You see them during the holidays. And, in case you don’t know what those beautiful dark red flowers are, they’re poinsettias.
But what many people don’t know is that you can actually grow these unique-looking plants beyond the holidays. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy their festive colors long after New Year’s Day.
Here’s how to grow and care for poinsettias.
About the Poinsettia
It’s almost impossible to miss poinsettias during the holidays. Besides being very prevalent this time of your, they’re bright, beautiful blooms make them stand out.
Interestingly, the bright red “petals” you see are not its flower. Instead, they’re bracts, which are a kind of modified leaf.
Your poinsettia’s flowers are actually the small yellow part in the center of the bracts. The bright red bracts are there to attract pollinators into the tiny flowers in the middle.
That said, it’s likely that you’ll also see many hybrid poinsettias with varying colors as well, including yellow, orange, purple, and salmon to name a few.
Poinsettias trace their origins in Mexico and Central America. As such, these perennial shrubs enjoy tropical conditions.
So, it’s a good idea to give lots of sunlight, warm weather, and water. In return, you’ll be rewarded with their long-lasting (6-8 weeks) bright, beautiful blooms.
But, if you neglect them, they’ll only last for a few short weeks.
Poinsettia Plant Care
Poinsettias like a lot of light, preferably sunlight. This can be an issue especially since they bloom during the winter.
If they don’t get it, you’ll likely see them last only a fraction as long as they should. In dim locations, they might only be around for a few weeks, which is such a waste given that they can last much longer.
As such, it’s important to plan where you want to position it to get sufficient sunlight exposure.
Being a tropical plant, it enjoys a south-facing location, where it’s likely to get the most sun during the day.
But, it can likewise do well near east or west-facing windows which receive both direct and indirect sunlight.
Temperature & Humidity
Being native to the tropical regions of Central America and Mexico, poinsettias are hardy in USDA zones 10 to 12.
This is why they enjoy temperatures ranging from 65 to 75 degrees. They’re likewise able to tolerate a slight drop in the mercury come night time to about 60 degrees without experiencing any unpleasant effects.
But, once you go below that, they become more sensitive to temperature. The same is true with cold drafts. Thus, it’s a good idea to keep them away from areas where the wind can funnel through objects around your home to them.
Similarly, keep them away from windows that tend to get cool gusts of wind.
That said, you also don’t want them to dry out.
Unlike most plants, these lovely red flowers bloom during wintertime. As such, it can hard to give them the humidity they need because the air tends to be dry at that time of year.
Should this happen, it’s a good idea to find ways to increase the humidity in your home. You can do so with a humidifier, grouping them plants together or placing their pots over stone water baths.
It’s likewise a good idea to keep them away from any heat sources like heaters and even your fireplace since the heat that radiates from these objects will cause them to dry up quickly as well.
If you notice this happening, make sure to water them more frequently. But, not to the point where you overdo it.
Following these temperature guidelines will help keep your poinsettias in bloom longer.
When it comes to your poinsettias, it’s important not to let them get dry.
You can do so by checking the surface of the soil regularly. Once it feels dry to the touch, it’s time to water.
Similarly, they don’t like wet feet.
So, make sure that the container you put them in has drainage holes at the bottom. These holes have the added benefit of being your guide that tells you when to stop watering.
Whenever you water, make sure to do so until you start seeing the water come out of the bottom of the pot.
One way to make this process less messy, especially indoors, is to do it in the sink. This lets you easily see when the water starts leaking out from the drainage holes.
When it does, allow all the excess water to completely drain. This way, your plant doesn’t end up standing in water, which will cause root rot.
Place your poinsettias in well-draining potting soil that’s slightly acidic (pH levels between 5.5 and 6.5).
Indoors, choose a loose potting soil that’s sterile. Something like peat moss works well.
If you live in an area where the outdoor daytime and nighttime temperatures are warm enough, you can likewise transplant them into the garden.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to fertilizing your poinsettias is to NEVER do so when they’re blooming. Instead, wait until the holiday season is over to do so.
During spring, you can start applying a balanced houseplant fertilizer every 2 weeks or once a month. The key is to do so when the plant isn’t actively growing.
To Encourage Blooming
Late September to November is a crucial time for your poinsettias. During these months, it’s important to make sure that it receives ample amounts of sunlight and darkness.
Both are equally important.
They want 12 hours of sunlight followed by 12 hours of complete darkness.
This is where they become high maintenance.
Since it’s unlikely that the same location that provides them with bright sunlight during the day will also be completely dark at night, you’ll need to keep moving the plant regularly.
Switching between the 2 locations during day and night is a hassle. And, you’ll need to do it for 2 or so months, which is the reason most people just buy their poinsettias from the store.
Of course, make sure that both locations are warm and humid enough to keep it happy. Both are likewise important if you want to see your poinsettias bloom at their best.
Last but not least, it’s important to be aware of its milky sap. When injured or cut, they release this thick liquid that can cause skin irritation or rash. As such, it’s a good idea not to prune or pinch them using your fingers.
And, just as importantly, keep them away from young children and pets that may ingest any part of the plant. While it’s not technical poisonous or deadly, consuming any part of the plant can cause stomach distress.