One of the most popular decorative plants during the holiday season is the beautiful poinsettia. Traditionally a brilliant red, the modern poinsettia can be found in new colors including cream, yellow, peach and pink.
When the holidays are over and the decorations are put away what happens to the poinsettia? The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources offers some tips to care for the poinsettia during the year.
- By March, if not sooner, move the plants outside to a spot where they will receive indirect light. Water enough to keep the plant from wilting but don’t keep the soil soaking wet all the time.
- In late March or April, cut the plant back to within 5–6 inches of the growing medium, reduce the amount of watering, and move it to a sunny location. When new growth emerges, fertilize with a complete, balanced fertilizer such as 16-16-16; controlled-release formulations are preferred.
- When the plant has outgrown the pot—usually about mid-May—repot or transplant it to the ground. Use a standard potting mix, and continue fertilizing monthly.
- For a fuller plant, pinch back new growth about 4–6 weeks after it first appears, leaving four to six leaves on the stem. Continue to pinch the top two or three leaves every six weeks until September. Do not prune after Sept. 1 or around the time of repotting.
- The colorful bracts form only when the nights are long and dark. Keep the plants completely away from streetlights or house lights. Otherwise, put the poinsettia in an unlighted room or closet for at least 12 hours, returning them outside during the day. Depending on the variety you are growing, you should begin to see colored bracts in 6–9 weeks.
- Continue monthly applications of fertilizer until the true flowers develop. The plant no longer needs to be kept in the dark or be fertilized once the true flowers appear.
Download the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources’ Care of Potted Poinsettias (PDF) handout for more information.