It’s January and the holidays are behind us, but if you can’t bring yourself to toss your poinsettia plant, why not try to coax it into reblooming next December? It takes basic indoor plant care skills, perseverance and some properly timed steps to insure flowering. Here are season-by-season instructions for success.
Winter: Protect the plant from cold and drafts, with daytime temperatures of 67-70 degrees, nighttime temperatures of 60-62 degrees. To maintain healthy foliage, fertilize monthly following balanced houseplant fertilizer directions, water when the soil is dry below the surface but not soggy. Avoid “wet feet” by draining excess water from the plant saucer.
Watch for mealy bugs (cottony puffs), which can be easily removed with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Spring: By late March or early April the plant will look tired – it’ll most likely have dried, yellowed or fallen leaves. You’ll be tempted to put the plant out of its misery at this point!Instead, remove the bracts and part of the stem, ideally leaving 3-4 leaves on each stem. This pruning can be done anytime through mid-July.
Late spring/early summer: Repot the plant in a pot that is one size larger (approximately 1-2” inch larger in diameter). Use a quality, well-drained potting mixture, fortified with 1 tablespoon super phosphate (0-46-0) per gallon of soil mix. Slow-release fertilizer applied to the soil surface is also beneficial if the soil mix does not already include fertilizer.
Summer: When outdoor temperatures are consistently above 60 degrees, the plant can live outdoors in a shaded area such as a porch.
It will be putting on a lot of growth during this time and should be pruned about every six weeks to promote side branching and good form. Stop pruning in late August.
Late Summer: If the plant has been outdoors, you’ll want to bring it in around Labor Day or when nighttime temperatures drop below 55 degrees. Place it in a sunny or bright location with temperatures of 65-75 degrees. Continue monthly fertilizing.
Fall: Poinsettias require 8-10 weeks of shortened days to stimulate flowering. Starting the first week of October, put the plant in complete darkness for about 15 hours a day -ideally 5pm-8am.
It can be covered with a big box, put in a closet or sequestered in a room with no light at all. Longer, completely dark nights and bright, shorter days are the key to successful reblooming. This step is non-negotiable.
Around Thanksgiving, colored bracts should appear. This is the sign to stop the dark treatment, continue fertilizing to promote blooms and keep in a warm, bright spot in your home and enjoy your holiday plant!
I have a big, beautiful poinsettia, have set my calendar reminders and am ready to give this a try. How bout you?
Drawings: Colorado State University
Written by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener