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Poinsettia Best Practices
Selection, Care, and What to Do After the Holidays


There are more than 100 cultivated varieties of Euphorbia pulcherrima, more commonly called poinsettias. The small buds in the center are the actual flower, while the red bracts are the leaves.

Poinsettias are the plant most associated with the holiday season, with the obvious exception of Christmas trees. Originally used by the Aztecs in midwinter celebrations to represent blood sacrifices, Franciscan priests in the 17th century altered that tradition to have the red bracts representative of the blood of Christ. The plant was bred in the U.S. starting in the 1920s, and its association with Christmas became widespread in the 1960s.

When selecting a poinsettia, Colorado State University greenhouse crops extension specialist and professor of floriculture Steven Newman recommends looking for a plant with a lack of bruising, good shape, and good uniformity. Look at the actual flower - not the red bracts - for a tight grouping, indicating a healthy plant.

Poinsettias thrive in temperatures of about 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and can sustain chill damage if temperatures drop below 60 degrees. The perennial should be kept in areas of diffused light.

Experts from the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center advise watering poinsettias when the soil is dry to the touch. The soil should be moist and well drained. Newman recommends watering the plant in a sink in order to keep the water uniformly distributed, but to dry the soil out between watering. During this time, the plant does not need to be fertilized.

Poinsettias don't have to be discarded after the holidays. As a tropical perennial, with proper care, they will bloom again next Christmas. When the weather starts to warm up, trim the poinsettia just below the flowering portion, including the bracts. Move the plant to a larger pot, and water, fertilize, and prune as needed. Come fall, the plant needs to be exposed to 10 hours of light daily, and 14 hours of complete darkness - even the light of a streetlight or passing car can disrupt the plant's reflowering process. The bracts should start regaining color around Thanksgiving and be vibrant through the next holiday season.

For more detailed information on keeping poinsettias through next season, visit

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August 19, 2019, 10:24 am PDT

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