Poinsettias, a symbol of the Christmas holiday, are prominently displayed in shopping centers and department stores as the holiday season draws near (Euphorbia pulcherrima).
But how long do they live? Is there any way to preserve these colorful delights, so they bloom yearly?
Poinsettias are perennial plants that can live for a decade or more with proper care.
For maximum longevity, provide the Poinsettia with 4-6 hours of bright, indirect light daily, moist soil, and consistently warm temperatures.
What Is The Life Cycle of A Poinsettia?
Poinsettias are unremarkable shrubs that come from dry forests in Central America.
In the wild, these variants are perennials, which means they can live forever given the right conditions and will continue to grow indefinitely if they do.
They can reach a height of ten feet in their native range, where they thrive in poor soils found in canyons and valleys.
In the same way, their potted relatives do, these Poinsettias bloom in the driest, coldest part of the year, producing tiny flowers surrounded by showy bracts.
Once the plant has been pollinated, it will begin to produce seeds, which will then be ejected from the pods with great force to ensure the species’ survival.
Though the poinsettia plant in a pot has undergone many changes and improvements, some things have remained the same.
For example, you can expect flowers from your Poinsettia every year when the days grow shorter, as it is still a perennial plant.
How Long Do Poinsettias Last?
There are a few variables that will affect how long your Poinsettias live. The type you pick and how you tend to their growth is crucial.
As a result of these and other factors, the average lifespan of an indoor plant can be significantly shorter than that of an outdoor plant.
How Long Do Poinsettias Live Outside?
Under ideal conditions, a Poinsettia planted outside can survive for decades. There are even some that can last for up to ten years or more!
The key is to place the appropriate plant in the proper environment.
Depending on the cultivar, most will thrive in USDA growing zones 9b-11a.
Poinsettias planted in the ground need a warm climate and soil that drains well and is sandy.
They flourish with only four to six hours of complete sun daily but thrive in dappled light.
Also, make sure to feed them regularly, especially in the height of summer when they’ll be growing the most.
How Long Do Poinsettias Live Indoors?
The average gardener faces a few challenges when growing an indoor Poinsettia.
To achieve that year-round lifespan, paying close attention to its requirements, remarkably light and consistent temperature is critical.
Ignoring a Christmas Poinsettia will keep it alive for 4-6 weeks before it sheds its leaves and dies. That’s more like 4-6 weeks if you pay minimal care.
These festive favorites can provide you with years of color if you treat them like a plant rather than an ornament.
Can You Keep A Poinsettia Year Round?
You can keep a Poinsettia all year if you meet its requirements. However, you’ll need to give it a head start if you want to keep it alive all year.
Since gifted plants are rarely given what they need to flourish, you’ll need first to fix any mistakes made in their cultivation.
To achieve this, you must ensure adequate drainage holes in the pot and that the soil is nutrient-rich and free-draining.
It’s also a good idea to eliminate any wrappers or decorative features as soon as possible.
How To Care For Poinsettias During The Holiday Season
Poinsettias are wrapped in festive foil or cellophane to prevent damage during shipping.
Although it’s okay for short periods, the Poinsettia will eventually struggle to breathe due to a lack of oxygen.
After you’ve removed the foil, check the soil for moisture. If the Poinsettia looks like it has become dehydrated while being shipped or stored, water it thoroughly.
Purified water, such as that which has been distilled or filtered, is best. Once the soil has been rehydrated, you can wait until the top inch is dry before giving it more water.
Finally, find a bright spot in your house to showcase the Poinsettia. They need a lot of light, but it should be bright and indirect.
I recommend a room that faces south. Remember that Poinsettias are sensitive to temperature changes and will drop their leaves if exposed to a draft.
How to Make Poinsettia Live Longer
Once the holiday season is over, you can take a few steps to keep your Poinsettia in good condition until the following year.
Prune in March
The bright, festive bracts will need to be removed in the spring because they will have lost their color and look sad.
By mid-March, your bracts should have faded enough that you can trim them away, along with any other dry or damaged foliage.
As the temperature rises, this will also stimulate the Poinsettia to sprout new leaves.
Slowly Reduce Water Intake In April
Water is like where they live in the dry forests of Mexico as the weather warms. Their delicate root systems can quickly rot if saturated for too long.
