I love having poinsettias around during the winter season. And there are so many fun colors – red, pink, white, cream, variegated, apricot, and more. In fact, there are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias! I tend to stick to the traditional red, but depending on your Christmas decor, you could really go crazy.
The only bummer about poinsettias is that they tend to lose their “blooms” after 4-6 weeks. So, I did a little experiment to see if I could get my poinsettias to turn red again. I love in-home gardening projects in the winter when the ground is frozen, so let’s figure out how to turn a poinsettia red.
If after reading this you still have questions, read through the comments – I’ve answered other people’s questions about poinsettias there.
Why is My Poinsettia Not Turning Red?
One of the interesting things about poinsettias is that the color is actually in modified leaves called bracts, not the flowers. The flowers are itty-bitty things in the middle. The leaves turn red in response to the plant forming flowers. The red leaves attract pollinators to the tiny, yellow flowers. Once the flowers are gone, the leaf bracts fall off. Eventually, the green leaves fall, too.
If you want your poinsettia to turn red again, you have to force it. The bracts on the poinsettia plant need a little help to return to their original red color year after year.
How Do You Force a Poinsettia To Turn Red?
Wondering how to get a poinsettia to “rebloom?” It’s not the easiest process, and poinsettias need to be babied a bit. I followed these tips to get my poinsettia to turn red again and to keep it healthy for years to come (I hope!).
Poinsettias make great gifts for gardeners or anyone who likes live plants as part of their Christmas decorations. You can even get Christmas plants online now!
How Do You Keep a Poinsettia From Year to Year?
Every year I get a couple poinsettias for decorations. Last year, I decided to try to keep them alive all year so I’d have them ready for the next holiday season. After a little research, here’s what I discovered.
- Keep the plant in bright light, but not in direct sunlight, for at least 8 hours a day.
- Keep the plant in a warm room where the temperature never gets below 50 degrees F. 60-70F is ideal.
- Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, but don’t wait so long that the leaves wilt.
- Feed with a water soluble plant food once a month EXCEPT during the months the plant is in bloom.
- Blooms can last for months on the plant, but they will eventually fall off. So will the plant leaves. This is the time to prune it. Cut all stems back to six inches and continue routine plant care. New leaves will emerge. That new growth is next winter’s poinsettia.
How To Get a Poinsettia To Turn Red
After keeping my poinsettias alive for a year (yay!) it was time to turn them red again. Here’s how I did it.
- Help your poinsettia to turn red by placing it in total darkness for 14 hours each day, starting eight weeks before you want to display it.
- During the day, the plant needs bright light, but it should be placed in complete darkness every evening. (You can keep it in the same place as your mushroom log!)
- Even the light from a small night light or street light shining through a window can disrupt the process of turning a poinsettia red again.
- The plant will need a little extra humidity during this stage. Remember, it is from southern Mexico! An ideal way to get the poinsettia to turn red is to place it in a closet every evening (one that is never opened) along with a bowl of water. The bowl of water will increase the humidity level inside the dark closet.
- In about four weeks the bracts will begin to turn red. Continue the nighttime darkness routine for four more weeks until the plant reaches its full red color. And that’s how to make poinsettias turn red
How to Propagate a Poinsettia
I’ve gotten a couple of questions about how you propagate a poinsettia, so I’ll add that information here.
The best time to propagate a poinsettia is in late August. This is assuming you are treating it as a houseplant, which I think is what most people reading this article are doing.
The best way to make a new poinsettia from an old poinsettia is to take an herbaceous stem cutting from the tender growth of a terminal shoot.
- You always want to maintain cleanliness when propagating plants, but it is especially important with poinsettias. To be sure your knife and working surface are really clean, wipe them down with alcohol.
- Use healthy new stems cut from vigorous plants. The old stems that flowered this year are not the best cuttings to use. To get new stems, cut the old stems back and keep the parent plants warm, consistently moist, and in a bright location. When the new stems are about four inches long, you can take new cuttings. Choose a healthy shoot and cut just below a node (the place where a leaf comes out) with a clean knife.
- Your stem cutting (or slip) should be 3-4 inches and have 2-3 mature leaves.
- Remove the leaves from the lower half of the slip.
- Use a rooting compound according to the directions on the box/bottle. You may be tempted to skip this, but trust me, it makes a big difference! Get the rooting hormone.
- Keep the cutting clean through this whole process.
- Place the slip (or several slips) in a 6-8-inch pot with clean organic potting soil and put the container in a clear, plastic bag to maintain humidity. Keep out of direct sunlight and water as needed. OR skip the pot and soil and place each poinsettia cutting in a compressed peat pellet (soak it in water first and you won’t need to water again until it is rooted) and put that in a plastic bag to maintain humidity.
- Keep the rooting medium (soil or peat pellet) moist. Your plant doesn’t have roots yet, so there is no way for it to draw water.
- When the cutting has roots at least 1-inch long, transplant it into a separate container. The new poinsettia is still fragile at this point, so make sure to water regularly and don’t let it dry all the way out — don’t drown it either. After it becomes established in the new pot, apply a soluble houseplant fertilizer according to directions. Then fertilize at monthly intervals. When the cutting is growing vigorously, maintain regular care for your new poinsettia with the directions above.
Let’s sum up how to get a poinsettia to turn red in the quick Q and A:
How long does a poinsettia plant live?
The lifespan of a poinsettia depends on what you are referring to and how you take care of it.
The colorful bracts will last 4-6 weeks, but the plant itself can live for many years with proper care.
How many hours of sunlight does a poinsettia need?
Your poinsettia needs about 8 hours of sunlight. When you want the poinsettia to bloom, start following the darkness routine mentioned above.
When should I repot my poinsettia?
Re-pot in early June into a larger pot, but make sure the new pot is no more than four inches wider than the original pot. Use a potting mix high in organic matter, such as peat moss.
Potted poinsettias can be placed outdoors during the summer months. They look great bunched together in a wheelbarrow garden. In frost-free zones, plants can be transplanted into the garden.
How big do poinsettias get?
Poinsettias can grow to be the size of a small tree, reaching 16 feet in height and 6-8 feet in width. That’s in warm climates like southern Mexico where the plant originates. Your poinsettia probably won’t grow as large. Pruning will keep it the desired size.
When should a poinsettia be cut back?
See the “how to keep a poinsettia from year to year” section above. When the plant loses its leaves, it is time to cut it back.
Why are all the leaves falling off my poinsettia?
That’s the plant’s natural cycle. The leaves fall off after the flowers bloom. Just cut the plant back and new leaves will emerge.
Can I cover my poinsettia instead of putting it in a dark room?
If you don’t have a place to put your poinsettia for the 14 hours of darkness it needs to turn red, a cover should work. The important thing to remember is that light shouldn’t be able to get in, and the cover may need to be propped up to protect the poinsettia from getting crushed. A black garbage bag should work.
Have you tried to care for a poinsettia year round and get it to turn red again? How did it go?
I have a poinsettia that started out about 4 years ago in a tiny 3″ pot. Its now over 1′ tall. It initially lost its red leaves, but I’ve just kept it on my windowsill at work ever since, and repotted it a couple times over these years. Its never lost all of its green leaves, so Its a nice looking plant. A couple of weeks ago I noticed the top most leaves have started turning pink. I’ve read about the “dark” treatment to make them turn red, but had never tried it. I’m in northern IL so the nights are long right now, but still there are plenty of street lights outside my window, so its certainly not been in complete darkness. Just very curious that it would suddenly start changing color, without any help, whatsoever, from me. I don’t even feed it…just water once a week.
I am interested to know if your plant fully turned red/pink. I have one poinsettia that I don’t do anything to as a “control” plant. It did lose a lot of leaves, but not all of them. Then it grew a lot! Like you, I am in a place with long, dark winter nights and streetlights outside the window (plus interior lights until we go to bed).
My plant started to turn red in the top leaves, but never went “full red.” If yours does turn fully red, that’s great! I guess nature finds a way sometimes. I don’t know why that would happen to your plant and not most others, but enjoy it!
So I’ve had mine for a year now and i didn’t even think about the fact that it wasn’t coloring until today so i looked it up and found you! My question: you say to feed it when it’s NOT in bloom…. but how do I know when it’s in bloom?? what should be my signs i’m looking for… i think i might not water it the super best cuz i do mostly water it about when the leaves droop but i feel like i only have to water it about once every 2-3 weeks does that seem like to little? it’s a 4inch pot but i did drop it and broke most of it a while back and it’s done really well since then and i’ve never ever feed it! It’s way to close to Christmas to try and get it red now, but wondering if i start feeding it and keeping up with the process if i can get it red and keep it red until next year?
