The lifespan of a poinsettia is often no longer than through the holiday season and into March. Notoriously difficult to get to flower for a second season, poinsettias are high-maintenance plants that have a series of specific requirements if they are to survive past the holiday. New cultivars are hardier than the old, but they can still be difficult to manage.
There are a number of different factors that impact the longevity of a poinsettia. From selecting a healthy plant to protecting it from cold weather on the way home, the high-maintenance plant needs careful care and consideration even on the way out of the store. Most plants purchased for the holiday season will last several weeks without much extra attention, and a healthy, properly cared for plant can last several months.
Selecting a healthy plant from the beginning will help when trying to make the poinsettia last beyond the holidays. Healthy, strong plants are covered with leaves and bracts all the way down to the soil they are planted in. Colors should be bright, and the bracts should not show any yellow, green or brown discoloration. The plant should be taller than it is wide, with uniform growth around all sides. If the plant is sitting in a group where pots are crowded together, this can cause premature leaf drop. Once leaves begin to drop, it is a sign of deterioration.
Proper care at home will help the poinsettia last longer. The plant should be removed from any protective wrapping and placed out of any hot or cold drafts. During the daytime, the ideal temperature is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, while at night the plant should be exposed to slightly cooler temperatures of about 55 degrees F.
Poinsettias should be exposed to indirect sunlight, but kept away from direct sunlight and potentially drafty windows. Soil should be well-drained and kept moist.
In order to keep the poinsettia alive through the spring, all the colored bracts and most of the leaves should be removed from the stems. With only three leaves left on each of the stems, the poinsettia can be repotted at the end of the spring. Moving it to fresh soil rich in phosphate fertilizer will help the poinsettia in the regrowth process.
Summer and Fall
Pruning the leaves of the growing plant can help keep it growing thick instead of spindly. In order to keep the plant alive, it should not be exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees F; this can require moving it indoors during the late summer and early fall months. Once October hits, it is possible to start the blooming process over again by exposing the plant to at least 14 hours of complete darkness until the new bracts begin to show color again -- a process that usually takes up to two months.
Debra Durkee has been writing professionally since 2005. She has been both a columnist and reporter, with her work appearing in print publications from the Metro Group, Inc in New York to the "Casa Grande Dispatch" in Arizona. Now a freelance writer, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from West Virginia University.