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How to Make Poinsettias Last Longer

Updated on December 22, 2016
The Dirt Farmer profile image

Jill volunteers at community gardens & learns about gardening through the MD Master Gardening Program & MD Master Naturalist Program.

Unless you live in a tropical climate, you probably treat poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) as temporary houseplants.

With care, however, they can live— and look good— long past the holidays.

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Cut Away Pot Sleeve Bottoms

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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. In fact, 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

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Bracts are leaf-life structures that grow around a plant's actual flowers. Poinsettia bracts surround its true flowers, which are small & nondescript.
Bracts are leaf-life structures that grow around a plant's actual flowers. Poinsettia bracts surround its true flowers, which are small & nondescript. | Source

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.

Provide Bright Filtered Light

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Placing poinsettias a few feet from a south-facing window will prevent them from fading in too-strong light.
Placing poinsettias a few feet from a south-facing window will prevent them from fading in too-strong light. | Source

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

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Like Euphorbia milii (Crown of Thorns), poinsettias exude a poisonous latex-like sap that can irritate skin.
Like Euphorbia milii (Crown of Thorns), poinsettias exude a poisonous latex-like sap that can irritate skin. | Source

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, the young plants need lots of bright, filtered light; fertilizer every other week; and moist, well-drained soil.

If you re-pot, using regular potting soil is fine.

Poinsettias are poisonous. When cut, they exude a milky sap that can irritate skin, causing contact dermatitis. When pruning and re-potting poinsettias, be sure to wear gloves. Afterwards, wash your garden shears and any other tools used in warm, soapy water.

© 2012 Jill Spencer

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    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 8 months ago from United States

      Hi bodylevive! Thank you for stopping by. The tips will make them last longer but not indefinitely. For me, keeping them out of drafts has been key. Otherwise, they drop their leaves at an incredible rate. Best to you! Jill

    • bodylevive profile image

      BODYLEVIVE 8 months ago from Alabama, USA

      I have tried and tried with this plant and nothing seems to work. I will follow your advice and see what happens. Thank you for an informative hub because I didn't know the plant is poisonous!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
      Author

      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Hey Au fait! If your poinsettia isn't dead, it's not too late! Cut the bottom off the wrapper, give it a good drink of water and set it in a warm sunny spot. All the best! Jill

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      Wish I would have seen this hub before Christmas. This hub seems full of great advice for caring for a poinsettia and lots of people will love it, but I wonder if it's too late to extend the life of this year's poinsettias?

      Voted up and useful!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
      Author

      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Hi faythef. Simply cutting the bottom off the wrapper will go a long way toward making your beautiful poinsettia last longer. Happy holidays! --Jill

    • faythef profile image

      Faythe F. 4 years ago from USA

      thank you for the information., my husband just this morning brought home a beautiful Poinsettia..I'm hoping with fingers crossed I can keep it that way.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Hey moonlake. You must have lived in the South! Sometimes I think it would be great to live farther south so that we could grow tropical plants outdoors, but ... I'd miss the snow too much. Thanks for stopping by! Jill

      @ Peggy W-- You really have a green thumb! I'm sure a little fertilizer wouldn't hurt though. Nice to hear from you, J

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I planted one of the real poinsettia plants outside after the Christmas season last year and it is growing and looks very healthy. No sign of turning color just yet however. May give it a boost of fertilizer and see what happens. Informative hub. Up, useful and interesting votes. Beautiful photos!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      Enjoyed your hub and the information on poinsettias I didn't know most of it. When we were young and rented a house it had poinsettias growing by the side of the house. I didn't know then how much I would like them now.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Hi aviannovice. Hope the tips help you make your poinsettias last. Happy holidays! --Jill

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This is a wonderful piece. Since I have always had animals until just recently, I never had these in the house. Thanks for the wonderful information! You have such vast experience!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Hey, Maren. Yep, just removing the sleeve bottoms and keeping them away from outdoor exits will really extend the life of your poinsettias. Thanks for commenting! --Jil

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Jill - I had never heard the tip about removing the bottom wrapping. I will try it. :)

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Wow, Liz! That was pretty good. My mom overwinters poinsettia by sticking them in her garage and ignoring them for the most part. They do just fine. Two gardeners I know made it their project last year to overwinter lots of poinsettia. They devoted a spare room to the project. After a lot of trouble and care, they had little to show for it. Life's strange like that, huh? Nice to hear from you! --Jill

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Hey suzzycue! I love to mix up the red & white ones, too. It seems early to me, but poisettia are already on sale around here for the holidays. Later! Jil

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

      The poinsettia I bought last Christmas is dying right now! It's been outside all year and has been doing well, but now it's falling apart. Over the summer, it grew SO MANY leaves. I thought it was stressing itself out. As I pinched some of them off, a lot of that white hormone stuff came out. I might still be able to save it--there's some green left on the branches. Anyway, thanks for this hub, Jill! If I have to get another one, hopefully I will be able to keep it alive for next Christmas! :) -Liz

    • suzzycue profile image

      Susan Britton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I love the red and white poinsettias to decorate my home. Having real flowers in my home for Christmas really brings in the warm holiday spirit. Taking the foil off the bottom, I would not of thought of thanks for the tip. Good hub.