Wyevale Garden Centres

How to care for poinsettias


It's easy to see why poinsettias are the most popular Christmas house plant. During November and December they grow fantastic bright red or cream bracts to add a real festive touch to any room. As with amaryllis, most people tend to throw poinsettias away after Christmas, but with a little extra care and light manipulation they can be saved and brought back to bloom the following winter.

Caring for poinsettias

The key thing to remember with poinsettias is that they are a tropical plant, so avoid letting them get cold. Make sure you keep them out of temperatures below 13 °C (55°F).

You should take care to keep your poinsettia warm when transporting it home or to give as gift. Wrap it in a bag if you can, so that the cold outdoor air doesn’t get to the leaves.

Poinsettias love the warm environment provided by our central heating during winter. Ideally they should be placed in a room that will be consistently kept between 15°C and 18°C. Try to avoid placing poinsettias on windowsills, as these can often be draughty and slightly colder than the rest of the house. If you are putting your plant by the window, make sure that the leaves aren’t touching the cold glass, as this will damage them. Place your poinsettia in a bright place but out of direct sunlight. It prefers a humid environment, but if using a misting spray, be careful not to spray the foliage. A simple way to create humidity around the plant is to fill a shallow tray or saucer with pebbles, cover with water and stand the poinsettia in its pot on top of the pebbles.

Be careful not to overwater your poinsettia. You should only need to water it if the soil is starting to dry out. Make sure that its pot has good drainage, and never leave it sitting in water. How often you need to water will depend on the temperature of your house. If your poinsettia is being over- or under-watered, its leaves may start to wilt and turn yellow. You should be able to diagnose the issue by checking the moisture level of the soil with your finger.

You should take care to keep your poinsettia warm when transporting it home or to give as gift. Wrap it in a bag if you can, so that the cold outdoor air doesn’t get to the leaves.

Encouraging your poinsettia to rebloom

With just a few simple steps you can encourage your poinsettia to rebloom the following year. Poinsettias are a short day plant (in other words, they start to flower when the days get shorter), but as most homes are lit up for longer than the natural day, when the time comes you’ll need to use some light manipulation to encourage them to rebloom.

After Christmas, encourage your plant to become dormant. To do this, let the soil dry out so that the leaves begin to wilt and eventually drop off. Store your plant in a cool, dry place and keep the soil slightly moist until spring.

In spring prune your poinsettia back to around 4-6 inches high and keep it warm. Once your plant starts to grow back you should begin to water it again. Repot your plant and throughout the summer continue to care for it as you would with any normal house plant. Give it fertiliser around every 2 weeks and make sure that it is kept in a light and cool place (15°C to 18°C).

At the end of summer, around mid-September (or around 8 weeks before you want your plant to bloom), you will need to start manipulating your plant into thinking that the days are getting shorter. To do this, place it somewhere completely dark, with a temperature of around 18°C, for around 12 hours a day. This could be a cupboard or wardrobe where it won’t be disturbed.

For the remaining 12 hours of each day, make sure that your plant gets lots of bright light (you can supplement daylight with artificial light if necessary). Keep the atmosphere around the plant humid and the temperature consistent at around 18°C to 20°C.

Around 4 weeks after you begin this process, you should notice your poinsettia's bracts start to turn red, gradually getting brighter and brighter in weeks 4 to 8.

After 8 to 10 weeks your poinsettia will be ready for display. Moving it into a slightly cooler place (but still above 15°C) will help to intensify its colour, giving you another festive season of beautiful red blooms.

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