What Do You Do With a Poinsettia After the Holidays Are Over?

Millie Davenport
Home & Garden Information Center

Poinsettias are a classic holiday plant used to decorate the home from November to December. The brightly colored bracts (modified leaves) of the poinsettia are often called flowers. But the true flowers of the poinsettia are very small and found in the center of the colorful bracts. When kept in an ideal environment, poinsettias will hold their brightly colored bracts for months. In fact, newer poinsettia varieties have been bred to hold bracts on the plants for a longer "shelf life". With the poinsettias still looking good after the holidays, the BIG question for homeowners is whether to trash the poinsettia or keep it for next year.

The small poinsettia flowers can be seen in the center of the red bracts
A close-up of poinsettia flowers
Bodie Pennisi, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Homeowners may choose to keep the poinsettia while the bracts remain colorful or just trash it after the holidays. For homeowners who are up for a real challenge, they may even attempt to rebloom their poinsettias for next Christmas. Either way, poinsettias kept after the holidays will require attention on a regular basis. First, the poinsettia should be moved to an area where it will receive at least 6 hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day. Then, check the poinsettia periodically to make sure the plant has adequate water. Remove any decorative pot covers at each watering to prevent over watering.

A poinsettia with red bracts
Red poinsettia
Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org

Around the middle of April pinch the poinsettia back to 6 to 8 inches in height and leave it growing in a sunny location. When new growth begins, a liquid houseplant fertilizer may be used. Once night time temperatures remain above 50 °F the plant can be placed outside. Start by placing the poinsettia in a shady spot for a few days, gradually increasing its exposure to sunlight until it becomes acclimated to full sun. At this time the poinsettia should be repotted into a slightly larger container.

Poinsettias that are grown for Christmas flowering should not be pinched (pruned) after September 1st. When the temperatures become cool (55 to 60 °F) bring the poinsettia back indoors and place in a sunny location. Poinsettias require short day lengths to bloom, which means it needs a continuous long dark period each night to form its colorful bracts. Starting around the first week of October (for an eight- to 10- week period), the plant must be kept in total and uninterrupted darkness for 14 continuous hours each night. During this time the plant must also receive six to eight hours of bright sunlight daily. For detailed information on growing poinsettias, see: HGIC 1561, Poinsettia.

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