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The holidays have come and gone, and even though the Christmas tree is lying at the curb and the cookie jar is empty, don’t neglect the holiday cheer that’s still sticking around: your poinsettia!  Poinsettias are of course at their best at Christmastime, but make good houseplants the rest of the year too.  To keep your poinsettia healthy throughout the year, follow these easy tips:

shutterstock_136168991DO place your plant in indirect sunlight for at least six hours per day.

DO provide room temperatures between 68-70 degrees F. Generally speaking, if you are comfortable, so is your poinsettia.

DO water your plant when the soil feels dry to the touch.

DO fertilize your plant after the blooming season with a balanced all-purpose fertilizer (10-15-10 or 20-20-20).

DON’T place plants near cold drafts or excessive heat.  Avoid placing plants near appliances, fireplace or ventilating ducts or the top of a television.

DON’T expose plants to temperatures below 50 degrees F. Poinsettias are sensitive to cold, so avoid exposing your plant to chilling winds when transporting it.

DON’T over water your plant, or allow it to sit in standing water.  Always remove a plant from any decorative container before watering, and allow the water to drain completely.

Use this rough schedule for the best chance of reflowering your poinsettia next winter:

Green poinsettia, with bracts just starting to change color.
Green poinsettia, with bracts just starting to change color.

St. Patrick’s Day: Cut off the bracts (the colored parts that are usually referred to as the flowers).

Memorial Day: Repot the plant into a 1-2″ larger pot and put outside for the summer.  Keep up with watering if we have a dry spell.

Independence Day: Cut stems back by half.

Labor Day: Move your plant back indoors to a sunny window.

Columbus Day: Start giving the plant 14 hours of darkness daily.  Poinsettias set flowers in response to shorter periods of daylight, so absolute darkness each night is necessary for 8-10 weeks.  The easiest way to do this is to cover your poinsettia with a box around 5 p.m. each day and remove the box around 7-8 a.m. the next morning so it can get at least 4-6 hours of sun each day.  You can stop the darkness treatments when you see color developing.

Christmas: With a little luck, you will have a blooming poinsettia.  Enjoy!

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