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Poinsettia Care

This popular large red, pink or white flowered Christmas plant is very sensitive to extreme chilling or hot air currents. If you must take your poinsettia outside, place the plant in a plastic bag and inflate the bag by blowing air into it. This warm air will protect your plant as it is carried from the house to the car.

Poinsettias prefer bright light and should be placed in a sunny window. Room temperatures of 70 degrees F. during the day and 55-65 degrees F. during the night is ideal. Water the plant thoroughly when the soil surface is dry to the touch. Add enough water each time so that the water runs out the drain holes of the pot. Place a drainage dish under the pot to avoid damage to your furniture. If the pot is enclosed in a foil wrapper, poke several holes in the bottom of the foil to allow excessive water to drain out.

After the blooms have faded and fallen off, the plant can be discarded or kept to bloom for another Christmas. If you wish to keep the poinsettia, cut the plant back to a height of 4-6 inches and water sparingly. Make sure that at least 3 leaf nodes (buds) are left on each stem. Active growth will usually resume in the late spring.

During the summer months, the plant can be planted out in a sunny warm location or kept indoors in an area of bright light. Don't move the poinsettia outside until the night temperatures remain about 60 degrees F. As the plant grows, pinch out the tips to encourage branching. In late summer (mid-August) move the plant indoors before the evenings become cool.

Poinsettias flower naturally in response to a short day length. This means that they must have at least fourteen hours of uninterrupted darkness each day beginning October 1 and continuing for about 6 weeks or until the upper leaves start to turn red in color. Researchers have found that an electric light turned on briefly during this dark period will mess up the flowering schedule. High night temperatures will also delay or prevent flowering. A suggestion would be to put the plant in the dark part of a closet each night for the required time. During the other 10 hours of the day, the poinsettia should be kept in a sunny location.

Todd Weinmann, Extension Horticulturist & Master Gardener Coordinator
Phone: (701) 241-5707

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