Caring for poinsettias after the holidays

Here’s an interesting fact: a poinsettia’s bloom is triggered by dwindling day length. That means that if you tuck your holiday poinsettia into a flowerbed for next year, it needs to be in an dark spot. The poinsettia needs long, dark nights to bloom. Here’s another interesting fact: the red parts are actually modified leaves – the true flowers are the small yellow and white parts in the center of the red bracts.

Red Poinsettia up close
Poinsettias are glorious tropical plants that originated in Mexico, and like to live in temperatures from about 65 degrees to 80 degrees, just like the temperatures inside our homes! Outdoors in the ground, they’ll need to be protected by a blanket if we get a frost. Further, they don’t like soggy soil. I’ve seen them flourish in partial shade under oaks, but they do like bright light.

In the ground, they’ll need fertilizer with balanced nitrogen and potassium (N-P-K, the first and third number on the bag) and low phosphorus (the middle number) (so for example 6-0-6), and well-drained soil. They need magnesium, so a couple of times during the year (Feb/Mar and June/July), sprinkle Epsom salts around your poinsettia shrub at a rate of 3 Tablespoons per square yard. It’s okay to prune them to keep the plant compact, but stop clipping early in September so you don’t accidentally prune off flower buds. Is something munching your poinsettia? It might be the poinsettia hornworm, a moth caterpillar. Pick those off and dispose of them.

Enjoy your holiday poinsettia year round by finding a spot for it in your landscape!

This blog post was written by Master Gardener Volunteer Celia Beamish here under supervision of the Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator and Residential Horticulture Agent Anne Yasalonis.

For more information, contact UF/IFAS Extension Polk County at (863) 519-1041 or visit us online at The Plant Clinic is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm to answer your gardening and landscaping questions. Visit us in person, give us a call, or email us at

If you are not in Polk County, Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Clinic.

The Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program is a volunteer-driven program that benefits UF/IFAS Extension and the citizens of Florida. The program extends the vision of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, all the while protecting and sustaining natural resources and environmental systems, enhancing the development of human resources, and improving the quality of human life through the development of knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources and making that knowledge accessible.

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Posted: January 20, 2020

Category: Home Landscapes,
Tags: Anne Yasalonis, Ayasalonis, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Flowers, Master Gardener, Master Gardener Volunteer, Poinsettias, Polk County, Polkgardening, Polkmg

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