House plants bring touches of life to our homes all year long, and nothing represents December cheer like the classic poinsettia. These sub-tropical plants, native to Mexico, spend long winter nights changing their leaves into vibrant colors. (Leaves are usually, but not alway, bright red.) Poinsettias’ popularity exploded in the U.S. in the 1960s, but they have been associated with Christmas as early as the 16th century. According to Mexican legend, a poor young girl named Pepita did not have any gift to give the baby Jesus, but an angel instructed her to offer some weeds, which turned into a beautiful poinsettia. The poinsettia has been a Christmas staple ever since.

If you’re ready to bring a poinsettia into your home this year, here are the basics you need to know before selecting and caring for this plant:

Poinsettia
Photo by Brad Mee

Keeping a Healthy Plant 

Just because poinsettias are short-day plants does not mean that they don’t need sunlight. Experts at USU Extension recommend at least six hours of indirect sunlight per day. Make sure the poinsettia’s environment never dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and add all-purpose, water-soluble fertilizer weekly to ensure your plant thrives for the whole season. One common mistake is over-watering the poinsettia. Wait to water until the soil is dry at least two inches deep to avoid rot. 

Poinsettia
Photo by Brad Mee

Making Your Poinsettia Last All Year

Not ready to part with your poinsettia on New Year’s Day? Keep caring for the bracts through April and cut the plant back when leaves begin to fall. In the Summer, find a shady spot for your poinsettia and bring a striking addition to your garden. By October, move the poinsettia back inside, keeping it in complete darkness until the color returns. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with ditching your plant once the Holidays are over and making room for new additions to your collection.

Poinsettia
Photo by Brad Mee

Play with Color 

Red poinsettias are a Holiday tradition, but this Christmas, why not experiment with a surprising new shade? Poinsettias are available in a whole rainbow of color variations, from bold pinks to delicate whites. Marbled and variegated varieties can add unique organic patterns to seasonal decor. Try something new and give your seasonal palette a fresh update.

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