How to Care for a Poinsettia

By Melissa Stewart, Assistant Director

Poinsettias are one of the most beautiful staples of holiday décor, available in a variety of colors and sizes. But you can’t place one in your window and forget about it until New Year’s Day. Just like a live Christmas tree, with a poinsettia purchase comes the responsibility of caring for a live plant all through the holiday season.

In my previous life as a production grower, I spent many hours obsessing over poinsettias. Trying to grow the perfect plant, with at least 5 to 7 blooms and also compact in nature, was no easy task. My thoughts always went toward how that plant would be cared for once out of my hands. It was as if 50,000 of my children were being released into the world! With that in mind, I always had a few tips I passed along to customers who were excited to have a poinsettia for the holidays.

  • Poinsettias are tropical plants and aren’t ideal for outdoor decoration during the cold winter here in West Virginia. Protect them from the cold at all times, beginning at point of purchase and as you place them in your home. Keep them away from exterior doors where they can be exposed to sudden bursts of cold air.
  • Water your poinsettias when the soil starts to dry, but do not keep them overly wet.
  • Poinsettia pots are typically sold with a pot cover. These will hold in the moisture, and you will need to drain these covers after watering so the roots are not left submerged.
  • Poinsettia stems are delicate. If you notice that a poinsettia bract (flower) appears to be wilting, the stem has likely been broken. Therefore, the affected bract should be removed. Do not take this as a sign that the plant needs water. Check the soil to determine that need.
  • Finally, the berries in the center are an indicator of bloom age. The yellow centers will open, and then begin to drop off. Remove them and continue to enjoy the beauty of the bract colors.

While poinsettias may require different elements of care than many other houseplants, it’s still a minor amount of work compared to the added beauty they bring to your holiday decorations. These simple tips should help to keep your poinsettia happy throughout the holidays! And for even more poinsettia care advice, check out this post from the University of Georgia (keeping in mind that Georgia’s winter climate differs from West Virginia).

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