Poinsettias are beautiful plants that are all over during the Christmas season, but notoriously absent throughout the rest of the year. It is possible to keep your poinsettia full and healthy year-around, but it can be a bit challenging.
We're going to look at a few things you can do to help prolong the life of your poinsettia.
The first step is a crucial one, as the care of your poinsettia begins the moment you decide to bring it home. As they are usually sold during the winter months, this is especially important for those living in colder climates. Poinsettias can be damaged by temperatures lower than 50 degrees, so when you are taking your new plant from the store to your home, make sure it is protected from the elements by layers of wrapping.
You will need to keep your poinsettia protected from the cold - especially drafts from doors to the outside - after it is home. Place it in a location that will not get cool or cold air from the outside. The ideal temperature will be no higher than 72 degrees, however.
Poinsettias require careful watering. They must be kept moist, but can be damaged by standing water. While this might seem like an easy thing to prevent, the colorful, decorative wrapping that is often found on a poinsettia can hold water inside and drown the plant. If you leave the wrapping on, (the best idea is to take it off as soon as you bring it home), make sure to put several holes in the bottom to let the access water drain. Keep the soil at the same moisture level. If you see leaves beginning to drop, there is probably a change in moistness.
Direct sunlight should be avoided, but your poinsettia will need diffuse sunlight for at least 6 hours per day.
Fertilize with a general fertilizer after the poinsettia has finished blooming. Never put fertilizer on while it is in bloom, as it can permanently damage or kill the plant.
Getting the poinsettia to bloom again for a second season requires a lot of skill. Begin by cutting the plant back to a height of about 8 inches in early April. It can go outside throughout the summer, as long as the temperature stays about 55 degrees. Continue pruning to keep the plant compact, and repot it if necessary. Beginning on October 1, you'll need to keep the plant in complete and total darkness for 14 hours a day, in temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. For the remainder of the day, put them in bright sunlight. Repeating this for the weeks leading up to the holiday season should result in another flowering of your poinsettia.