Decorating with Christmas plants--more widely known as poinsettias--is a holiday tradition in many homes. While the most common leaf (also called bract) color is red or white, some poinsettia varieties instead have pink or yellow bracts. Before purchasing your poinsettias, if possible, choose a plant with bracts that are completely colored with very little green to them. They should always look fresh--not wilted or dry--and the stem of the plant should be firm.
Place a plastic bag over top of your poinsettia when transporting it home to protect it. Unwrap it when you get home. Keep the decorative foil around the planting pot if desired, but poke a few holes in it to allow for water drainage. Set the pot in a dish for the excess water to drain into.
Place your plant in an area that receives a minimum of 6 hours of indirect light (including artificial light) and that is free of drafts. Drafts often occur in long hallways, near open windows and doors, and near air ventilation systems or heating and cooling units.
Maintain ideal temperatures. During the day, poinsettias thrive best within a temperature range of 60 to 70 degrees F. At nighttime, they prefer temperatures around 55 degrees F. If necessary, move the plant to a cooler location at night, such as in the basement, but be sure the temperatures do not dip below 50 degrees F.
Allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Insert your finger into the soil to test for moisture. When dry, slowly water the plant until the water trickles out the bottom drainage holes. Then, dump out the excess water so the pot does not sit in standing water.
Fertilize your poinsettia once a month after it is finished blooming if you want to keep your plant past the Christmas season. Use an all-purpose fertilizer and apply it using the instructions on the label. Application methods vary among the different brands and types (e.g., granular, premixed). When the plant begins blooming again the next winter, stop fertilizing until it is once again finished.
Prune back your poinsettia in late March or early April to about 8 inches. Prune as needed during the summer to help maintain a bushy full shape, but do not prune after August. Use a pair of handheld clippers for pruning.
Take your plant outdoors in a partially shady area in the summer months. Higher temperatures are not harmful during this time when the poinsettias are not blooming. Bring the plant back indoors in the fall before temperatures begin to drop below 50 degrees F.
Move your poinsettia on October 1 to an area of your home that receives 14 hours of complete darkness each night (e.g., in a closet) or cover it with a box. Then for 6 to 8 hours during the day, keep the plant in an area that is between 60 to 70 degrees F and in bright sunlight, such as next to a south-facing window. Keep this routine up and continue watering and fertilizing as normal, until early December. Your plant should rebloom and regain its vibrant bract color again. At that time, move to an area of indirect light and repeat the steps again for the next year.