Poinsettia Care Tips

white poinsettiaAt this time of year, many hosts and hostesses are given a poinsettia. With its bright red brachts (the flowers are the tiny yellow growths inside the brachts) and green leaves, it seems to shout Happy Holidays.

A native of Mexico and Central America, the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) was named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico in the 1820s, who was an amateur botanist. He introduced the American elm to Mexico, and brought the poinsettia to the U.S. He no doubt would be stunned to see how ubiquitous this plant now is. While poinsettias are lovely, they aren’t the easiest plant to care for in the North. Here are a few tips to make your poinsettias last longer.

  • Try to give plants 6 hours of indirect sunlight a day. (That may be tricky in Minnesota in December, but choose the poinsettia’s spot with light in mind.) Many sites recommend a south, east or west window, but the plant parts should not touch cold glass.
  • Check the soil in the pot daily and give it a good drink whenever it feels dry to the touch. You should make sure the pot has a drainage hole (poke some holes in the foil wrapping, too). When you water, give the plant enough that the water runs out the hole in the bottom. If the plant is on a plate to catch the drips, be sure to empty the water so the plant’s roots don’t get too soggy.
  • If you want to keep your poinsettia as a houseplant, give it a dose of all-purpose houseplant food after the blooming season and once a month through winter.
  • Most poinsettias will last for six to eight weeks. If you can keep yours going until spring, it is possible to plant them outside and they may grow fairly large. (In Mexico, they are huge shrubs.) Then, according to the University of North Dakota, bring them indoors and subject them to ever shorter days to encourage the brachts to color up.

What’s your favorite holiday plant?