Jill likes cooking, writing, painting, & stewardship, and studies gardening through MD Master Gardener & Master Naturalist programs.
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.
Cut Away Pot Sleeve Bottoms
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 sopping 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
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
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
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.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Jill Spencer
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on January 23, 2017:
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 from Alabama, USA on January 22, 2017:
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!
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on January 05, 2013:
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
C E Clark from North Texas on January 05, 2013:
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!
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 25, 2012:
Hi faythef. Simply cutting the bottom off the wrapper will go a long way toward making your beautiful poinsettia last longer. Happy holidays! --Jill
Faythe Payne from USA on November 24, 2012:
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.
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 20, 2012:
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 Woods from Houston, Texas on November 20, 2012:
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 from America on November 20, 2012:
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.
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 19, 2012:
Hi aviannovice. Hope the tips help you make your poinsettias last. Happy holidays! --Jill
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on November 19, 2012:
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!
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 18, 2012:
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 Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on November 18, 2012:
Jill - I had never heard the tip about removing the bottom wrapping. I will try it. :)
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 17, 2012:
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
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 17, 2012:
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
Liz Davis from Hudson, FL on November 17, 2012:
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
Susan Britton from Ontario, Canada on November 17, 2012:
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.