Poinsettias come in many colors and patterns, such as this one grown by students at Ohio State's Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster. (Photo by Ken Chamberlain)

Holiday poinsettia selection and care

No matter what your favorite variety of poinsettia may be, you want to make sure to select the right plant and take the proper care so it can thrive during the holidays and beyond.

“When you go to the store, inspect the plants carefully and make sure that you don’t see leaves that are dried out, that are sagging, that have obvious signs of damage,” said Luis Cañas, an entomologist and expert on greenhouse ornamentals with Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

In addition to the leaves, it is also important to check the plant’s roots, Cañas said.

“Grab the plant and gently tap on the pot so you can turn it upside down and check the roots,” he said. “The roots need to be of a whitish color; that’s a sign that they are healthy.”

Cañas also recommends you pay attention to poinsettias that are not watered properly at the garden store and avoid buying them.


Poinsettias are native to Mexico and Central America and don’t like cold weather. When you take your plants home, avoid placing them too close to windows or places where they will be exposed to a cold breeze. Additionally, keep them away from heater vents to avoid drying the leaves.

“Poinsettias will do well where there’s a lot of sunshine,” Cañas said. “Be careful with watering. One of the biggest problems taking care of plants is overwatering. My recommendation is to let the soilless media dry before irrigating again.”

You can enjoy the beauty of poinsettias well after the holidays with the right amount of care.

“Poinsettias can be kept all year round. A lot of people are surprised to hear that,” Cañas said. “If they are watered and fertilized properly, they can grow for a long time. In fact, they can grow into large trees.”

As they grow, poinsettias will need to be repotted into a larger pot. Also, to make them turn color, they need 14-16 hours of darkness a day.

More details about poinsettia care can be found in an Ohio State University fact sheet, “Poinsettia Care in the Home.”

Photo by Ken Chamberlain, Ohio State University