(12/20/22) NORCO, La. —As the holidays draw to a close, homeowners are stuck with poinsettias and a decision; keep or toss. Poinsettias are a perennial plant that the nursery crop industry grows as an annual. After that initial four to six weeks of enjoyment, the plant begins to lose some of its leaves and go semi-dormant. This is the point where a non-horticulturally inclined homeowner would toss the plant, but if you hate having to discard your poinsettia after the holidays, consider planting your poinsettia outdoors.
Poinsettias are indigenous to Mexico and Central America. These plants were first introduced to the United States by United States Ambassador Joel Poinsett in 1826. The colorful plants floated around in the Americas until they caught the eye of Californian, Paul Ecke, Sr. He noticed that roses had become the Valentine’s Day flower, lilies had become the Easter flower, and chrysanthemums were now synonymous with fall, but there was no Christmas flower. Through some roadside marketing tactics, Ecke became the man who made the poinsettia the Christmas flower.
Considering where the poinsettia originates, take head to when and where they can be planted outdoors. Poinsettias perform best in zones 9 throught 11 and will not tolerate freezing temperatures. One reason poinsettias love the Southshore of Lake Ponchartrain is the relatively high humidity we are sandwiched in between.
To stay on the safe side, it is better to wait until March before dropping the plants in the ground. After planting, cut the semi-dormant plant to 4-6 inches above the main stem. This will encourage branching and create a fuller plant. Continue to pinch the terminal growing tips during the growing season as they reach six inches in length through August. Each new tip should produce colorful bracts and cyathium between September and November for you to enjoy the following December.
Keep your poinsettia well-watered, fertilize regularly with a water-soluble fertilizer, and stay on top of your pruning schedule. When the temperatures start to linger in the low 40’s, consider protecting your plant with a plant cover or blanket. Homeowners with the best results have a common trend of planting near their brick house. The residual heat from the brick creates a micro-climate for the plant to bear the colder weather. To perennialize poinsettias, take that tip into consideration before planting.
For more information on poinsettia care or perennialization, contact your local LSU AgCenter Horticulture Extension Agent.
Perennialized poinsettia planted near a brick home beginning to show color in Luling, LA. Photo by Gabriel LoCoco.
Premature cyathium on a red poinsettia. Photo by Gabriel LoCoco.
Stages of maturing bracts on poinsettia nursey stock in Lutcher, Louisiana. Photo by Gabriel LoCoco.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture