Dec 23, 2020

Poinsettias: Keepers? Or Compost?

Did you get a poinsettia this year? Wondering what to do with it after the holiday?  

Many folks chuck it into the bin – or hopefully the compost.  Others plant it and let it be somewhere in their yard, and hope it makes it.  Often though, they languish in their pots until they just die back and fail.  I know I’ve done it!

Poinsettias come in all kinds of colors, and are sometimes even painted!

Poinsettias come in all kinds of colors, and are sometimes even painted! Here’s a beautiful pink one.

Did you know that you can actually enjoy your poinsettia year after year?  There’s a few things you need to do to take care of them and make sure the colorful bracts (the brightly-colored leaves) come back next year. But first, let’s talk about caring for your poinsettias through the holiday.

The Ideal Poinsettia Environment For Best Holiday Enjoyment

Your Poinsettia likes certain conditions, and they’re pretty easy to provide with a little planning.  Here’s their list of demands for ideal growth.

With a little care your Poinsettia will show off its colorful bracts and small yellow blooms for many weeks!

With a little care your Poinsettia will show off its colorful bracts and small yellow blooms for many weeks!

  • 6 hours of bright indirect sunlight every day
  • No drafts
  • Temperatures between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit for continual blooming, no lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Water when the top of soil at the top of the pot is dry, 1-2 times per week is usually OK but monitor your plant for its own water needs.
  • No fertilizer needed (the soil it comes in usually has plenty).
  • Remove any faded or dried out parts of the plant any time you see them.

Keep in mind that Poinsettias will tolerate other conditions, but you may have some side effects, like leaf drop, or no new blooms.

My Poinsettia After The Holiday

It’s January, and you’re ready to change out your Poinsettia for something new.  But you love your Poinsettia and don’t want to toss it out.  What can you do with it?

Closeup of a white poinsettia showing the ‘modified leaves’ or colorful bracts and the small yellow flowers in the center.

Closeup of a white poinsettia showing the ‘modified leaves’ or colorful bracts and the small yellow flowers in the center.

 

Well, your Poinsettia should be pretty happy in the pot it came in through the rest of Winter and into early Spring. You can continue your watering routine through the rest of Winter – make sure you bring it in if there’s cold weather or a freeze!  Prolonged temps below 60 can lead to leaf drop.  Leaf drop will make your leaves just fall off, and then you’ll have some living twigs in a pot. 

Note: If Leaf Drop happens in Winter, it doesn’t mean all is lost.  You can follow the instructions for the Spring Repotting below and see if it comes back!

As Winter turns into Spring, the temperature gets warmer.  Your Poinsettia will be ready for transplanting soon.

Spring Poinsettia Repotting

Spring warmer weather comes a little earlier in Florida than in other places, so while other online guides tell you to wait until April or May, they’re probably thinking you live in a place that snows!  Instead, I would recommend early- to mid-March to start preparing your plant for transplanting, or sooner if it’s losing leaves and getting “leggy” (lots of stem, not so many leaves).

Late season Poinsettias lose their leaves and become “leggy” showing their stems.

Late season Poinsettias lose their leaves and become “leggy” showing their stems.

To prepare your Poinsettia for transplanting into a new bigger pot, let the soil dry out gradually starting in March.  As your Poinsettia gets “leggy”, cut the stems back to about 4 inches above the soil and transplant into a larger pot.  Use fresh sterile potting mix or soilless mix.

We recommend Fox Farm Ocean Forest, Happy Frog, or Coco Loco soils.

If you like to make your own mix, we also recommend Coco Coir, Earthworm Castings or Mushroom Compost, and Perlite.  We also have Peat Moss.

Water the newly-transplanted trimmed Poinsettia thoroughly and allow it to drain.  Place the plant back in a sunny window (indirect sunlight) or under a shady tree (dappled light or early morning light is ok).  Check it periodically to make sure there is enough moisture – only water again when the soil is dry to the touch on top.

