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Keeping Your Poinsettia Alive After the Holidays

Maria is a master gardener and master of public health. She & her husband, known online as The Gardener & The Cook, live in coastal Alabama.

keeping-your-poinsettia-alive-after-the-holidays

Poinsettias, how we love them! They are enjoyed by so many each year during all the winter holidays, yet so many are killed shortly after the New Year. Okay, likely not intentionally killed – most likely loved to death by too much water or not enough light indoors.

Many suffer from dry indoor heat, and are often neglected after the holidays. Could it be that we simply don't know how to care for them? Nah, it couldn't be that... well, maybe.

Questions, I Get Questions

Over the years, many of my friends have asked how I keep my poinsettias alive for so long after the holidays. I have lost count of the questions I've been asked about how to keep these struggling beauties alive, so rather than take a chance on omitting someone, I'll not mention the names of those who asked. You know who you are, and I hope you questions are answered here. What I will do is share what I have learned about caring for poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima).

Caring for Your Holiday Poinsettia

Below is a description of their requirements. If you make sure they receive this care, your poinsettia will be with you quite a while. You could even plant it in the ground come spring, then take it back inside next Christmas.

Light

Poinsettias are sun-loving shrubs that need full sun: at least 6 hours per day. Providing that much sunlight can be difficult in most homes during winter.

If you have a bright sunny window, be sure to place your poinsettia there. If you want to keep it in a different place when you have guests, that should be fine. Just be sure to place it back by the window at all other times.

Water

The soil should feel moist and cool when touched, but should never be not soaking wet. Too much water is as bad, if not worse, than too little. If your potted poinsettia feels feather-light when you pick it up, it probably needs water. Just feel of the soil to see if it's dry. If the top one inch of soil is dry, it needs to be watered. Take it to a sink and water it well, allowing the excess to drain away.

This one doesn't have the traditional red and green "Christmas colors", but it quickly became my favorite -- probably because of its delicate coloring.

This one doesn't have the traditional red and green "Christmas colors", but it quickly became my favorite -- probably because of its delicate coloring.

Those Decorative Foil Wrappers Are Death Traps

Before watering these delicate plants, be sure to remove the decorative foil that comes with most poinsettia purchased during the holidays. This is true for any potted plant – those foil wrappers are death traps, as they hold water, allowing the plant to sit in water that has escaped the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.

You definitely want this water to be able to drain away completely. If you are diligent about checking for water collected in the foil wrapper, you could leave the foil on, but only if you know you will remember to check on it.

Will you remember if the phone rings, or the baby cries, or the doorbell rings? Not me. So I lift the pot from the foil during the watering process, then replace it after I'm done. On the other hand, if you have a pretty cache pot to put the ugly plastic pot into, trash the foil and use the pretty pot.

Below is a photo of my favorite cache pot. I bought it in a gift shop years ago when traveling for to a state-level public health meeting in North Carolina.

This is my favorite cache pot. it holds this maidenhair fan fern most of the year, but during the holidays, it holds a potted poinsettia or my Christmas fern.

This is my favorite cache pot. it holds this maidenhair fan fern most of the year, but during the holidays, it holds a potted poinsettia or my Christmas fern.

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I hope you found this information to be helpful. Enjoy your poinsettia, and all your plants and flowers.

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.

© 2021 MariaMontgomery

Your Comments Are Always Welcome

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on August 20, 2021:

Mine were scattered around the yard. Some got morning sun. Others got afternoon sun. They didn't seem to mind either. They do need some time away from light, especially when it's time for the leaves to change color. It seems that even artificial light tricks them into "thinking" it's not time to change, so it slows the process. If I had one in a pot on the lanai, I would have kept those lights off at night. That would mean not using the lanai, though, which would not be good. For any further info, I'll need to research it. Thanks for the idea.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 20, 2021:

I find it interesting that poinsietta love full sun. I've always kept mine outside in a sunny area, but not in absolute full sun. They did fine there, then I'd plant them after the holidays. One thing I heard is they don't like light at nighttime (porch lites, etc.). It affects the blooming habits, from what I've been told. Can you expound on that?

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on August 20, 2021:

Wow! No, they would die if left in complete darkness that long. I can see, though, how someone could misunderstand.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on August 20, 2021:

I think it was like 2 to 3 months of complete darkness, then bringing them back out in the light.

I guess one could always cut the bottom of the foil off & then it's no hassle to water.

MariaMontgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, USA on August 20, 2021:

Hi Brenda. Thanks for reading my article. Yes, it's true it looks festive. The time to take it off is while watering the plant, and, as I said in the article, replace it after watering. I suggested using a cache pot for those who don't want to use the foil wrapper.

Placing it in a dark closet is another way to hasten the color change by tricking it into thinking the days are shorter. No, you can't leave it there until next season (a whole year?) as these are sun-loving shrubs, and need at least 6 hours of sun per day. I hope I didn't misunderstand your mention of leaving it in the closet until the next year, but that's what it sounds like you meant. Please correct me if I've misunderstood.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on August 19, 2021:

It is true that foil should come off...but most people leave it on because it looks festive.

I've always heard you can keep these by placing in a dark closet until next season.

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