You will see tiny little flowers when it is in bloom. They are small, but visible. How often to water really depends on where you live and the humidity of your house. And the size of your pot. I have to water weekly here in Montana where it is quite dry. If you are unsure, a plant watering meter like this can tell you what your moisture levels are (and you can use this meter in all your plants!).
The poinsettia won’t stay red for a full year, it has to cycle through. But, if you trim it back to 6-inches after the leaves start falling off, and then start the dark/light process at the beginning of October, you should have a red plant for next Christmas.
Ok I did the whole regime up until now dec 3
Tiny leaves are turning red in my otherwise lush green plant should I stop the light dark now or continue till I see more red I stopped the 14 hrs of dark today Dec 3 Q do I leave it in th window now or put it back in the 14 hrs dark
How long have you been keeping it in the 14 hours of darkness? After about the first four weeks the bracts will begin to turn red. Continue the nighttime darkness routine for four more weeks until the plant reaches its full red color. Hope that helps!
I live in mid florida on the west coast. I have a collection of poinsettia that I have planted outside on the southeast side of the property under an oak tree. The plants have been there for three years they are at least 4′ tall. Last year s freeze got them, they died back and I pruned them in the spring. It’s early November and only a few leaves have turned. I can’t bring them in and they are too big to cover. Do you think fertilizing them now will force a bloom and the red?
Hi Mary –
That’s a tough one. If your plants don’t get artificial light where they are planted, I would think they would be fine. Is it possible to put large, black garbage bags over them at night?
It’s encouraging that some of the leaves have turned red already. I would not fertilize it now, but rather wait until the blooming period is over.
Good luck! I’d love to hear how it goes.
Can I put my Poinsettia in a large box with a bowl of water. I don’t have any really dark places? Thanks
I think a large box will work just fine – just make sure light can’t get in.
I have a 4 year old poinsettia that belonged to my sister – in – law, who passed away in 2018 and had it for Christmas in 2017. I kept the plant, but have basically ignored it except for watering regularly. This year, the plant has grown to be quite lush and green, so I’m going to try to get the leaves to turn. The plant has spent its life so far in a west- facing window, so I’m going to move it to a south window and cover it during the night. I live in Newfoundland and Labrador Canada, so it’s too cold and windy to have it outside during the summer. However I hope that by following your routine now, I’ll get it to bloom! Thanks!
What a nice when to remember your sister-in-law. I hope your poinsettia does well in its new home!
I just ran across your web-site, because I was searching for info on how to possibly turn my Poinsettia Red for the winter. I kept my small poinsettia from last winter, and not many red leaves fell off, nor green leaves, I just kept watering it and giving it plant food as the spring and long summer daylight hours rolled around.
I live in an Apartment facing direct west and that plant just grew at least 3 times the size, on my balcony with full sun from noon onward, it is now full and luxuriously green and lush!
I have pruned the littlest branches off since, because the leaves were growing in cramped condition’s with some leaves being a bit deformed in shape.
I have it facing due west within my apartment, and I also have a large closet which is totally dark at night, and during the day, so I shall follow your instructions and give you an update on how it progresses. I must say this is the first time I have had a Poinsettia EVER grow this lush and green before, so I am very excited to experience the first homegrown Poinsettia for the Winter!
By the way, while living in the LA, California, Hollywood area, did you know Poinsettia tree bushes do grow? They are huge and so beautiful, it was a sight to be experienced!
All the best…….and Thank you again.
Thanks for your comment! My poinsettia grew quite a bit this year, too, and is really green and lush, though it sounds like yours may be even larger and lusher! Mine is going the way of a tree since I didn’t trim it back. It’s kind of an interesting experiment. I hope you have great success with turning your poinsettia red again!
Hi! I bought my two poinsettias 3days ago here in Botswana(It is very hot over here especially during the day, we have bright sunny days). i have always loved the plant and i am glad that this year I managed to secure some plants for myself. Usually when I buy a plant I carry out a research to learn more about its growth conditions. So today I decided to visit the internet to read about poisenttias and I came across your site.Honestly speaking I am so glad I found almost all the information that I needed regarding the poins plants. The information is so so comprehensive and vital. I was just going to keep my plants out there and expert them to turn red and I was definately going to get frustrated if they don’t. So I am going to try the technique of turning it red as you explained and I hope to be successful.I love decorating with poisentias during Xmas holidays. Thanks for sharing this information,and God bless you.
I am so excited for you! I bet your poinsettia will love the Botswana heat. I’d love to hear how it goes with turning your plant red. Good luck!!
