Don’t throw out your poinsettia just yet. Instead, learn how to keep your poinsettias alive all year round with proper watering, fertilizer, sunlight and pruning.
It’s January and it’s tidy up time – time to clear out the Christmas clutter and decorations amongst all the other January cleaning that we do. Then there’s the poinsettia. It’s still looking great (because you watched our poinsettia care videos, right?), but now that the new year is here, it’s looking very ‘last Christmas’ and out of season. Most people treat poinsettias as they do cut flowers: when the season is over, out they go. But the thing that keeps us hanging on to poinsettias is that they are a potted plant. So, what to do?
Basically, there are 2 choices:
- You can compost it and let it make another plant happy
- You can keep it as a houseplant.
Let’s talk about option ‘2’ and how to care for your poinsettia through the year.
If you have seen our poinsettia care videos 3 Easy Steps to Care for Your Poinsettia During the Holidays, you are already up to speed with how to keep a poinsettia healthy and happy.
Watering Poinsettias Indoors
How Often Do You Have To Water Poinsettias?
- Avoid Overwatering
- Poinsettias like well drained soil. Being from the tropics, poinsettias are used to growing in hot locations where the topsoil is thin and has a lower water holding capability.
- First thing, if your poinsettia has a foil cover over the bottom of the pot; remove it and place a saucer beneath it so extra water can drain out. If the roots stand in too much water for too long, they will rot. Poinsettias are very sensitive and susceptible to root rot.
- Always check the soil before watering by either assessing the weight of the pot or by sticking your index finger into the soil to a depth of your second knuckle.
- If the pot is light or if the soil is dry at the tip of your index finger, give it a drink of water. In our Edmonton winter, that translates to watering every 10 days or so for a poinsettia in a pot with a 6” diameter.
How To Water Poinsettias Indoors:
- You can water a couple of different ways:
- Let the poinsettia soak in a bowl of water to take the water up through the roots. Let it sit in the water for 20 minutes.
- Water gently at the base of the plant at the soil level without making the leaves wet. If the leaves get wet, you may be asking for a new set of issues involving fungus. You don’t want that.
- As a rule of thumb, it is best to keep your poinsettia on the drier side of things, but that means you need to check them frequently for wilting. As soon as you see them beginning to show a little flagging in their leaves, definitely water it right away.
- As the weeks go by, you will get a feel for how much and how often it needs to be watered.
- If the poinsettia has been overwatered it will also look wilty. This ‘flagging wilt’ look is a poinsettia’s universal sign for being unhappy or stressed. In the case with over watering, the roots may begin to rot and then it’s hard to get them back on track. If this is your scenario, let it dry down and see if it perks up.
Best Fertilizer For Poinsettias
- You won’t need to start fertilizing until the poinsettia bracts fade in colour. The red colour (or white or coral or pink) we associate with poinsettias isn’t their true flower. They are leaves that turn colour called ‘bracts’. Their purpose is to attract pollinators to the true flowers. The true flowers are very tiny yellow flowers in the center of the bracts.
- Many poinsettias will keep their colour into early spring, like March. When it has turned green, start fertilizing once a month with a water-soluble balanced fertilizer like 20-20-20 or 10-10-10.
How To Care For Your Poinsettia Plant Year Round
What Temperature Should Poinsettias Be Kept At?
- Regular room temperature in fine for poinsettias.
- Keep the poinsettia from draughts – hot or cold.
- Having them near a forced air heating vent or above a fireplace exposes them to warm, dry air. This will cause them to dry out more quickly and their leaves will desiccate. You will see leaf tips turning from light green to yellow and to brown culminating with the whole leaf curling and crisping like a potato chip.
- Cold winter air wafting in through leaky windows and doors opening and closing will also affect the poinsettia. When they are exposed to cold air, their leaves will look wilted and then we tend to water them…and we know how that goes.
Do Poinsettias Need Sunlight?
- It’s best to keep the poinsettia in indirect light with some direct sunlight. Do monitor the direct sun-rays, because windows tend to magnify the light. As the sun gets closer and brighter to our Edmonton area during the spring and summer, watch for sun-scald – which is a paling and burning of the leaves.
- Poinsettias will grow well outside when the days and nights are warm in the summer. Give them an exposure where they can get 6-8 hours of direct sunshine. Morning sunlight, or an eastern exposure, is great for them because the sun is less intense in the early hours of the day. When the sun is really hot during the middle of the day, the poinsettia is protected and in the shade.
- When days and evening begin to cool in mid-August, bring the poinsettia back inside to avoid getting cold stress. Remember, this child is tropical and the mid 60’s Farenheit or mid-teens Celsius will stress them out.
Pruning Your Poinsettia Plant
- Encourage Growth
- As your poinsettia grows post Christmas, you will see the bracts begin to fade to green as we mentioned earlier. The bracts will stay green like this until the fall.
- When you see that the true tiny yellow flowers have died, cut your poinsettia back. You can even cut it back to half the size. This will encourage the poinsettia to branch out and to grow thick and stocky.
- As it grows, don’t be shy about pinching or trimming it back to help retain a pleasing shape. They can get straggly and spindly if the light is low and if there is little air movement in their growing environment. Pinching them back will keep them stocky and robust.
- Your poinsettia will start to grow large – they are actually shrubs that reach up to 10 feet tall in the tropics. It’s a good idea to plant them in a bigger pot to allow them some wiggle room when you see them get rootbound. Plant them in a high quality potting soil that will provide water retention and drainage. We have more information on soil in our video called “Why Soil Matters”.
That is pretty much it on growing poinsettias as a houseplant. And how do they turn colour again in time for Christmas? Stay tuned for our blog on “How to Get your Poinsettia to Bloom” coming in late summer or early fall.
If you have any questions about this, or any other gardening topic, please connect with us via email or call us.