Poinsettia Care

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
Few things signal the holidays like the presence of poinsettias. This exotic import (from Mexico) is as common to Christmas as turkey is to Thanksgiving. With proper care, not only can your poinsettia provide beautiful color through the winter, it can also make a statement in your outdoor garden next summer.

Get off to a good start by avoiding exposure to cold temperatures or drafts. This includes bringing it home from the nursery or garden center. Keep your plant away from excessive cold or hot locations, such as near appliances, fireplaces, ventilating ducts, or near doors. If possible, the plant should be kept at temperatures between 68-70° F. In other words, purchasing those plants located just inside a breezy door of a retail outlet might not be your best choice to begin with.

Poinsettias like bright light and need at least six hours of indirect light per day. When they don’t get that, they start dropping leaves, which makes them unattractive and harder to keep alive. If you find your poinsettia beginning to wilt (and you’ve ruled out a water issue), take care not to overreact to a low light situation by overdoing it and placing them in direct sun. Compare this to our winter skin being exposed to a hot July sun; it’s simply to intense a change for the plant to adapt to.

Proper moisture is the third key to keeping your poinsettia from premature death. Your plant should not be waterlogged or allowed to completely dry out. Poinsettias will wilt and drop leaves at either extreme. The soil (technically incorrect as there is zero “soil” in the container) being used for containers these days is extremely lightweight and can dry quickly so consistency is an important component of watering.

Water the plant when the surface is dry to the touch. Put enough water in the pot so that it runs out of the bottom, but do not allow the plant to sit in water for longer than a few minutes.

For more information on this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at
keith.reed@okstate.edu, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.

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