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Keeping Your Holiday Poinsettia Healthy

Poinsettias are not difficult plants to keep healthy during the holiday season, but they do require specific lighting and are sensitive to temperature changes.

Steven Newman, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension greenhouse crops specialist, offers these suggestions to keep poinsettias beautiful throughout the holidays and healthy into the future:

  • What many consider the "bloom" on a poinsettia is actually a cluster of colored leaves called a bract. Bracts are red, pink, white, yellow, speckled or multi-colored. The flower of the poinsettia is in the center of the bracts. Choose a plant with dark green foliage and healthy bracts. Keep in mind that poinsettias with lighter colored bracts have lighter green foliage.
  • Plants with pale green, yellow or fallen leaves probably have a root disease, have been watered too much, have had an excessive dry period or weren't given enough fertilizer.
  • Choose a poinsettia with little pollen showing on the flowers.
  • If transporting a poinsettia on a day that is 35 degrees or less, be sure the plant is wrapped well or sleeved before taking it outside. Low temperatures, even for a short time, can damage leaves and bracts. After transporting, remove the sleeves to prevent epinasty, a downward bending of the leaves.
  • Poinsettias thrive on at least six hours of indirect, natural daylight. Avoid placing a poinsettia in direct sunlight; it may fade the bract color. If direct sun cannot be avoided, diffuse the light with a shade or sheer curtain.
  • To prolong the color of bracts, keep plants out of cold drafts and away from excessive heat. Ideal temperatures are 67 to 70 degrees during the day and 60 to 62 degrees at night.
  • Remove damaged or diseased leaves and bracts.
  • Keep soil moderately moist. Check the soil each day, and water the poinsettia whenever the soil feels dry to the touch. Plants in clay pots require more water, while those in plastic pots are easily overwatered. Apply water until water runs out of the drainage hole, but don't allow plants to set in standing water. Discard collected water.
  • A poinsettia does not require fertilizer while it is in bloom. However, to maintain green foliage and promote new growth indoors after the holidays, apply a balanced, all-purpose house-plant fertilizer once a month, following directions on the fertilizer label.

Photography courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010