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Poinsettia Care Through Winter (and Beyond)

Wednesday, December 2, 2020   /   by Frank Hornstein

Poinsettia Care Through Winter (and Beyond)

Poinsettia Care Through Winter (and Beyond)

This iconic holiday plant has tropical roots. Get tips on keeping your poinsettia looking its best all year.

October 29, 2020

Perhaps no flower represents the winter holidays like the poinsettia. But these festive plants, which range from the traditional red to pale yellow, can be a mystery when it comes to care and maintenance. Here are some tips on poinsettia care that can help extend those blooms as long as possible — and maybe even encourage your poinsettia to bloom again next year.

Warm Poinsettias With Ample Sunlight

This may seem strange due to their holiday connotations, but poinsettias are tropical plants. Provide lots of sunlight — a sunny window with east, west, or southern exposure is best. Also try to keep the temperature between 65 and 70 degrees during the day, keeping in mind that the area around a drafty window can be quite a bit cooler than the rest of the room. If your plant's leaves are touching a cold window, they may drop off. At night, poinsettias like a slightly lower temperature (55 – 60 degrees), but avoid drastic drops in temperatures.

Keep Them Hydrated

Make sure to water the poinsettia whenever the surface of the soil feels dry. Give the plant a good watering, but don't flood or soak it — gravel in the bottom of the pot will help keep the roots dry. If your home is dry during the winter months, a humidifier or plant mister can help your plant stay hydrated.

How to Prevent Leaf Loss

If your plant starts to lose leaves, there are a few likely culprits. Ask yourself these questions: Is the plant resting against a cold window or near a draft? Is it too warm or dry in the room? Is the plant thirsty?

If the leaves wilt, and the soil gets dry to the touch, water your poinsettia right away. But remember: Wilting or dropping leaves can also be a sign of over watering. If the soil is soggy when the leaves fall, you've probably watered too much.

Encouraging Poinsettias to Rebloom

Poinsettias can stay attractive for months. But it's tricky to get them to re-bloom — that is, unless you live in a subtropical area. Then you can transplant them to your garden in January, and let the natural changes in daylight trigger their color later in the year.

To coax your plant back into bloom, let it dry out gradually starting in April. Water just enough to keep the stem from shriveling, and put the plant in a spot that stays about 60 degrees.

In mid-May, prune the stems to 4 inches high and repot the poinsettia in a slightly larger pot. Move it to a warm location with good light and resume watering. When new growth emerges, fertilize every two weeks with a complete fertilizer.

In July, pinch back the stems. Pinch again in mid-August. Poinsettias need 10 weeks of 12 hours or less of sunlight each day to show color. For Christmas flowers, keep the plant in complete darkness from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily, starting around Oct. 1.

This is too much work for most of us, so don't feel bad if you compost your poinsettia after you've enjoyed it indoors.

More Growing Advice

Plant and Grow Poinsettias in Your Garden

These tropical beauties can flourish outdoors in warm-winter areas.

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White Winter Flowers

Fill your indoor scenery with blooming houseplants to infuse your home with color, fragrance and beauty.

Eric Perry

Fill your home with beauty during the cooler months of the year by adding houseplants that unfurl white winter flowers. These pretty bloomers grace indoor scenery with a lively touch of green, and the white blossoms create an air of elegance. Some white winter flowers also release heady perfume.

For decking the halls at holiday time, consider white blossomed poinsettias or Christmas cactus. Both of these traditional Christmas flowers blend beautifully with any holiday color scheme and won’t steal the spotlight from homemade goodies when drafted to fill out a holiday buffet.

Or try white winter flowers that spring from bulbs (translation: they’re easy to grow). Two common bulbs you’ll find are amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus. Both of these bulb bloomers add elegance to any setting for truly minimal effort. Amaryllis gladly reblooms in future years with little coaxing, while fragrant narcissus should head to the compost after the flower show subsides.

Other perfumed bloomers on the white winter flowers hit parade include jasmine and gardenia. These bloomers fill indoor spaces with lovely floral aromas guaranteed to relieve spring fever. Indoors, jasmine naturally flowers in winter, its vining stems demanding nights below 60° F for best bud set. Place it near a bright window in a cool room for best results.

Gardenia produces snow white, waxy blooms that ooze perfume. Plants frequently drop buds once you get them home. This could be due to cold drafts en route (make sure plants are sleeved for transport) or dry air at home (compared to the high humidity of a greenhouse). Hedge your bets by purchasing a plant loaded with flower buds. Place it in a bright window (lack of sunlight also causes bud drop), but not near a heating vent.

