NDSU Extension - Ramsey County


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December 12, 2011

Happy Howdy Holidays!!!!

It is sooooooooooo hard to believe that Christmas is less than two weeks away.  I do enjoy the season and the business of the season.  I like decorating but am finding as I get older I become more stiff and it is not quite as easy as it once was.  I changed our theme a little from the santa to a nativity scene.  My sister Cindy called one day and had found this nativity scene made out of wood at a rummage sale.  There are 14 or 15 pieces and lit up in the evening looks very nice.  I was a little skeptical how it would look as the set is quite old and made of wood, but we have had many people stop by and actually stop to take a look.

My family was out on Sunday to celebrate me finally finishing my master’s program.  My mother-in-law, Mary, and brother-in-law Paul stopped in as well and a brought a beautiful poinsettia.  The comment was made “we will see how long Bill can keep it alive”.  This thought process brought about a column for today on the how’s of keeping a poinsettia from year to year.  I will talk more about the year at a later time but lets talk about what we need to do in the short term.

When You First Bring Your Poinsettia Home

Light - Place it near a sunny window. South, east or west facing windows are preferable to a north facing window. Poinsettias are tropicals and will appreciate as much direct sunlight as you can provide.

Heat - To keep the poinsettia in bloom as long as possible, maintain a temperature of 65 - 75 degrees F. during the day. Dropping the temperature to about 60 degrees F. at night will not hurt the plant. However, cold drafts or allowing the leaves to touch a cold window can injure the leaves and cause premature leaf drop. If you’ve ever seen a gangly poinsettia in bloom, with only a couple of sad looking leaves hanging on, it was probably exposed to temperatures that were too cool or extreme shifts in temperature.

Water - Water the plant whenever the surface feels dry to the touch. Water until it drains out the bottom, but don’t let the plant sit in water. Wilting is another common cause of leaf drop. A wilted plant can be revived and salvaged, but it will take another season to improve its appearance.

Humidity - Lack of humidity during dry seasons, in particular winter, is an ongoing houseplant problem. If your home tends to be dry and your poinsettia is in direct light, you will find yourself watering frequently, possibly every day.

After Christmas Care


January - March: Keep watering the poinsettia whenever the surface is dry.

April: Starting April 1st, gradually decrease water, allowing the plant to dry between waterings. Be careful the stem does not begin to shrivel. This is a sign the plant is too stressed and is dying. In a week or two, when the plant has acclimated to this drying process, move it to a cool spot like the basement or a heated garage. You want to keep it at about 60 degrees F.

May: In mid-May, cut the stems back to about 4 inches and repot in a slightly larger container, with new potting soil. Water it well. Place the newly potted plant back into the brightest window you have and once again keep it at a temperature of 65 - 75 degrees F. Continue watering whenever the surface of the soil feels dry.

Watch for new growth. Once new growth appears, begin fertilizing every two weeks with a complete fertilizer. Follow fertilizer label recommendations.


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