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Extension > Local Extension Offices > Clay > County Horticulture Educator > Articles > Poinsettia selection and care

Poinsettia selection and care

Poinsettia

Stores are filling up with numerous cultivars of poinsettia ranging in color from red, white, salmon, plum, red with white splashes, and burgundy, to name a few. With so many choices it can be difficult to select just one.

When selecting a poinsettia check a few colored bracts (modified leaves) as well as some of the green leaves to make sure they are free of leaf spots and insects. Before leaving the store, make sure the poinsettia is properly covered using a plastic bag filled with warm air. Chilling injury can occur if exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees F. 

Poinsettia will remain healthy and colorful longer if placed in a sunny location away from heat vents and cold drafts. Ambient temperature should be around 65 to 70 degrees F.  The soil should be kept moist but not saturated. Water poinsettia thoroughly when the soil surface is dry and make sure excess water is removed from the saucer. Poinsettia can be fertilized monthly using an all purpose houseplant fertilizer mixed half strength.

With a little work poinsettia can be forced to re-bloom the following Christmas. In late April or early May, prune back to eight inches and continue to keep in a sunny location.  Once the danger of frost has passed and night temperatures have warmed, place outdoors in a location that is protected from the midday sun. 

Bring poinsettia indoors when night temperatures begin to cool and place in a sunny location. Starting mid-September or early October, the plant needs to be kept in total darkness for 14 hours each night. This can be accomplished by placing the plant in a closet, cupboard, basement, or by placing a black trash bag over the plant. Any method that will exclude all light is acceptable. Each day return the plant to its sunny location.  This routine needs to be done daily without fail until bracts have turned color, usually eight to ten weeks. Any disruption to this routine could cause bract coloration to be delayed or completely absent.

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Contacts

Randy Nelson
Extension Educator, Home Hort & Ag Production Systems
(218) 299-5020
nels1657@umn.edu
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