Besides the Christmas tree, no other plant welcomes the holiday season as well as the poinsettia. Poinsettias are used as accents or in mass groupings in homes, retailers, hospitals and many more locations. According to the 2018 USDA Floriculture Crops Summary, the value of potted poinsettias totaled $149 million. With so many of these plants being sold, the question of how to take care of them gets asked frequently.
To extend the life and beauty of the plant, the best placement for the poinsettia is near a sunny window or another well-lit area. A well-lit plant will maintain good bract color and avoid leaf drop. With proper care and watering, the poinsettia will remain beautiful in the home for two to three months. Keep the plant away from outside drafts or air conditioning and heating vents. It is best to avoid exposing the plant to sudden temperature changes because a poinsettia prefers daytime temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and nights around 60 to 65 degrees.
Many folks treat a poinsettia as an annual flower to be tossed away at the end of the season. However, they can just
as easily be grown as a perennial and saved with little effort. While poinsettias are not meant to live indoors, they can become acclimated to it.
Determining when and how long to irrigate a poinsettia should be done by observation and physical examination. Use a finger to feel the soil surface. Irrigate with water thoroughly when soil is dry to touch. Irrigate long enough so that excess water flows out the bottom of the pot.
For poinsettias to bloom and develop foliage color, do not pinch after late August or early September. Protect plants from light interruptions during the night hours. Poinsettias need approximately 40 straight days of 14-hour nights to bloom and develop bract color. Normal accumulation of these hours will occur from about Oct. 5 through Nov. 15, and this period of continuous darkness at night should initiate color in time for the Christmas season. Interruptions of this darkness cycle will delay flowering.
After the season, poinsettia plants can be planted outdoors in a sunny area. However, special care will be needed every year to protect them from frost damage. Poinsettias can be kept bushy and compact when growing in the landscape or a container by pinching new shoots when these shoots reach 5 to 6 inches long.
For this article, and other related articles view the Northwest Horticulture Hints - Winter 2020
Mark A. Wilson
Northwest Regional Horticulture Agent
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture