Tips from the Help Desk…
Caring for your poinsettia
by David Austin
Residential Horticulture Agent and
Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator
A gift that keeps on giving
So, someone gave your a lovely poinsettia as a pre-Christmas gift. Now, what do you do? If properly cared for, your potted poinsettia may stay beautiful and retain its color right through the New Year. You may still find it blooming in March or later. If the plant comes in some type of foil or plastic decorative wrap around the pot, make sure you remove that when you water it and let the excess water drain out. The plant will do better if it stays moist but does not sit in water. You’ll probably want to water it every three to four days depending on the location you put it. After you water your plant get used to how heavy it feels. Eventually, you will know if it needs water when it becomes light. Well-meaning plant enthusiasts kill indoor plants more often from over-watering than they do under-watering. Still, if it dries out too much, it may drop leaves and bracts (the red part) and shorten its desirability as an indoor decoration.
Caring for your plant
Keep your poinsettia in bright indirect light if you can and try to keep it away from drafty areas. Also, it is a semi-tropical plant so the plant could be damaged at temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Later when seeking out a location in your yard, you’ll want to plant it where it has protection from the cold. Under filtered light of trees or southern exposure of your home will help protect your plant. Consider covering it with frost cloth during a frost or freeze. You will need to find a spot for your plant that will not be exposed to sources of artificial night light. This could include street lights, yard lighting, bright windows, and even car lights from traffic. Night light may interrupt its flowering cycle and keep the bracts from turning red when it gets close to Christmas.
Pruning your plant
You can start pruning your poinsettia in late March down to about 6″ to 18” depending on how large it was at that time. Later trim the new growth, leaving four leaves on each shoot when the individual branches are a foot or more long. You can keep doing this until the first week in September but you’ll not want to trim it afterward to allow time for the shoots to grow before flower initiation starts in October.
With a little work, you should be able to enjoy your poinsettia for many years after you plant it. Learn more about poinsettias by clicking here!
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