Poinsettias are a very beautiful plant to have in your home at Christmas time. They are, for the most part, quite easy to take care of as well. For many of us, we also give these as gifts to family and friends too. In the old days, we only saw them in red and now they seem to come in all sorts of colors through various ways. In a traditional sense, they offer to bring a little of the world culture into our homes because they originated in Mexico.

The beautiful leaves (not flowers) are what we see when we purchase most poinsettias. The flowers are quite beautiful too but quite often they are long gone before the plants hit the stores. The blooms are a bright yellow color and are quite tiny. We can thank insects for the bright colored bracts or leaves that they are known for. The flowers are so tiny on poinsettia plants that the plant produces those large bracts or leaves which are so colorful, it helps to attract insects to the tiny flowers.

After the holidays, the plants seem to turn ragged on us but there are a few things that we can try to do in order to keep them looking good and even save them from year to year. The first step is to make sure that the get enough sunlight. We all like to place them in a certain place for display purposes so if you are really game to keep them going, moving them to a window space in the south, east or west windows for about 6 hours will help them out. If company is coming over, move them back to the display area that you have chosen for them. They like room temperatures (65-70 degrees). Watering is a breeze too. Never let a poinsettia dry out. The best way to water a poinsettia is to remove the colorful foil that is around the pot, place the pot in the sink and water until the soil is moist. Never let a poinsettia sit in water.

You will not need to fertilize your poinsettia over the holidays. This can wait until you see the plant actively growing again. You will see new shoots and stems coming out of the plant. Once the weather warms up and the danger of frost has gone, you can move your poinsettia out to the garden. You will need to make sure that it is in a place where it gets filtered sunlight and that the foil has been removed from the pot so that when it rains, the plant will not be sitting in water. You can also just plant it in the garden too. I have often moved these to a larger pot and then “planted” the pot and flower in the garden, removing the whole thing when fall arrives.

The true trick in raising poinsettias is to get them to bloom again. This is not quite as easy as you would think it would be. The website that is listed within this column spells it out, using the holidays as a guide to make sure that you can follow each step along the way. This will include giving the plant 16 hours of darkness on the “first day of fall” and 8 hours of bright light. This is probably the most important step as the plant can not receive even a tiny bit of light. As Thanksgiving rolls around again, remove the plant from complete darkness to a place where it can get at least 6 hours of sunlight. If you are up for a challenge (or maybe looking for a child’s really neat science experiment) you can sure give it a try.

For more information on gardening, you can reach me at s.dejaeghere@me.com

For more on poinsettias, go to the U of M website at https://extension.umn.edu/house-plants/poinsettias