Caring for Your Poinsettia
It seems a shame to throw out that beautiful poinsettia you bought for the holidays. If
you're up for a challenge, you can mimic the light and temperature patterns of the plant's
native Mexico, and bring it back to full bloom for the holidays next year. You'll have more
luck if you put your plan on your calendar.
February-March: Cut Back the Old Stems
The flowers are gone by now. It's time to help the plant regenerate. This will be a
year-long process, so be patient.
May-July: Repot and Move
Give your poinsettia more leg room by repotting it in a container with about 3 inches more
in diameter. Keep the plant well watered and located in the sun. When the night temperatures
are above 60 degrees, move your poinsettia outside in a shady spot for a few weeks. This will
help it get used to the outdoors. Then you can move it to a sunny location. Be sure to turn the
pot a quarter turn every week or so for even growth.
Pinch Your Poinsettia
If you like a short, bushy plant with plenty of flowers, start pinching. Removing the shoots
encourages branching. Pinch off the top quarter inch about every 3 or 4 weeks, but be sure to
leave a few leaves below the pinch point. If you don't pinch, you'll have a tall, spindly plant
with few flowers. Keep it up through late summer.
Bring It Back in During the Fall
Your poinsettia can't take the cold. When night temperatures start getting close to 60
degrees again, bring your plant indoors.
Early October: Give your Poinsettia 14 Hours of Darkness
What triggers poinsettias to flower is a period of long nights and short days with sun. By
long nights, we're talking 14 hours of total darkness. Any light leaks at night will keep the
plant from flowering. You need to cover it up completely or move it into a dark closet at
night. For the 14 hours required, put it away at 5 pm, and take it out again at 7 am. You
should do this from early October till Thanksgiving. Continue to water and feed your plant.
After Thanksgiving, keep your plant out and you should have flowers by mid-December.