Caring for Poinsettias after Christmas

Posted December 26, 2013 at 10:33 am

The bright red, pink and white foliage on poinsettias make them extremely appealing during the holidays according to Tim Schnakenberg, agronomy specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

In fact, poinsettias have been considered a Christmas-plant since the late 1800s when its namesake, Joel Poinsett, discovered them in Mexico.

“This plant is now considered one of the most important greenhouse plants grown,” said Schnakenberg. “They are also a plant we get lots of questions about at the Extension center.”

The following are just a few of those seasonal questions with answers from Schnakenberg.

Q: How long can you expect a poinsettia’s colorful foliage to last after Christmas?

A: The colorful foliage will normally last about a month after Christmas if cared for. Some hardy varieties have been known to last six months.

Q: How can you maintain a poinsettia to extend its life?

A. One, check poinsettias often to insure they have plenty of water. They are heavy water users. Make sure the soil is moist but does not accumulate below the pot in a pan or the wrapping. The roots will rot with too much water. Do not allow it to wilt.

Two, the plant can’t tolerate rapid temperature changes so keep the plant away from hot or cold drafts. Keep it away from heat vents. 65-70 degrees is ideal.

Three, the poinsettia needs some sunlight but not direct sun.

Q: Some people like to keep poinsettias back and try to get them to re-bloom the following year. How is this done?

A: Keeping a poinsettia back can be challenging so it’s not for everyone. But for the green thumbs out there, there is a procedure that must be followed.

First, when the leaves fall, store the dried-off plant in a cool place with moderate temperatures until spring. Water just enough to keep the roots alive.

Second, in the spring, repot the plant and place it in a warm room. Prune the stems back to about six inches and place it in a bright, sunny south window until the danger of frost is past. Set the pot outdoors during the summer in partial shade and keep it well fertilized and watered.

Third, before the weather turns cool in the fall, bring the plant back indoors and place it in that sunny south window. Night temps must be in the low 60s for flower development. It should receive no light for about 14 hours during the night while flowers are forming beginning around Oct. 1 until about Thanksgiving. Even a night light or an outdoor pole light could delay blooming beyond the Christmas season.

“If all this sounds like too much work, just throw them out and buy another next year. Nurseries are equipped to give poinsettias the care they need,” said Schnakenberg.

More information can be found in MU Guide G6511, “Care of Flowering Potted Plants” which is available online at http://extension.missouri.edu/ or at the nearest MU Extension Center.