Poinsettias have been the Christmas plant for almost a century and are as popular today as they were a hundred years ago. They are a perennial plant so they do not have to be ditched after the holiday and will provide a lovely foliage plant all summer long if you are willing to expend a little loving care. Poinsettia varieties are as diverse as you can imagine including red, white, pink, yellow, fuchsia and even purple options. Couple that with variations in leaf patterns and the choices seem endless.
The colored areas on the plant are actually called bracts (a modified leaf) that surround the little yellow flower in the middle. Once set, the color stays on the sun loving plant for several weeks and they cope remarkably well for the holiday season when we use them to decorate the fireplace or surround the tree in the foyer – both of which are usually dark locations.
After the holiday, correct this by bringing the poinsettia onto a light windowsill. Take off the outer paper and water well. You will note that there are often several smaller poinsettias in the container but repotting is rarely needed at this point. When the color fades from red – around February - trim the plants down to about 4 inches from the soil. This generally looks like a few twigs but after a week or two new growth will start to form. Continue to water until you take your poinsettia outside for summer.
Trim them back again around July 4th and Aug 1st then bring them indoors around Labor Day to condition for winter color. The plants need 16 hours total darkness for 10 weeks to start setting the colorful flower bracts. Some nurseries will do this for you or you can condition your own at home at home. If you get the timing wrong the natural day length in January is short enough to trigger the colorful display – late for the holiday but still quite attractive.
So don’t ditch your seasonal plants with the Christmas tree – treat them as tender perennials that you can enjoy for many years to come!