Sunday, December 23, 2018 By: Ask A Master Gardener

Poinsettia Care

Poinsettia Care
Tom Ingram: Ask a Master Gardener
Sunday, December 23, 2018
Q: I love my beautiful Christmas poinsettia. How can I best care for this lovely plant? MP
A: Poinsettias are a native plant in Mexico but were introduced to the United States by the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico: Joel Poinsett (thus the name). In states without harsh winters, such as Florida or California, they can be grown in the landscape. But in Oklahoma, keeping your poinsettia until next year comes with some challenges.
An interesting fact many people do not know about poinsettias is that those colorful leaves are not part of the poinsettia flower. They are specialized leaves called bracts. The flower is the yellow part, which is surrounded by the colorful bracts. Poinsettias with red bracts are typically the most popular, but plants are available with yellow, orange, pink, white and variegated bracts.
Your poinsettia will be the happiest indoors with temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. Try to avoid cold drafts or excessive heat from your heating system. And keep the plant away from windows, as the cold glass could damage your plant.
Light is important, so place your plant in a place where it will receive at least six to eight hours of light a day.
Moisture for your plant is also critical, and you can assess moisture by feeling the growing medium or using a water moisture meter. Water the top when it starts to feel dry. Slight wilting is not problematic, but do not allow the plant to dry out, as this will accelerate bract drop.
Do not water when the growing medium is already wet as this will encourage root rot and tend to suffocate the plant. Yellow and dropping leaves may lead you to believe the plant is dry and needs water but check the growing medium as symptoms of overwatering can sometime appear to be caused by lack of water.
Oftentimes, people will ask us if they can somehow save their poinsettias to keep them until the following year. The answer is yes, but it is much easier to just discard your poinsettia and purchase another one next year.
If you do decide to give it a shot, in September you will need to begin a fairly stringent regimen of forcing the plants to bloom. This schedule includes leaving the plants in a sunny window during the day but putting them in complete darkness each evening. This daily procedure will likely need to be repeated each day from September through Thanksgiving to give you good bract color. If you would like to try, we have a detailed fact sheet from Oklahoma State University in the Hot Topics section of our website. (
Whether you want to attempt to re-flower your existing poinsettia or just purchase a new one next year, poinsettias are a colorful part of the American Christmas tradition.
Garden tips
  • Don’t forget to keep the compost pile watered. The decay process to produce garden-friendly compost continues in winter if the pile is large enough and kept watered and turned.
  • Cover strawberry plants with a mulch about 3-4 inches thick if plants are prone to winter injury.
  • Wait to prune fruit trees until late February or March.


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