Caring for Poinsettias After The Holidays

Poinsettia in landscape

Now that the holidays are over, its time to pack up and put away all our seasonal décor. But what should you do with your poinsettia plants?  Don’t throw them away! They can be planted or repotted!

Poinsettias are a perennial shrub and can be planted in your yard and enjoyed for years.  With proper location and care, you can enjoy their seasonal color year after year!

Poinsettia Care

While indoors, poinsettias will perform best in a sunny location or somewhere with bright indirect light.

Water them regularly and do not let soil completely dry out between watering. Never let them sit in water though, and always empty out their saucers after watering.

Older leaves will yellow and fall off periodically. Remove these dead leaves from the plant pot to discourage any fungal growth.

During the holidays, you will not need to feed your potted poinsettia, as if most likely came from the garden center with a slow release fertilizer.  You should feed your poinsettia in the Spring with an all-purpose fertilizer, just after it’s first pruning.

Pruning

Poinsettias (both potted and in the ground) should be pruned twice a year, first in the spring and again in late summer.  Remembering the “A” months is a helpful tip, April and August.

Pruned Poinsettia re-sprouting

For the first pruning in spring (April), remove all foliage and cut all branches back to 4-6″ of height. For small plants, this will mean cutting them down to almost a stump. Might be a scary thing to do for some, but believe us that this is best for your poinsettia! You should also repot or plant your poinsettia at this time.

Once the plant has started to sprout growth (early May), this is a good time to feed it with a fertilizer.

Depending on the size of your plant, you may pinch back the new growth in early to mid-summer (late May-early June) to encourage more branching.  You may also trim larger plants back farther to the shape and size you prefer.

In late summer (August), trim back all shoots to just 3-4 leaves each.  This prepares the plant for blooming.

Caution on Poinsettia Sap

Poinsettias have a white sap that can be a mild skin irritant to some. Always use gloves and protect your arms when trimming poinsettias.

However Poinsettias are not poisonous to humans. A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 500 leaves to have any harmful effect. Plus poinsettia leaves have an awful taste. However you should keep your pets from snacking on poinsettia leaves. Eating the leaves can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Planting or Repotting

If you decide to plant your Poinsettia in your yard, choose a well-draining location in full to partial sun. They do not handle high-winds well, so a wind-protected spot is best.

Repotted Poinsettias

You can also keep your Poinsettia in a pot. You’ll want to repot the Poinsettia in spring when you give it it’s first prune.  Select a pot that is slightly larger then what it was in. Best to use a sterile commercial potting mix, rather than garden soil from your yard, as Poinsettias are susceptible to root-disease pathogens. Commercial potting mixes contain the right ratio of ingredients to ensure airflow within your pot.

Getting Poinsettias to Bloom Again

Poinsetta

Poinsettia bracts and flower

If you follow the above steps, you will see that delightful seasonal color start in late Fall.  Most folks don’t realize, but the showy colored parts of poinsettias that most people think of as the flowers are actually colored bracts (modified leaves).

The flowers are small blooms in the center of the bracts, most noticeable when they are covered in yellow pollen.

For the Plant Nerds…

Poinsettia Trees

Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbiaceae or Spurge family. The Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is native to Mexico, and is a perennial shrub that can grow to 10-15 feet tall.

Poinsettia Plants were first brought into the United States in 1825 by Joel Robert Poinsett, while he was serving as the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico. He found the plants growing wild on a hillside near Taxco, Mexico. When he returned to the United States, he sent the plants to different botanical gardens all around the world.

The first Poinsettias were sold for Christmas in the US about 1850. Poinsettias are now the best selling potted plant in the United States and Canada. Most Poinsettias are sold within a six-week period leading up to the Christmas holiday.

Today there are over 100 different varieties of Poinsettia plants in 20 or more solid and variegated colors, resulting in the sale of over 65 million Poinsettias in the United States each year!

(Source:http://extension.illinois.edu/poinsettia/facts.cfm)

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