The gorgeous Christmas flower, Poinsettia, with its spreading large red “flowers” is not bred to live forever. The indoor Christmas variety we all know and love is bred to flower for 4 to 6 weeks over the festive season.
The scarlet “flowers” are actually bracts; the true flowers are the tiny, little yellow blooms in the middle of these bracts. Read on for how to keep your Poinsettia plant going for at least two Christmas seasons, but be warned that your plant will grow somewhat taller than it used to be.
How to keep a Poinsettia alive and healthy?
Poinsettia plants need maximum light in winter. It needs at 6 hours of indirect sunlight every day but fluorescent lighting counts as well. So, as long as your Poinsettia plant is not in direct sunlight, it will be fine.
To water it properly, first check the topsoil and when it feels dry, then give it a good soak. It is also important to ensure that your Poinsettia plant is not sitting in water after watering. If it is sitting in a tray or saucer, remove the excess.
Poinsettias need a minimum temperature of 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the flowering season in December and January. It may look healthy for longer than that but it will eventually wither back in spring. At this point, you need to stop watering it; it is now in dormant mode.
Read on to find out how to keep it going until next December.
What soil does a Poinsettia plant like?
All Poinsettia plants need excellent drainage and they enjoy loose soil. You really do not need it to retain a lot of moisture because that might encourage the roots to rot.
Poinsettia plants are prone to this disease so water carefully and buy commercially mixed, loose, sterile compost, and your plant will thrive. If you need to re-pot the plant, see how to do this below.
Can you keep a Poinsettia alive all year round?
Yes, if you fulfill a lot of conditions. The fact that people always buy them new at Christmas tells you that a lot of people have struggled to keep them alive.
See the street for abandoned Poinsettias every year in January and February. This plant is often treated as an annual by growers. It appears to die back naturally for some time after Christmas.
In the wild, it will remain dormant for some months before generating new leaves later in the year. Check below for some advice on keeping your Poinsettia healthy for a year.
How do you save a Poinsettia for next year?
Not everybody can keep a Poinsettia alive until the following Christmas, so here is your gardening challenge for Christmas 2021.
First of all, simply wait for the plant to die back. The leaves will fall and this is the time to cut back the stems. Choose 5 or 6 strong stems and cut back the rest completely. Cut these stems back to about 4 inches. When the leaves have fallen, do not be tempted to water the plant. It is not dead, just dormant.
Keep the compost dry until May, when you can repot the plant and remove lots of the old, spent soil to provide nutrients for the flowering season in December. From May, start watering until new shoots appear.
New shoots will appear so you will notice new growth around the 5 or 6 stems you cut back. Your next challenge is to protect your Poinsettia plant from the hot, summer sun if you plan to keep it in flower for next Christmas.
Water it very liberally in summer too, while ensuring that the drainage is working. When you water, wait until the soil is moderately dry, and then give it a complete soaking. Allow the whole plant to almost dry out completely, before you water it again.
From September, your Poinsettia plant needs 14 hours of total darkness at night. So, you may need to move the plant to a dark cupboard or to cover it with a bag, to exclude light completely at night time.
Remove the covering in the morning and give it its time in the sun, but ensure you give it total darkness at night. This procedure takes six to eight weeks long so plan November and December in your gardening calendar with precision this year.
Once the blooms appear, mist them regularly during the flowering period.
What do I do with my Poinsettia after Christmas?
Take very good care of it! If you like a challenge, this is it. They are bred to last a maximum of 3-6 months to encourage us all to buy new plants every year.
Become an expert and watch your beloved plant grow a bit larger each year. The unique outdoor Poinsettia shrub was tall and your plant may continue to grow a bit higher each year you save it.
Why are the leaves falling off my Poinsettia?
Time of year: If the month is February or March, then this is perfectly normal for this plant. It may be going into dormancy. If it is happening in November or December, then it may be due to other factors. See below.
Temperature: If your Poinsettia plant has been in an area with fluctuating temperatures such as a super-hot place day time and in a freezing location at night time, this causes the leaves to wilt and fall. Keep the plant within 55 to 60 degrees during the flowering season.
Overwatering: This is usually why Poinsettia leaves fall, apart from when it goes into its dormant stage. Before you water, check the soil to ensure it is really dry. Then soak it well and wait for it to dry out again before you water again.
How often should I water my Poinsettia?
Assuming you first buy it for Christmas, this is its flowering season so check the soil carefully first. If it feels dry, then water it thoroughly.
Wait for the soil to dry out to the touch. Then, water it thoroughly. Ensure that the roots are not sitting in damp soil by discarding any excess from a watering tray soon after you water the plant.
What is eating my Poinsettia plant?
Sometimes you will notice some insects are attracted to your Poinsettia plant. The usual pests are whiteflies, mealybugs, or red spider mites on the leaves. To remove them, wash both sides of the leaves with a mixture of water and dish soap. Use a cotton ball or a sponge and wipe the leaves clean.
How do I re-pot my Poinsettia?
If your plant is becoming root bound or looks too big for its pot, then it is time to re-pot. Only do this in spring.
Purchase fresh compost and ensure it has good drainage. You can add some grit to help. Only move up one pot size from the pot your Poinsettia is in. Water it only when the soil has dried.
Did you know?
Although the typical Poinsettia has red flowers (or bracts), they also come in pink and white.
When purchasing a plant, look at the true flowers (tiny, yellow heads in the flower bract). These should be unopened when you buy them and this means your Poinsettia plant will flower for longer.
Poinsettias were originally bred as an outdoors shrub and were much larger than the indoor Christmas variety. The outdoor plant can grow to 10 feet which is almost Christmas tree size.