How to Grow Pretty Poinsettias

by Ken Lain, The Mountain Gardener, Watters Garden Center

Next to a living Christmas tree, nothing says Christmas like poinsettias. There are dozens of colors ranging from traditional shades of red, pink and white to burgundy, peach, striped and freckled.

Poinsettias are not harmful to animal or human health. But they should not be eaten. Sticky white sap can cause a skin rash, so gloves are recommended when working with these plants. Avoid contact with eyes and mouth. Wash tools after use.

Keep your plant’s soil moist, not wet.

After the holidays 

New Year’s Day, fertilize when you see new growth. Provide adequate light and water for a prolonged bloom for several weeks.

Valentine’s Day, check your plant for signs of insects, such as whitefly. Spray with neem oil at the first sign of bugs. If your plant has become long and leggy, cut back to about 5 inches.

St. Patrick’s Day, prune off faded and dried parts of the plant. Remove leaves from the soil surface and add more potting soil if roots are visible. Continue keeping the plant in a bright, sunny window.

Memorial Day, trim 2 to 3 inches off of branches to promote side branching. If you plan to continue growing your poinsettia as a potted plant, transplant it into a container.

Father’s Day, move your plant outside for the summer and place it in indirect light or transplant directly into your garden.

Fourth of July, trim the plant again. Move it into full sun. Continue to water and fertilize, but increase the amount to accelerate growth.

Labor Day, move indoors to a spot with at least six hours of direct light daily. As new growth begins, reduce the fertilizer to one-quarter recommended strength.

Autumn Equinox, starting on or near Sept. 21, give the plant 16 hours of uninterrupted darkness. Put the plant in a closet, basement or under a box, then provide 8 hours of bright light daily. Note that the plant cannot receive even the slightest bit of light during the dark. Continue to water and fertilize at a reduced rate. Rotate the plant daily to give all sides even light.

Thanksgiving, discontinue the short day/long night treatment. Put the plant in a sunny area with at least six hours of direct light. Reduce water and fertilizer.

Christmas, enjoy your poinsettia. Start the cycle again after the new year.