Best to keep poinsettia plants indoors in the winter

They should not be exposed to temperatures below 13 C.

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Q. Can I plant my large potted poinsettia outdoors in the spring, in a sheltered spot? I’ve seen hedges of these plants on Maui, and I garden in a protected area at the coast.

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A. Even in a warm coastal microclimate here, poinsettias are not hardy. They should not be exposed to temperatures below 13 C. They do, however, benefit from a summer outdoors in filtered light.

Your poinsettia will remain in top decorative form in a site that offers six hours of bright light daily and even, slightly cool room temperatures.

Water thoroughly as soon as a top layer of soil dries. A light misting of the lower leaves, early in the day, will help to raise humidity levels around the plant. Use tepid water. Protect the plant from hot or cold drafts, which often initiate leaf drop.

In the spring, prune the stems back, making the cuts immediately above new, outward-facing shoots. After pruning, repot into a just slightly wider pot. Or, if the pot is already a large one, replace a top layer of soil with fresh planting mix suitable for house plants.

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With the warm spring weather in May, set the plant outdoors in a sheltered spot in dappled sun or light shade. Keep it well watered, and in early September clean the plant and pot well and bring it back indoors.

You may choose to enjoy your poinsettia as an attractive green plant, but if you want coloured bracts for Christmas the plant will require 10 weeks of 10-hour days. That means placing the plant where lights are not turned on from dusk to dawn, beginning in early October.

Lacking such a place, some people simply set their saved poinsettias in bright natural light, in a room where lights are seldom turned on at night. When I’ve handled my poinsettias this way, I usually get at least some colouring in the bracts.

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