Allow at least an inch of soil to dry completely between waterings. Then, as the weather warms, they won’t require as much.
Repot Your Poinsettia In May
Repotting the Poinsettia in May will allow it to make the most of the warmer months ahead.
Make your soil by combining one part perlite, two parts coco coir or moss, and three parts potting mix.
Organic material, such as coir or moss, can help maintain a steady moisture level, and perlite facilitates drainage.
If you don’t feel like dealing with all the hassle, a high-quality, nutrient-rich potting mix will do just fine.
Use a container with at least three drainage holes. Root rot is a common problem for poinsettias, so it’s crucial that any standing water can drain away from the plant.
In addition, I recommend a container with a top diameter of no more than an extra inch or two. So they don’t require much extra space at the beginning of the year.
Stop The Soil From Drying Out
Poinsettias require moist soil but can develop root issues if the soil is wetted too frequently. It’s a tricky line to walk!
Make sure the soil is rich in water-holding material. Materials like coco coir and mosses are preferable because they can store water without preventing drainage.
If you’re a gardener in a warmer climate, vermiculite is a good option. Unlike organic matter, this mineral does not decompose over time, providing the plant lasting support.
Before you water, make sure the soil isn’t dry. I find it most helpful to use a finger or a chopstick to probe deeper into the container’s soil to gauge the amount of moisture present.
But for real Poinsettia lovers, I recommend an electric moisture meter (Amazon link).
This handy tool is a must-have for keeping the soil at just the correct moisture level, as it features a probe that can reach deep into the root ball.
Avoid Areas With Strong Drafts Of Air
Poinsettias thrive in sunny locations that stay consistently warm. However, it can be very damaging if cold winds are blowing at them.
Keep your Poinsettia away from windows or other areas with a lot of drafty, erratic airflow.
If you have an air conditioner, you should move the Poinsettia away from any vents or fans that direct airflow.
Provide Filtered Bright Light
A bright, indirect light source should be provided for Poinsettias kept inside for at least four to six hours per day.
In addition to a south-facing window, an east-facing window ledge is ideal.
However, remember that they are susceptible to sudden temperature changes.
For example, a plant that enjoys the morning sun on a windowsill may suffer from chilling temperatures that set in overnight.
Poinsettias are heavy feeders and require sturdy support to develop their showy bracts.
Micronutrient deficiencies, which can result in yellowing and stunting of the leaves, are a common problem for these plants.
However, excessive amounts can lead to chemical burns, scalding of the roots, and discoloration of the bracts.
A high-quality liquid fertilizer with plenty of plant extracts and fish emulsion (Amazon link) will help you strike the right balance.
You can adjust the strength of the fertilizer they receive in this way to meet their specific requirements.
You should only fertilize them if you notice new growth in the spring. Then, as soon as spring arrives, you can reduce their dosage to once per month at half-strength.
You can give them one last go at full strength before reducing the dose again in August when you should start to see new growth.
During the fall, a half-strength quantity once a month is best, and none at all after Thanksgiving.
Purchase the Right Poinsettia
The best way to ensure a long life for your Poinsettia is to select a healthy plant that thrives in your environment.
A young, healthy plant will always last longer than a sickly old one.
If you want to buy your own Poinsettia, start with the one that is small and hasn’t had much time to grow.
Not as impressive as a foot-tall riot of reds and greens, but a tiny darling can blossom into a magnificent creature given enough time.
Look for plants with bright colors and lively leaves. It should be taller than it is wide, with uniformly green bracts.
Steer clear of plants with uneven coloring, especially on their stalks. Don’t be shy about trying newer cultivars bred for longevity, too.
Some, such as the Poinsettia series, result from deliberate crossbreeding to produce more resilient and long-lived varieties.
How To Know It’s Time To Throw Out Your Poinsettia
The Poinsettia will eventually age and die no matter how hard you try.
The following are signs that your Poinsettia is ready to be discarded:
- Persistent pest problems that refuse to resolve.
- Leaf shedding.
- Poor to no new growth.
- Leggy growth with few leaves.
- Root dieback.
No one is perfect, and many holiday sellers make it hard for their poinsettias to grow by giving them lousy soil, pots, and conditions in their stores.
I explain how to try to save a dying Poinsettia here. However, even the best efforts can fail. So enjoy them while you can!