leaves are called bracts.
Winter Care for Indoor Poinsettias
Around Valentine’s Day, start fertilizing your plants every two weeks and provide them with a little more sunlight. Keep in mind that you are trying to recreate a desert winter. Keep the temperature around 60–68 degrees Fahrenheit.
When to Move a Poinsettia Outside
Spring is in the air! You have gotten your Christmas poinsettias safely through the long, cold winter without over- or under-watering and have avoided cold drafts and hot heaters. Congratulations! By now, you should have begun to form a relationship with your plants.
When the nighttime temperature stays consistently around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, it is time for your floral friends to go outside and enjoy the spring. It is probably also time for a bigger pot. Be sure to choose a pot that will continue to allow for proper drainage, such as a terracotta with drainage holes in the bottom. Use a sterile, lightweight soil that is slightly acidic. Garden soil will cause root-rot, and you will lose your friends. Be sure to place them where they will receive plenty of indirect sunlight. By now, you have really become protective of these plants that you have nurtured. Should a blackberry winter occur and the temperature dip temporarily, you will want to cover them with a cloth like an old bedsheet.
Spring and Summer Poinsettia Care
Keep your Poinsettias cut back to around eight inches in height as the spring months continue. Keep fertilizing every two weeks with a good water-soluble all-purpose fertilizer. You should begin to see plenty of new growth by May.
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As spring turns to summer, you will enjoy watching your friends flourish and grow. Now is the time for selective pruning. Decide whether you prefer a bushier plant with more and smaller bracts or a slightly "leggier" plant with fewer but larger bracts. Pinch the tips of the new growth often for the bushier look and less often for bigger blossoms. In either case, stop pruning by Labor Day.
Summer is also the time to help your friends propagate. Take cuttings that have three to four "eyes" and dip them in a rooting hormone. For best results, use a terrarium-type container to maintain high humidity and light. The cuttings should take root in three to four weeks. As your little "grandchildren" grow, give them the same care as your adult poinsettia.
Fall Care for Poinsettia
Bring your poinsettia back indoors on October 1st. It’s time to trick your friend into thinking that the days are short and the nights are long and cool. You will do this by placing them in total darkness for 14 hours out of the day. Do this by placing them in a very dark and cool place for those 14 hours, and do it for 40 days. The most common mistake made is putting them where even just a little light can seep in or by turning on a light for just a few seconds. Even a little light will totally confuse them. Consider covering them with a black box inside the closet or basement.
The dark time temperature for this period is between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. For the 10 hours of daylight, place them in a sunny window at around 70 degrees. Remember to be consistent and not skip a single day. If you take any overnight trips, get a friend or neighbor to "plant-sit" for you.
Re-Blooming Your Poinsettia
You have cared for your poinsettias for almost a whole year now. You have kept the soil evenly moist and provided plenty of light and humidity. You have lovingly nurtured them outdoors and indoors. You’ve even tricked them into thinking they were experiencing short days and long nights. Beginning around Thanksgiving and just in time for the holiday season, you should be rewarded with showy, colorful blooms once again (if you have done your job correctly).
This lovely cycle can continue as long as you like. And don’t forget about the "babies" you helped propagate. What great gifts they will make when your friends and neighbors realize that you grew them yourself!
History of the Poinsettia
The poinsettia is from the deserts of Mexico. It was introduced to the States by US Ambassador Joel Robert Poinsett after he discovered them growing wild in parts of Mexico in 1825. Since then, many different varieties have been developed. Currently, over 65 million have been sold. The once-popular notion that they are highly poisonous has been discounted, but the sap can cause allergic reactions in some. Ingesting the leaves can cause intestinal distress.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on April 23, 2020:
You may recall, but probably will not, reading a Hub on seeds from previous years that might and might not be viable still this year. I am curious, will you still be gardening now, eight years later? My wife and I have turned our .25 Acre garden/orchard lot into what some term "The Garden of Eden" and now, years later, this is what it has to offer, in addition to a seasonal garden often using left over seeds from previous years. Soon we will have cherries, apricots, strawberries, rhubarb, and vegetables. Peaches, pears, blackberries, Asian pears, apples, plums, and plumcots, too! Even Saskatoon blueberries. We even have manna! Dandelion greens, chives, and chicory. Even goji berries, grapes, and add the Nanking cherries. and hardy figs, English walnuts, and black walnuts, along with red currants, black currants, raspberries, and a young pomegranate tree. As to existing vegetable annuals, add on elephant garlic and Jerusalem artichoke. We have also planted lots of flowers, especially roses, honeysuckle, mullein, hollyhocks, tulips, daffodils, and several varieties of mint.
Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on January 05, 2020:
Glad to be of help. Good Luck!
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on January 04, 2020:
We actually got a poinsettia for Christmas. I was just going to throw it away after the holidays but now that I've come across your article, will give taking care of it a go.
Linda Chechar from Arizona on January 02, 2020:
I had no idea that poinsettias were able to re-bloom for the next holiday season. I haven't tried to keep the plant alive more than a couple of months. Now I know how to do it after reading your article!
Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 24, 2019:
That makes me feel so good, Ruby Jean. Blessings, and Merry Christmas! And good luck with your poinsettias.
Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 24, 2019:
This is really helpful to me. We all will take our poinsettias home from church after our Christmas service tomorrow. We purchased them in memory of a love one who went to heaven, so I do hope I can nurse it along this winter. Thank you so much.
Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 23, 2019:
Tedious, but rewarding. Merry Christmas!
Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on December 23, 2019:
Hi Rebeca, I love plants, especially poinsettias. Thank you for sharing this information. I knew there was a way of preserving it for the following year, but I didn't know how.
Have a Blessed Christmas
Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 22, 2019:
Interesting! Thanks, Peggy. Yes, it takes some work! Happy holidays to you, as well!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 22, 2019:
When I lived in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas as a teenager with my parents, they grew year-round in the soil outside and reached great heights. Caring for them in colder climates and getting them to rebloom takes much effort as you nicely have shown in this post. Enjoy your year-end holidays!
Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 22, 2019:
Glad to be of help! I hope it'll work out for you next time.
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on December 22, 2019:
Thanks for the tips and advice. I love this plant, but have never been very good at taking care of them, so this was useful to read.