One of the most artful and exotic white winter flowers is the moth orchid (Phalaenopsis). These exquisite bloomers open flowers that linger for weeks when nights are cool (50-60° F). Choose blossoms in pure white or with the faintest blush of pink. When selecting a plant, look for one with lots of fat flower buds and maybe one or two open blooms. Avoid plants that have already opened all their buds—you want to enjoy that magic show at home. Tuck plants in a bright window that can deliver sunlight during the day and cool temperatures at night.

A lesser known but beautiful white winter flower is cyclamen. This florist favorite comes in a variety of sizes, from miniature to full-size bloomers. Leathery leaves bear marbled silver patterns against a dark green backdrop. Blossoms open in white or shades of pink. Flowers stand tall above leaves with petals reflexed upward, making blooms resemble butterflies in flight.

Cyclamen is a rewarding houseplant, but success hinges on bright light and cool nights. Plants thrive when nights are 45-55° F, but do tolerate temperatures as high as 65° F, although plants won’t be as lush or flower as strongly when grown on the warmer side. Try growing cyclamen on a plant stand beside sliding glass patio doors or in an unused room where heating vents are closed.

Look for these white winter flowers at your local florist, garden center, or other retail floral outlets, like supermarkets or home centers. To ensure success, request that plants be sleeved in paper or plastic for transport during cold weather. Tops of sleeves should be folded and stapled shut. 

Learn More About Winter Flowers

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Winter Flowers

Satisfy your cravings for living color by decorating your home with winter flowers. Discover bloomers that thrive indoors and out.

Brighten the shortest days of the year with winter flowers. By filling your home with blooming color, you’ll dodge the winter blues by adding other hues to your scenery. Winter blooming flowers thrive indoors in all regions, but in warmer areas, you can also ignite some floral fireworks outside. Learn what kinds of winter flowers you can count on for a taste of spring—in the heart of winter.

Outdoors, there’s no shortage of flowers that bloom in winter, provided you live in Zone 6 or warmer. You might even squeak by with a little floral color in colder zones, but during a typical January and February, blooming petals can’t stand up to frigid temperatures. Classic annual winter flowers for outdoor enjoyment include nemesia, sweet alyssum, flowering stock and calendula.

Pansy is the cold weather champ for reliable winter flowers. These cheery plants can even freeze solid and jump back into blooming following a thaw. Johnny jump-ups or violas also perform like winter pansies. Paired with colorful ornamental cabbage and dusty miller, pansies and violas can fill winter scenes with steady color from Christmas to St. Patrick’s Day—and beyond.

Indoors, draw upon winter flowering plants to fill your home with inspiring beauty. Many potted plants that thrive in cool weather are available, including cineraria, kalanchoe and azalea. Orchids typically blossom in winter, and moth orchids are exotic and easy. Cyclamen offers eye-catching leaves topped with fluttering blooms. These pretty plants crave nights in the 45- to 55-degree range.

Draw upon fragrant winter flowers to enhance living spaces with color and sweet floral perfume. Potted gardenia and jasmine unfurl blossoms that exude luscious scents. Paperwhite narcissus bulbs can also fill a home with fragrance—and they’re a cinch to grow. Just perch them over water and watch the magic unfold. Stems emerge, stretch and pop open to reveal crisp white blooms packed with intense perfume.

Another bulb that makes an enchanting winter flower is amaryllis. These chubby bulbs give rise to towering stems topped with velvety trumpet-shaped blooms. Look for flowers in a wide variety of hues including Santa Claus red, snow white, and shrimp pink. There’s even an amaryllis that resembles candy canes with red and white streaked petals.

Forced spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips, hyacinths and daffodils, provide another option for winter flowers. Watch for forced bulbs at your local grocery store or florist, and grab a few pots to fill your home with color. Choose hyacinth, and you’ll be bringing home a fresh floral fragrance.

Creating your own winter floral arrangements offers another option for adding fresh flowers to your home. You’ll find buckets of blooms at your local florist, including cool-weather favorites like snapdragon, ranunculus, anemone and freesia. You might even be able to find cut bleeding-heart flowers, which last more than two weeks in a vase.

For Christmas, celebrate with classic winter flowers, like Christmas cactus or poinsettia. Choose from poinsettias in a host of hues, such as red, white, pink and marbled blends. Many florists now spray paint poinsettias in shades of blue or purple. There is literally a color to please every palette.

Learn More About Winter Flowers

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Winter Blooms

Flowering witch hazel and honeysuckle varieties liven up a garden during cold weather.


