This article, originally published in the January 1988 issue of The Northside Chronicle, provides some tips to keep your poinsettia plant alive from one holiday season to the next.

About this time of year Christmas Poinsettia plants are beginning to look a little sick. You can, however, carry the plant over to a second year by keeping them actively growing until March when the water supply should be reduced. The plant should not dry out completely. They should be dried off in March and then stored in a cool, airy place until May. In May, the plant should be cut back 3 to 5 inches high, and started back to growth with more water and by moving them back into a warm sunny window. As soon as the temperature stays above 60 degrees at night, the poinsettia should be moved outside into light shade. To get a well shaped plant, pinch back each shoot once during the summer. When cool nights start in late August, bring your plant indoors to a warm sunny window. This is the critical time for successful holiday bloom.

The Poinsettia plant is a photoperiod responder meaning that the length of darkness from sunset to sunrise tells the plant when to flower. It starts to flower when the days are quite short and the nights long, and it ordinarily flowers during the month of February in the home. The plant will flower by Christmas if artificially short days are provided. From 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., the plant should be covered with a light-tight box or it should be put in a dark closet. During the period after October 1, the night temperature must not fall below 60 degrees and lights near the plant should not be turned on, since this has the same effect as real daylight and delays flowering.

If the above instructions are followed, this years poinsettia plant will bloom again next Christmas.

The information in this article was submitted by Ed Vasilcik, Phipps Conservatory.