It’ll never look as good as the day you bought it.

By Steve Bender
January 13, 2021
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Credit: Steve Bender

I am the proud owner of a particularly sorry plant. But just for a few more minutes. Soon, I shall cast that poinsettia I bought before Christmas into my compost bin. You should too if you have one.

Why? Because unless you live in south Florida or another place where it doesn't freeze in winter, your poinsettia must remain indoors until spring. During that time, it will suffer from low light and dry air, conditions considerably less agreeable than when it was growing in a comfy greenhouse. To show its displeasure, it will start dropping its green leaves. By the time spring rolls around, the red bracts on top may still be there, but the stems below will be naked, green sticks. U-G-L-Y.

Some of you will grant it mercy, but this will be a mistake. You'll repot it, cut it back, take it outside until the fall, and dutifully water and fertilize it. Then, having learned that for the red bracts to form your poinsettia needs 14 hours of complete darkness each day for about a month, you'll bring it inside before the first fall frost, and perform the closet treatment. At 6 PM each day, you'll banish it to dark closet. At 8 AM, you'll parole it out to a sunny window. You'll do this every day for weeks.

What will be your reward? Pitiful, puny, sparse red bracts – a plant you would never buy even on clearance.

Why torture yourself? Poinsettias aren't expensive. I bought mine for $2.99. It gave our house some seasonal cheer for the holidays. Thanks, poinsettia! Now out you go. No more watering, fertilizing, 14 hours of darkness treatment. Ain't got time for that.

Next December, I'll buy a new poinsettia from the garden center. In doing so, I'll be supporting the green industry and the American economy. Throwing out an ugly poinsettia – can't get more patriotic than that.