Yes, your poinsettia can survive after the holidays

(Photo: Getty Images)

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Bold when you buy them, poinsettias can wither as winter goes on. 

It might be because of how they were treated. If they were exposed to cold drafts or perched by a heat vent, or if they sat in a cold car through too many errands, the leaves could turn yellow and fall off—even before the holidays or not long after. 

Native to Mexico, poinsettias favor bright light and warm conditions.

“You need to find a location in your house that provides good light. Six hours of bright light are necessary every day,” said Uttara Samarakoon, an assistant professor at Ohio State ATI in The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). 

The biggest mistakes people typically make are not providing enough light, watering them too much or too little, and keeping them near heating or air conditioning vents, said Samarakoon, coordinator of the Greenhouse and Nursery Management Program at ATI.

After the holiday lights are boxed up and the tree is carried into the attic, poinsettias can still thrive. Given the right care, poinsettias should last at least a couple of months, if not indefinitely.

“Many people ask the question, ‘Can we grow them after Christmas?’ It is possible, but you may not get the bright, showy leaves like those of plants grown in greenhouses,” Samarakoon said. 

Outside of greenhouses, getting poinsettias to turn red again can be a challenge. They start out red when you buy them but eventually turn to green and won’t go red again unless they get enough darkness, because poinsettias require short days for flowers to bud. Starting in mid-September, poinsettias need at least 12 hours of darkness daily, Samarakoon said. 

That can be tough with all the lighting in the house and outside at night. On the other hand, indoor light levels can be too low for flowers and bright colors to develop, she said. 

Samarakoon offered some other tips for keeping your poinsettia thriving:

  1. Place the poinsettia inside where it will have good light, at least six hours of bright light per day, ideally from sunlight. 
  2. Keep it where the temperature is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  1. Check if the plant needs water by pressing your finger into the soil about two inches deep. Water only if the soil is dry two inches down.
  2. Remove the foil or plastic wrapper, so the poinsettia never sits in water. You can return the wrapper after the plant is no longer draining water. 
  3. Try to keep your pets away from poinsettias. The milky sap can irritate their skin and mouths.
CFAES News Team
For more information, contact: 

Uttara Samarakoon