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Caring for Poinsettias

Posted: December 10, 2012

Red, white, or pink Poinsettias make a great holiday gift that can last for a long time when cared for properly.

With extra care, poinsettias can even bloom the following year; however, let’s take a look at how to extend the beauty of these familiar holiday plants.

                Poinsettias prefer temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees. These plants are particularly sensitive to changes in temperature, so when transporting them during cold weather, they should be covered and moved from the place of purchase to a warm vehicle to the house as quickly as possible.

                Another key to keeping poinsettias looking perfect is to water properly. The soil should be kept from drying out, but be careful not to overwater. These plants can be prone to root rot under overly moist conditions. A good rule of thumb is to remove the foil wrapping around the pot or make a hole in the foil to allow for proper drainage.

                Place poinsettias in a sunny window so that they receive at least half a day of sunlight. They also will appreciate the cooler nighttime temperatures, but don’t place them in a drafty area. If they are placed in a window close to a door; each time the door opens, the temperature changes.

                If you would like to keep a poinsettia for a second year, the shoots should be cut back by about a third once the bracts (colored leaves) have faded. Then, move the plant to a cool, but well-ventilated area until May. You can keep them actively growing through March, and then gradually decrease how often they are watered. Check them regularly to make sure the plant does not dry out.

                In May, move the plant to a sunny window and cut the plant back to about three to five inches in height. Pinch back any new growth. Feed the plant every seven to 10 days with a fertilizer solution during September.

                 Around the first of October, the poinsettia should be placed in a dark closet or room each night. In the morning, move it back to an area with more light. You can also achieve the same effect by covering the plant with something to keep the light out from 5:00 PM until 8:00 AM each day. Continue this practice until Thanksgiving.

                Flower buds should be well formed by Thanksgiving, and the plant can now be allowed to remain in the light. For more information about caring for Poinsettias or other holiday plants, contact Melanie at the Penn State Extension office in Bedford County at 814.623.4800 or by email at meh7@psu.edu.