How to care for poinsettias: A smart guide to the Christmas flower

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Poinsettias have been a Christmas staple in the U.S. for nearly 200 years, but that doesn’t mean everyone knows exactly how to take care of these tropical flowers.

It’s estimated that roughly 35 million potted poinsettias are sold in the U.S. each year. 

Some folks are content with keeping the iconic red flower for only a few weeks each holiday season — while others have mastered the art of keeping the poinsettias alive long enough for them to rebloom the next year.

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If you’re aspiring to be a poinsettia “plant parent,” there are a few things you’re going to need to know before you visit your local flower shop or nursery. 

“Unlike cut flowers, houseplants don’t have an expiration date, which is one of the many reasons we love them,” said Erin Marino, former editorial lead at The Sill, a New York-based direct-to-consumer plant company, told Fox News Digital.

“Popular holiday houseplants like vibrant poinsettias and miniature evergreens can survive long after the holiday season is over.”

Marino told Fox News Digital that poinsettia owners mainly need to monitor these holiday flowers for sunlight, temperature, watering and trimming.

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“Poinsettias prefer medium to bright indirect light. Keep them on a windowsill to give them the most amount of daylight possible, especially during the winter when the sun sets earlier,” Marino said. 

“If your home lacks natural light, you can try placing your plant directly under a fluorescent lamp or plant grow light during the day.”

“Unless you live in southern Florida, don’t place your plants outside until late spring.”

Since poinsettias are native to Mexico and Central America, the plant thrives in warm climates.

“Be mindful of the temperature indoors and don’t place your poinsettia near any hot or cold drafts that could come from heaters or cracked windows. They prefer temperatures in the 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit range,” Marino said.

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“Unless you live in southern Florida, don’t plan to place your plants outside until late spring.”

Like other tropical plants, healthy poinsettias grow in soil that’s moist to the touch. Soil that’s too dry or wet could result in a poinsettia’s shortened lifespan.

woman looking poinsettia plant

Water a poinsettia plant about once a week, said Marino — but she also warns against overwatering because that could lead to root rot. 

If too much water has been added by accident, she advises emptying the planter’s saucer to release the excess H20. 

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Poinsettia owners who want to go the extra mile may want to consider using a humidifier at home; however, this step is not mandatory.

If your poinsettia survives long enough to make it to spring, it will be ready for “significant pruning,” according to Marino.

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“Remove all dead leaves and flowers from your holiday plants, especially crispy poinsettias leaves,” she said. 

“If they’re in holiday packaging, for example, a paper or foil sleeve, it’s time to remove it. Decorative sleeves usually push leaves up and block light, which ultimately shortens a plant’s lifespan.”

Other poinsettia considerations

Figuring out how much water a Poinsettia needs is probably one of the most challenging parts of caring for the plant, especially if it’s your first time.

Jim Faust, Ph.D., an associate professor of floriculture physiology at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina, told Fox News Digital he recommends watering poinsettias with one to two cups of water each week with “smaller amounts for small pots, larger amounts for large pots.”

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The temperature of the water also matters, according to NatureID, an AI- and botanist-driven plant identification app.

poinsettia plant in home

A media representative for the app told Fox News Digital that cold water is harmful to poinsettias. 

The optimum water temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The plant resource also recommends repotting large poinsettias if they have been purchased from a nursery or have simply outgrown their original pot.

Last words of advice

Poinsettia owners who are worried that their green thumb isn’t good enough to keep these plants alive might take comfort in knowing that this tropical flower has been bred to have higher survival odds.

trimming red poinsettia bush

“Modern poinsettias are not your grandmother’s plants. Breeding has dramatically improved their consumer performance,” said Faust. 

“Back in the day, growers would place ferns or pine boughs in the pot along with the poinsettia to provide greenery, because the poinsettia leaves would fall off so quickly. Today’s poinsettias will last well into January if watered properly and provided enough sunlight.”

Poinsettias can “rebloom” from one holiday season to the next.

While this is a common goal for many with a green thumb, it can be a challenge.

caring for poinsettia split

“It is not an easy task, as it requires excluding light from the plant for a period of time while keeping the plant healthy,” the University of Minnesota extension shared in an online article about poinsettia care.

“The reduction in light prevents the plant from producing chlorophyll, the pigment that makes plant parts green. This changes the bracts to red, pink or white, depending on the poinsettia variety.”

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.

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