What To Do With Poinsettias After The Holidays

Poinsettias always remind me of the holidays. One year we put about 15 on our porch, and they made a beautiful display. After a few weeks, the kids kept coming in with baby salamanders that they’d found on the front path, and even though we lived by a creek, we’d never seen this many, up to 30 a day. We eventually worked out that the salamander eggs must have been in the poinsettia pots… so a great and very unexpected holiday surprise, one of nature’s little gifts.

If like me you have wondered about what to do with poinsettias after Christmas and the holidays when they start looking sad, wonder no more. Here’s the scoop:

  1. Cut the stems back to just above the point where new (green) growth is emerging. This usually means cutting off one-half to two-thirds of the stems. It may look ugly for a few weeks while the new growth comes in.
  2. Keeping it in the same pot, move it to a sunny windowsill.
  3. Water and fertilize the poinsettia regularly, don’t let it get dried out, and avoid temperature extremes and cold drafts.

If you do all of the above you will be rewarded with a beautiful green-leafed poinsettia. If you live where summer nights are mild, above around 50 degrees, you can even put it outdoors in the summer.

If you want it to be red again you have to be really dedicated. Beginning in late September, the poinsettia must have 12 hours of complete darkness each night and 12 hours of good light during the day. That’s the trick and it’s that simple, or difficult. For about eight weeks, unless you happen to have a tightly controlled greenhouse operation, you will have to move your poinsettia to a dark closet every night at exactly the right time, and back to the windowsill each day.

The scene that evokes is hilarious. But it’s serious stuff, even a small amount of light from a light bulb for a short time can disrupt the formation of the new flowers, thereby dooming you to permanently green poinsettias. So, your choice, tightly scheduled commando operation, a green poinsettia or buy a new one!

In the meantime to keep them looking young and lovely as long as possible once they are blooming:

Put them in a window with lots of indirect light, not in direct sun. If you stand them in a dark area they will stop blooming very quickly. We stood ours at the office under a skylight and it loved it there. Don’t let them dry out, try to keep the soil moderately damp to the touch at all times. Poinsettias are sensitive to temperatures below 65 degrees, so avoid cold, drafty windowsills. Despite this I kept mine on a covered porch where nighttime temperatures were below 28 degrees F each night and they loved it. And don’t feed or mist them, just keep them watered.

How long will a poinsettia stay in bloom?

It depends on all of the factors mentioned above. A quality plant in the right location that is well-cared for can stay in bloom for up to six months. But that is unusual. Most poinsettias will last for 4 to 6 weeks before the flowers (technically known as bracts) begin to fall off.

When the flowers fade and the plant no longer looks attractive, you can discard the plant or try to keep them until the following year.