How should I care for my poinsettia plant after the holidays?
You can plant your poinsettia outdoors in a container or in the ground. Choose a sunny spot that will not receive artificial light at night. Plant your potted poinsettia(s) as soon as danger of frost is past. Place the plant in the soil at the same depth it was growing in the container. Keep the plant mulched and soil moist until established. Once established, watering is usually not needed.
To encourage branching, start pruning in early spring. Cut back to within 12 to 18 inches of the ground. Poinsettias may become “leggy” and unattractive if not pruned regularly during the growing season. Cut back a few times during the summer if needed, leaving four leaves on each shoot. Discontinue pruning after Sept. 10.
The poinsettia is a “short day” plant that blooms when days are short and nights are long. If the dark period is interrupted by artificial light from any source after Oct. 1, flowering will be delayed or interrupted. If your plant is exposed to outdoor lights, you’ll need to cover your poinsettia every night during this critical time for flowers to develop. You can use a cardboard box and cover all holes to keep out light. Once you start to see color development, you can stop covering the plant.
The colorful and showy “flower” is actually a cluster of modified leaves called bracts. The true flowers are small and clustered in the centers of the bracts.
Red poinsettia varieties usually establish better than other colors. Purchase plants that are blooming in mid-November because these early flowering varieties are ones that will also bloom earliest in the landscape.
Contrary to a popular myth, poinsettias are not poisonous. However, some people are mildly allergic to their white, milky sap. Therefore, if you are prone to skin allergies, wear gloves when pruning your plants.