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?