I’m so glad to have come across your site! I have a 2 year old Poinsettia which now has pale green leaves…but still quite healthy I have never fed it but water it about once week. I had no idea how to get the red leaves back but have now read your advice! Living in the Southern Hemisphere in Cape Town…hopefully I’ll have some red leaves for mid winter!!
Excited to try! Thanks!
You are just in time to turn those leaves red! I hope it works for you!
We bought a poinsettia tree last year, it was their last one and it looked like a “Charlie Brown” tree, it only cost us ten dollars so we said what the heck. We nursed it back to health over the year here in central Florida. We have a large card board box over it held up by 3 steel fence post, It take two of us to get the box on along with a few laughs, we get a lot of looks and comments but it is starting to turn red after about 4 weeks, just like you said. Thanks
That’s such a great story! I am laughing imaging you covering it with a huge box! So glad it’s turning red!
I l love this site thanks for all the info I’m trying the dark thing for the first time. It has been 4 weeks now and no red yet. Not sure if it is getting enough good light in the day time. I’ll try some of your suggestions, dish of water and better daytime light and just keep trying. Would it be ok to just keep trying for a few more months to see if it will Bloom? I so want it to bloom.
I don’t think it can hurt to keep trying! Good luck!
I have a poinsettia from last Christmas. This spring I cut it back and it is growing like crazy. About 6 weeks ago ago I started putting it in the dark for 14 hours. There is no red yet. What am I doing wrong?
I’m not sure. Is it getting plenty of bright light during the day? Those uncovered hours are important. Did you fertilize it? Poinsettias need feedings whenever they are NOT in bloom. The other component is humidity. Do you keep a bowl of water near it when it’s covered or in the dark?
I’ve just bought a potted poinsettia yesterday. And I’m glad I found you. Thanks for all the info you’ve shared. Hoping mine would thrive for years. Thankful that our climate is tropical. God bless.
Glad you found this post helpful! I’m sure your poinsettia will thrive and bring joy for a long time.
I have my poinsettia for a long time, this would be my second year of turning it red. Last year I had 2 but only one survived. I got my plants from my sister a few xmas ago, she got them at a 99 cent store. They were withering and ask for them. They never turned red until last year. Sadly one broke when moving in/out the closet. I’m happy to go to the process again!
Sorry to hear one broke! I hope the remaining poinsettia turns red for you this year!
I tried that process last year but did not put a bowl of water in with it! After 9 weeks I only had one leaf turn red. But it stayed red quite a while! I’m going to try it again. Thanks
One little red leaf! Better than none, I suppose. Let me know how it goes this year!
I saved my plant from last year and kept it on my covered deck outside all summer. Thank you for the tips on getting it to turn red. It’s so full and about 20 in tall. I hope I can be diligent and have it turn red for Christmas!
I am so glad it worked! There is something so rewarding about foster a plant through and seeing it thrive.Let me know how it goes turning red this Christmas.
I just repotted my Pointsetta from last Christmas. Once it gets settled in it’s new pot, I’ll start putting it in darkness for 14 hours. Thanks for the tips and wish me luck! 🌺
Good luck! I’d love to hear how it works for you!
I just love your site. I was wondering how to propagate a poinsettia?
Funny you should ask that! I have been thinking about adding that to the post. This is just the push I need – I am going to add how to propagate a poinsettia now.
I am so proud to say that we were able to keep one poinsettia healthy from Christmas 2018 to 2020!!!!! It’s a little stalky…not a lot of leaves but the new red leaves that did grow in are big and beautiful!!! We have about 5 clusters that are still thriving!!! 👍🏽😁👍🏽
Wish we could post a picture!!!😊
I love this! Congratulations. I just looked to see if there was a way I could allow photos to comments, but I don’t see any. Wishing your poinsettia a long life with many red leaves 🙂
All of a sudden I understand what is happening with the Red Leaves. My plant is nearly 1m tall and quite lush , but no red leaves. After reading your articles I now know how to fix that. I was wondering if you can take cuttings of it and have 2or 3 smaller ones. If that is something that can be done, please let me know the procedure.
Glad I can help! You can propagate poinsettias from stem cuttings. Your question has me thinking I should write an article about it! But, here are the basics:
Use healthy new stems cut from vigorous plants. The old stems that flowered this year are not the best cuttings to use. To get new stems, cut the old stems back and keep the parent plants warm, consistently moist, and in a bright location. When the new stems are about four inches long, you can take new cuttings. Cutting should be 3-4 inches and have 2-3 mature leaves.