Your Poinsettia will start to create new leaves and branches.  When you see this happening, it’s time to feed your Poinsettia every couple of weeks with a houseplant fertilizer following instructions on the packaging.

We recommend Shell’s 6-6-6 all purpose natural fertilizer!

Growing through the Summer

Our Summers in Florida are really hot, and your Poinsettia can’t take full on 12 hours a day of direct sunlight, especially if they’ve been inside the whole time. It can, however, tolerate a shady or dappled light environment if it’s become accustomed to the heat. 

Poinsettias growing and blooming “in the wild”.

Poinsettias growing and blooming “in the wild”. Your Poinsettia will only show green leaves until cooler weather and shorter days happen when Winter approaches.

 

In March, you can start putting your Poinsettia outside to get it used to rising temperatures.  Bring it inside if there’s a late season cold snap that brings the temperature below 60 for an extended period (it’s rare in Florida, but it does happen on occasion). 

Watch your Poinsettia during the Summer.  The heat can be brutal to your plants in general and Poinsettias are no exception.  If the leaves dry up or burn, it’s too hot or sunny where it’s sitting and it’s time to relocate. Along a north-facing wall or on the north side of a tree is probably a good place to try.

Trim your Poinsettia as needed, probably June or July, then again in September. The early Summer trimming should be a pinching of about an inch of terminal growth from each stem.  The late Summer trimming  should be a little more aggressive; 2-3 inches to promote side-branching.  Allow 3-4 leaves to remain on each shoot after pinching.

Don’t forget to increase your water monitoring when it’s especially hot outside.  Even plants in the shade can have issues with evaporation from the heat.  

Fall Is When The Poinsettia Action Happens

If you want your Poinsettia to bloom in time for Christmas, you have to physically change the lighting around your plants.  They require very short day lengths to bloom and form the colorful bracts you want.

 Left to their own devices, poinsettias become very tall!

Left to their own devices, poinsettias become very tall! Trimming is important to keep them manageable.

 

We provide very short daylight hours manually by keeping your Poinsettias in complete darkness for 12-14 hours from the first part of October until Thanksgiving – an 8-10 week period.  You can use a cardboard box to cover your plant if it’s outside (plastic can stifle the plant, you want something that will occlude the light but allow the plant to breathe), or hide it in a closet during that 12-14 hours if it lives inside.  

During the rest of the day, give your Poinsettia sunlight.  One suggestion is to put a box over your Poinsettias when you get home from work (say, 6 pm) and then take the box off when you leave for work (say, 7:30 am) the next day.  That gives them 13.5 hours of complete darkness.

By Thanksgiving you should be able to stop the dark periods (the light is changing and the days are getting shorter).  You can consult weather apps for the sunrise and sunset times to help you.

In December, cut back on the watering and the fertilizer to just when the top of the soil is dry like in the care instructions in the first part of this article.  Your plants will still need 6 hours of indirect sunlight each day.  At this point, your plants should be blooming and making those colorful bracts!

Even The Best Care Doesn’t Guarantee Blooms

With this process through the year we are attempting to force the plant to bloom for us by manipulating the light and temperature and water and fertilizer.  It is an artificial process using natural elements, and because of that it doesn’t always work.  

A poinsettia blooming happily in a bright indirect light window.

This poinsettia is blooming happily in a bright window with indirect light.

It’s not guaranteed that you’ll get plants to rebloom. But trying is fun!  There are a lot of variables that we can’t predict, so don’t consider it a failure if you don’t get the colorful leaves again. The green foliage is still really very pretty!

Sure, it’s easier to just buy new Poinsettias next year…but it’s not much of a challenge to do that.

Have you ever rebloomed your Poinsettias?  Tell us your best advice in the comments below!

Have a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday, and a beautiful New Year.  I’ll see you again in 2021!

Until next time….Keep Growing!

Sincerely,

Marissa

Best Wishes for a Happy Holiday from the Shell’s Feed Family to yours!

Best Wishes for a Happy Holiday from the Shell’s Feed Family to yours!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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