‘Tis the Christmas season, and poinsettias are everywhere. Perhaps you have a few in your own house, or will get one at the end of the season when your church gives them away, or you’ll get one as a gift. They are lovely centerpieces, and fear not, they are not as harmful to your pets or children as we’ve been led to believe. (My cats nibble on them and throw up, but that’s the worst of it)
But when the holiday’s over, what do you do with them? Most people just throw them away when they die. But did you know it’s not inevitable that your poinsettia will just shrivel up and die sometime in January? Here’s how to get a bit more value out of that investment.
Selecting Your Poinsettia
Choose a poinsettia with dark green, dense foliage, tightly clustered buds and make sure the smallest leaves in the center are fully red. I’ve seen poinsettias this season that are sprayed with glitter. They are pretty, but not a great choice if you want to extend the life of your plant past the holidays. (If you want to add glitter to your display, purchase fake blooms and poke them into the plant around the real one as accents.)
Extending Bloom Time
Even if you’re not interested in keeping your poinsettia past the holiday season, you’ll probably want to at least keep it looking pretty for as long as possible. While in full bloom, your plant should be kept in semi-cool, humid conditions with indirect light, and should be kept well-watered. Humidity is often a problem this time of year. One way to increase humidity is by adding other plants around your poinsettia, or even keeping it in a large container such as a dishpan with 1/2 inch or so of water in the bottom, at least when not needed for a centerpiece or other display. Do not let your poinsettia sit directly in the water.
Keeping Till Next Year
When your poinsettia is done blooming, let your plant dry out some, but not completely. Keep it in a cool, dark area until spring. Around April, fertilize monthly with houseplant fertilizer. Cut back the branches to about 6 inches above the pot, and re-pot if needed. You can keep your plant inside, in indirect light, or a shady area outside. Regrowth should begin soon. When new growth reaches about 10 inches, pinch back tips to encourage branching.
If you want your poinsettia to re-bloom, there’s a trick to it. Around September, move the plant to a location where it won’t get any light (either sunlight or indoor lights) for 12 hours each night. You can cover it with a box if needed. During the day, keep it in bright, indirect light. Once it has begun to turn red, you can reduce the amount of darkness and keep it well-watered.
Happy holidays everyone!