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Holiday decorating is never quite complete without the addition of a beautiful, vibrant poinsettia plant. But for those of us lacking a green thumb, keeping this festive flora looking healthy for the holidays can be a challenge. We asked Ron Wolford, an urban and home horticulture expert from the University of Illinois Extension, to share his tips for keeping this plant healthy past New Year's.
Place your poinsettia in indirect light when you bring it home. Poinsettias need six hours of light daily to stay healthy.
Warm and Cozy
Poinsettias do best at daytime temperatures of 65 to 70°F. High temperatures will shorten the plant’s life, as will super cold blasts. Keep the plant from away from cold windows, warm or cold drafts from radiators, vents or open doors and windows.
Ways to Water
Don't over water your poinsettia and allow for proper drainage. Punch holes in the bottom of foil wrapping and place the plant over an inexpensive saucer. Check the soil daily and water the plant only when the soil is dry. Allow water to drain into the saucer and discard the excess liquid.
Poinsettias can continue to add nice foliage to your home long after the presents have been opened. Apply a houseplant fertilizer once a month, but avoid doing so when the plant is in bloom.
Better Luck Blooming
While some gardeners do enjoy the challenge of reblooming poinsettias, Wolford says this can be more trouble than it's worth. In order for the bracts (leaves) to change color and rebloom, the poinsettia needs to be kept in total darkness for at least 14 hours each night. This procedure typically begins around Oct. 1 and continues until color starts to show on the bracts--usually for six to eight weeks. But, Wolford warns, just a few seconds of exposure to light can prevent or delay flowering. Covering the plant with a light-proof bag and placing it in a closet is another option for reblooming. It's a task better left, perhaps, for advanced gardeners.