The Q&A Archives: Care Of Poinsettias

Question: I usually have very good success with houseplants, but poinsettias have me stumped. They always start to lose their leaves much too early. I thought it was overwatering, so I really cut down on that this year. The same thing is happening. They are in indirect sunlight. Because of the nature of the soil in which they are planted, it is hard to determine when they need water and my water meter is broken. Do you think this is a watering problem or something else. Thank you so much.

Answer: The poinsettia plants available during the holidays have been grown under perfect conditions which are difficult to duplicate at home. It isn't unusual for the leaves to yellow and dry up after spending a few weeks indoors where humidity is low. While they're blooming they need moist soil and daily watering may be required, so cutting back on watering may contribute to early leaf drop. Keeping poinsettias from one year to the next is a bit of a challenge. Here's the procedure, starting from shortly after the holidays:

Take the poinsettia with the leafless stems and
"drying out soil" and prune the stems back to stubs about 4 inches high. Put the pot in a cool, shady area of the house and keep the soil ALMOST dry.

When spring arrives and it's warm enough to put your houseplants outside it's time to deal with this plant again. Repot it into a pot slightly larger than the one in which it had been planted. Put it in the garden in a slightly shaded area, sinking the pot into the soil to help keep it from drying out. As soon as the temperatures begin to cool down in the very early fall bring it back indoors.

Once indoors, put the plant in a very sunny location until sometime in September or early October, when you will place it in TOTAL darkness for 13-14 hours every night. This is
REALLY important. When the bracts have colored again, bring your plants out into bright light.

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