Choose a plant that is healthy looking and does not show any signs of insects or disease. Check to see if the flowers are still on the plant. The poinsettia flowers are the golden yellow clusters at the center (cyathia), not the brilliant red leaves, commonly called bracts.
When taking your plant home, be sure it is sleeved or covered and protected in some way. Cold temperatures, even for a very short time, will harm this tropical plant. Plants purchased from mass retailers may have been in their sleeves for quite some time and therefore, after opening, the bottom leaves may yellow and drop off. Locally grown plants from a reputable source are always a better bet.
After arriving home, take your plant out of its sleeve. Always remove the poinsettias from the bottom of the wrapping, pulling downward, so as not to break the bracts and branches. Place your plant in a spot that will give it bright natural light, but do not expose it to direct sunlight, especially in a south facing window. Do not put it near a heat source such as a radiator, on top of a television set, near drafts or ventilation ducts.
Let your plant dry slightly between waterings. Plants are like people- neither like wet feet, so don’t let your plant stand in a saucer of water between waterings. When watering, do so until the water runs through the bottom of the pot, then wait to water again until the soil feels dry to the touch, or the plant looks droopy.
Although some people consider a red poinsettia a dandy Valentine flower, most throw theirs out after the holiday season has passed. Poinsettias can be kept, however, and planted outdoors in the summer as an annual, although with our cool nighttime temperatures it probably won’t do very well. Some homeowners try to hold on to theirs to reflower them a second year and although this is considered a “gardening challenge”, it can be done. Be advised, however, that this is a difficult task at best as they are very sensitive to day length and a strict regime must be followed in order for this to happen successfully. Generally you are better off to simply throw the plant away once you are tired of it and purchase a new one the following season.
Enjoy your holiday poinsettias this year. There are so many wonderful ones from which to choose, anyone who wants a brighter, more cheerful holiday home should be able to find the perfect poinsettia!