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Love your poinsettia? Keep it all year
Taking care of your live Christmas plants.

Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 12/14/2012

LIVING PLANTS are a popular gift at Christmas, but when Christmas has come and gone and the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) that your spouse or sweetie gave you is still showing its Christmas spirit, you just can't bring yourself to discard it with the rest of the gift boxes and wrappings.

Not to worry. With a little care you can extend the show for several months.

First of all, poinsettias do not tolerate wet feet, so if the pot came with colorful foil, remove it or punch holes in the bottom to allow water to drain freely. Place the pot in a plate or shallow saucer to catch the water. Allow the soil to go dry between waterings, but when you do water, add enough to saturate the soil. Wait about three hours, then remove the plant and dump the excess water.

The lower leaves of over-watered plants turn yellow and drop. Dry plants wilt and also drop leaves prematurely. Poinsettias need bright light, so place it near a window that gets direct sunlight. But don't let it touch the cold window pane. Poinsettias prefer temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees.

You can fertilize it with a water soluble fertilizer about every other week, following the recommendations on the box.


If you want to keep your poinsettia for next Christmas, it can be done, but it requires some time and effort on your part. Continue with the previously prescribed care, even when your poinsettia drops its red bracts. It should continue to thrive as a green plant.

After the last danger of frost has passed--mid-May in central Virginia--you can move it outdoors. Cut your branches back to 4 to 6 inches long and plant it, pot and all, in your yard. Don't worry if no leaves are left, new ones will soon appear. Choose a location that gets full sun six to eight hours a day.

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Guy J. Mussey is an agent in Virginia Cooperative Extension's Stafford County office, specializing in environmental horticulture. Phone 540/658-8000; fax 540/658-8006; email gmussey@vt.edu.