Pointers on setting poinsettias outside

Poinsettia
Poinsettias make popular holiday gifts. When you bring one indoors, keep a consistent temperature. (Photo by Hannah O'Leary)
Last Updated: 
December 7, 2012

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A traditional holiday centerpiece, bright poinsettias bring cheer to many homes in the short, dark days of winter.

But should you put the south-of-the-border plant in the ground after the holidays?  

It depends on whether you're a gambler, said Ross Penhallegon, a horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service. A few brave Oregon gardeners have succeeded, so there's a chance that heat-loving poinsettias could survive the state's fickle climate, he said.

"We do have people in Oregon who love to experiment," Penhallegon said. "They know they may not make it, but they think it is fun to beat Mother Nature."

Start by looking for a fresh, high-quality poinsettia at the nursery. Keep an eye out for strong leaves and vibrant reds, pinks or whites. The colored part of the poinsettia is actually the leaf; the flower is the yellow center.

"Poke your finger into the soil, wiggle it around and it should be moist soil," Penhallegon said.

Temperature-sensitive poinsettias will start losing color quickly if left in the cold too long. Even moving the pot from the nursery to the car can be a shock.

After you bring your plant home, decide how long you're going to preserve it and whether it's headed for your yard or your windowsill.

Water the poinsettia regularly. Keep the soil moist but not wet.

Penhallegon recommended a consistent indoor temperature of about 60 degrees.

"Around February it starts losing its leaves. It's called transitioning. Don't worry, they will grow back," he said.

If you're taking the plunge on planting your poinsettia outside, wait until May, June or July when the soil warms up to 60 degrees. Apply liquid fertilizer once a month. Don't water too much or too little.  

Bring the poinsettia into the house in early October in its second year. Place it in an area that is dark for 12 hours each day to cause the green leaves to turn color.

Author: Denise Ruttan