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How To Care For Poinsettia Plants After Christmas

What you do with your poinsettia plants after Christmas will make the difference between a shriveled-up plant that goes into the compost pile or one that can bloom for year after year of enjoyment! 

As sad as it is, the holidays are now officially over. Presents have been unwrapped, way too much food has been consumed, the tree has been taken down and packed away for the year, and the family has (thankfully) gone home. 

If you are like many around the country, you are likely left behind with a beautiful poinsettia plant. They are such popular hostess gifts and are considered to be the unofficial “flower” of the holiday season. 

A white poinsettia blooming during Christmas
Whether you choose a classic white poinsettia or the iconic red, you can keep your poinsettia living long beyond the holiday season.

It seems like every store and window front you look into during the holidays is sporting a vibrant poinsettia plant. After the holidays are over, most people treat poinsettias like annuals and either toss them along with the wrapping paper or add them to their compost piles.

But believe it or not, poinsettias are actually perennials. With the simple tips and the proper care discussed below, your poinsettia can be kept and enjoyed for year-round foliage. Then, when the holidays roll around next year, they can be forced into bloom a second (or third) time!

Poinsettia Basics

Although the bright red areas on a poinsettia are often considered to be flowers, they technically aren’t petals. The parts that change beautiful, vibrant colors during the holiday season are actually bracts. 

Bracts are essentially modified leaves that form around a tiny flower cluster. The true flowers on a poinsettia plant are those tiny yellow flowers in the middle of the colorful bracts. 

The bracts really are the stars of poinsettia plants. They feature bright colors of red, cream, white, pink, green, orange, and even variegated. Garden nurseries often force them into changing colors during the holiday season – and you can too with a few tips. 

Closeup of a poinsettia's flower and bracts
The yellow-green part in the center of the red leaves is actually the poinsettia plant’s true flowers.

Caring For Poinsettia Plants After Christmas

Here’s a look at how to care for your poinsettia plant during the holidays and beyond. 

During The Holidays

Once you’ve gotten your poinsettia plant, you want to place it in a location in your home that receives at least 6 hours of bright, indirect light during the day. An east-facing window works great for this. Avoid direct sunlight which can burn their tender leaves. 

Typical home temperatures of around 65 to 75º Fahrenheit (18 to 24º Celsius) work best during the daytime. It’s ok to drop temps a little lower during the night, but avoid anything below 50º Fahrenheit (10º Celsius). Also, avoid placing the poinsettia near any heating vents or places with cold drafts. 

If your poinsettia came wrapped in foil, remove it so the pot can properly drain. Only water when the top of the soil is completely dry. Add enough water so that it runs out of the drainage holes. 

Since poinsettias like humidity, consider keeping other houseplants nearby like peace lilies, peacock plants, or devil’s ivy. You can also use a humidifier or place the poinsettia on a tray filled with small rocks and a little bit of water. 

Late-Winter Care – Poinsettia Plants After Christmas

After the holidays are over, your poinsettia is still capable of “blooming” late into January or even February. Keep up with consistent watering, but don’t overwater. You will have much better success with underwatering as opposed to overwatering. Also, avoid adding any sort of fertilizer at this time.  

dry leaves of a poinsettia sitting on the soil of after christmas has passed.
Once you start to see the dropped leaves, it’s time to prune.

Eventually, your poinsettia will start to drop its bracts and leaves. Don’t be alarmed as this is just part of the plant’s natural growing process. 

As the leaves dry up and fall off, you can start to cut back the foliage. Using small pruners or a pair of clean scissors, simply snip off the stems. Trim them back until they are only about three to four inches tall. 

No, you aren’t killing your poinsettia, although it will look rather pathetic during this time! Keep the plant in the same location, getting full indirect sunlight, and continue to water as normal. 

Within a few weeks of trimming your poinsettia, you should start to see new growth emerge. You can start to use fertilizer about once a month with any all-purpose fertilizer when the new growth starts to show. 

Spring and Summer Care – Poinsettia Plants After Christmas

As the weather starts to warm up and stay above 55 to 60º Fahrenheit (13 to 16º Celsius), you can move the poinsettia to an outdoor location. Keep the container in a sunny location so that the poinsettia gets full sun. Although they can survive with partial shade, they won’t grow as well. 

A full green poinsettia plant long after Christmas is over
An early spring pruning will have your poinsettia growing back full and bushier than ever!

Continue to water as needed, never letting the soil get completely dry and avoiding soggy roots. You will likely need to water more often than when the plant was living indoors, especially during really warm and dry spells. Continue with fertilizing as well during the warmer months. 

Around late spring/early summer, you can give the poinsettia another good trim. This helps to prevent the plant from getting too leggy. Trim the stems back until they are about 5 to 6 inches above the soil line. The poinsettia will grow back bushier and more compact. 

Do one more pruning around late summer in August or early September. Providing the poinsettia with fertilizer when you prune can give the foliage an extra boost to start growing back again. After you perform the late summer trim though, stop fertilizing.   

Fall Care – Poinsettia Plants After Christmas

When the temperatures start to drop to around 55 to 60º Fahrenheit (13 to 16º Celsius) again in the fall, it’s time to bring your poinsettia back inside. Do this gradually since drastic temperature and environmental changes can stress the plant out if not done correctly. 

Once again move the poinsettia to your East-facing window so they can receive bright, indirect sunlight. Cut back on watering and add additional humidity if needed. Be sure to not fertilize during this timeframe.

A red poinsettia sitting next to a window with the blinds down.
Even after Christmas is over, keep your poinsettia in a location that gets bright, indirect sunlight.
Forcing “Blooms” For Christmas

In order to get the bracts to come back with that amazing holiday color, you are going to need to “force” them into blooming. To do this, the poinsettias need a period of complete darkness.

It takes about 6 weeks of complete darkness for about 14 hours each day before they start to produce colorful bracts. So if you want the amazing color during Thanksgiving, you need to start the process close to October 1st. For Christmas blooming, start a couple of weeks later.

During the evening, move the poinsettia to a dark closet or spare bedroom. Ensure that there are no light sources at all in the room – not even a small night light. You can also place a large box over the poinsettia to ensure the plant is in complete darkness for 14 hours. 

Once morning comes around and it has been 14 hours, bring the poinsettia out and place it back in its sunny window location. Continue to water as usual.

The color should start to appear after about 6 weeks. When the bracts have fully changed colors, you can stop placing the poinsettia in the dark location. 

Additional Care Tips – Poinsettia Plants After Christmas

It can be a bit tricky to get the poinsettia to bloom for additional years, but it is well worth the effort when done right. Use the plant’s leaves as an indication of the plant’s health. 

The leaves changing from green to red.
Before long, your poinsettia will start to change from all green to those iconic holiday colors again!

Droppy leaves likely mean it’s time to water. If the leaves start to dry out and it’s not immediately following the holidays, then you might need to adjust the amount of sunlight it receives. Be wary of drafts and extreme temperature changes.

Your poinsettia plant will likely outgrow its pot or container after a year or two. Repot during the early spring or summer to avoid stressing the plant. Use brand-new potting soil and choose a container that is about a fourth larger than its current one. Never repot while forcing the poinsettia to bloom. 

By following these simple tips, hopefully you can enjoy your poinsettia plant for many more holidays to come! 

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