Treat the base of each cutting with rooting hormone, then place it in a pre-made, moistened hole in clean potting soil.
Put the pots with cuttings in plastic bags to keep the humidity high and place in bright, but not direct sunlight.
In around three to four weeks your cuttings should have decent roots and can be put into bigger pots and treated like your other poinsettias.
Let me know how it turns out!
I’ve added a section about how to propagate a poinsettia above 🙂
Thank you for this great info space; have mine which neighbor gave me. She does this every year but first time I kept so long. Did not have info until today 12-12-19 but will print more. Now I can try my ‘green thumb’ on this growing one. Referred to the ‘ol’ faithful Christmas movie about poinsettia farm on TV, watch it every year but now I can relate to what I am trying to do.
Hi Alice- I am going to have to check out that movie. I haven’t heard of it. Glad you are going to keep that poinsettia going – and what an awesome neighbor to give you one every year.
I bought 2 poinsettias last year and one of them died but the other one lived and none of the leaves, green or red fell off. In fact there are still a couple of red leaves still on there but they are turning slightly greenish now. I just kept watering it and put it in the window, but we’re in Canada so it’s not always sunny in that spot. It never gets direct light there either. So, I just found this posting and it’s too late to do anything for Christmas but what should I do now to get the red leaves back? It’s presently quite lush with green leaves right now, many more than it had when I got it last year. I’m not sure what to do with it.
I think you need to start the process of keeping it in a dark, humid environment for 14 hours a day. Then in 4 weeks it should turn red again… a little late for Christmas, but it will add some cheer to winter!
I’d leave it out for safety. What’s the ventilation like in your desk drawer?
I go through days when I’m too tired to cover my poinsettias but they still turn red. So one or two weekends of no darkness won’t disrupt the changing of color.
That’s a good point! It doesn’t have to be a perfect system, plants are pretty resilient.
I’ve had a poinsettia for over a year, and it’s the beginning of April now. I have never put it in the dark but it grows well and is quite lush. It gets a little direct sunlight each morning, but otherwise has a lot of indirect light . Just lately it’s started turning red and I have no idea why? I haven’t even fertilized it at all either. It does have some another plant in with. The plant has clusters of little white flowers that are commonly seen at Christmas potted with poinsettias in Canada. Any idea why it’s turning red all the sudden?
Good question! I think it must just be part of its natural cycle – it is getting ready to bloom. The long nights of winter must have prompted it to turn red in preparation for flowering.
Thank you for the information since my plant is big and cant carry big object can I cover at night a dark cloth please replay
I think covering it will work. Just make sure to prop the cover up so it doesn’t break the leaves on the plant.
I was placing my miniature poinsettia in my desk drawer over night at work because my office has lights on overnight. MY QUESTION:
Should I leave the plant in the desk drawer over the weekend or leave it on my desktop?
That’s a tough one, since you want it to be in the dark for about 14 hours… I think if there is natural light in your office (not artificial light), it is ok to leave it out.
Mel, Thanks for your post, very helpful. I am trying to bring a poinsettia back in bloom for the first time. I have what was last year a somewhat scrawny poinsettia plant from Home Depot. Even though it dropped leaves some time after Christmas I kept nurturing it. In the summer I set it outside and omg it flourished, probably tripled in size. I am currently doing the light/dark regimen in hopes of it turning red again in time for Christmas. One point – I did not ever prune it back, so I am thinking it might not work but I just couldn’t prune it when it was so absolutely big and strong and lush. Anyway, if it works, great. If not, I will prune it after Christmas and repeat the light/dark treatment next fall.
Let me know how it works! I know how hard it is to prune something that is doing so well. If it doesn’t turn red, maybe try the pruning next year.
I’ve done this for 3 years now. The first year with 1 plant in a 2-inch pot and the second year I added a new plant about the same size. This spring they were both nothing but dried up leafless twigs and I just started watering them after I cut back the twigs to 2 inches. All summer I watered them and fertilized regularly on my patio. They are about 12” tall and 18” wide and lush and green. I’ll be putting them under a box for 14 hours a day and I’m thinking they should have red flowers by mid to late November. I’ll bring them in when the weather turns cold and put them in a sunny window during the day. This worked last year with moderate results. It’s sort of like a 2-3 month Advent calendar only live, and so much fun!
I love this! Please report back with how it works. The idea of a poinsettia advent calendar is genius.