How to Make Poinsettias Last Longer
Simple ways to keep poinsettias looking good throughout the holidays
HOW TO MAKE POINSETTIAS LAST
Unless you live in a tropical climate, you probably treat poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) as temporary houseplants. Here are 5 tips for keeping them looking good longer.
Cut away the pot sleeve bottom.
Often, poinsettias are sold in nursery pots that are wrapped in foil, cellophane or some other non-porous decorative material. Although the pots have drainage holes, the wrapping material does not. It traps water, preventing the excess from draining away.
Poinsettias like moist soil (large poinsettia plants may require water every other day), but they don't like soil that's soppy wet. They need drainage so that their roots don't rot.
To maintain the health of the plant, preserve the pretty wrapper and allow drainage, cut away the material that covers the bottom of the pot, leaving the wrapper sleeve intact. An exacto knife, a box cutter or a pair of sharp, pointy scissors work well for this.
Keep poinsettias out of drafts.
Ever had a poinsettia lose its leaves soon after you brought it home?
The problem may have been due to a chilling injury that the plant incurred while it was in the store.
Poinsettias that are exposed to temperatures under 50 degrees F (10 degrees Celcius) often drop their leaves.
To avoid taking home chill-damaged plants, avoid buying poinsettias displayed in drafty areas, such as near store entrances and exits.
And once you bring your poinsettia home, place it in a warm spot away from drafty entryways.
Give poinsettias bright filtered light.
Poinsettias don't mind being moved around, and that's good news for those of us who use them as decorations during the holidays. But don't set them in strong light for too long.
Lots of bright, direct light will fade colorful poinsettia bracts—permanently.
On the other hand, poinsettia plants that have small, pale bracts probably aren't receiving enough light.
For holiday poinsettias with healthy, vivid color, set the plants a few feet from a window, preferably a south-facing one, allowing them no more than 11 hours of bright light each day.
Fertilize every two weeks.
Over time, potting mix loses its nutritional value. Not only do plants use soil nutrients, but they are also washed away by watering.
Applying a high phosphorus fertilizer to poinsettias every two weeks will keep the plants healthy, even if you've had them for a while.
Buy young poinsettia plants.
Young poinsettias have small bracts with undeveloped flowers at their centers. With care, they will put on a beautiful show throughout the holidays as they grow.
In order to reach maturity, young poinsettias need lots of bright, filtered light; fertilizer every other week; and moist, well-drained soil.
If you repot poinsettias, using regular potting soil is fine.
Poinsettias are poisonous and when cut, exude a milky sap that can irritate skin, causing contact dermatitis. When pruning and repotting poisettias, be sure to wear gloves. Afterwards, wash your garden shears and any other tools used in warm, soapy water.
About the Author
The Dirt Farmer has been an active gardener for over 30 years.
She first began gardening as a child alongside her grandfather on her parents' farm.
Today, The Dirt Farmer gardens at home, volunteers at community gardens and continues to learn about gardening through the MD Master Gardener program.
© 2012 Jill
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