You don’t need large borders to enjoy winter-flowering shrubs. Blooming when the rest of the garden is gloomy and lackluster, witch hazel, Hamamelis mollis, and winter honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima, will bring it back to life. Grow them in large pots on a patio; you can then use their leafy growth later as a backdrop to spring and summer flower displays. 

Winter-flowering shrubs are a luxury in a small garden where every plant must earn its keep, but you can still make space for these seasonal stars. Plants like Chinese witch hazel, Hamamelis mollis, can be grown in a pot on a patio or balcony and then placed in a prominent spot when the heavily scented, spidery yellow flowers appear on the naked stems. Choose a witch hazel from a palette of yellow, orange, red or purple flowers, and look out for those with twisted or crimped petals. 

The winter honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima, is another prized plant, with highly fragrant, creamy-yellow flowers, which are produced in greater numbers when it’s grown in a sheltered spot.

Planting in pots

To prevent bushes from becoming waterlogged, add a layer of broken clay pot pieces to the bottom of the container so that the drainage holes do not clog up with compost. Add a layer of compost and place your shrub on it to check that the top of the root ball is 2 inches (5 cm) beneath the lip of the pot. Then slip the bush out of its pot, place the pot on the compost and fill in around it with more soil. Remove the pot to leave a hole exactly the right size for the bush’s root ball. Place the bush in the hole, firm around the roots with compost, water well and add a mulch.

Pruning witch hazels

These bushes can be pruned when the flowers start to fade in early spring. First, remove dead or diseased wood, any branches that spoil the shape, or crossing stems that are rubbing against one another. Hamamelis are very slow growing, so avoid cutting back very hard or too frequently. Prune back shoot tips to keep plants within bounds and to encourage bushy growth.

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Favorite Camellia Varieties Plus Expert Planting and Growing Advice

Lifestyle expert James Farmer shares his passion for growing camellias. The evergreen shrubs with showy blooms are a classic choice for gracing Southern gardens in late winter but gardeners outside the South can try them, too, and get blooms in both spring and fall depending on the type.

Courtesy of Monrovia

Hardy in zones 8 to 10, Camellia japonica 'Alba Plena' is an old variety with pure white blooms and glossy, dark green foliage.

Image courtesy of James Farmer, photo by Amber Phinisee

Camellias are classic shrubs for Southern gardens, so it’s not surprising that author and lifestyle expert James Farmer, who hails from Georgia, would have a passion for their delicate flowers.

"I’m partial to some of the old favorites like ‘Debutante’ and ‘Professor Sargent’”, he says, plants that grew in his grandmother and great-grandmother’s flower gardens. “Camellias just seem to be at their peak in that sandy, South Georgia soil.”

His all-time favorite is a white camellia—almost any white camellia. “The blooms are crisp and perfect, especially when you want to escape the cold and dreary weather. There’s a kind of purity to them that stands out even in winter. Those white petals on those dark, dark, glossy green leaves are so romantic.”

Courtesy of Monrovia

'Debutante' is an early blooming camellia with large, light pink flowers. It grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide and needs filtered sun.

Where Can You Grow Camellias?

These slow-growing evergreens are valuable in the landscape, too, useful around foundations, as specimen plants, or in borders and hedges. It’s almost unfair that they won’t thrive everywhere, but most are hardy only in zones 7 to 9, the so-called “camellia belt” of the southern U.S. Breeders are working to develop camellias that can withstand more cold.

But camellias have a wider range than most of us think, says Farmer, who has served as a spokesman for the American Camellia Society. “We associate them with the South, and they were brought into the country through Charleston. But you can grow beautiful camellias as far south as West Palm Beach. They also grow well in southern California and the Napa Valley area, where the winter is mild and they can bloom without risk of frost.

See Camellia Photos


From red to pink to white, camellias brighten any garden in zones 7-9.

When Do Camellias Bloom: Japonica vs. Sasanqua

Late spring frosts often kill or damage the buds of Camellia japonicas, which bloom in the spring. The other widely available camellia species, sasanquas, bloom in the fall.

“If you’re looking for a hardier flowering shrub,” Farmer says, “try sasanquas. They give you a head start on camellia season. I really like ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ and ‘Yuletide’, which has red blooms and pretty yellow stamens. It’s really nice around Christmastime.”

One of Farmer's top picks, ‘Debutante’, is a C. japonica with light pink flowers and a “classic, gorgeous look. The flowers look almost lacy, like those silk flowers older women would wear on their dresses.” He likes another old favorite, 'Professor Sargent', for its "fluffy red blossoms with yellow stamens."

The classic white camellia for Southern gardens, he adds, is 'Alba Plena'. "‘Polar Ice’ and ‘Snow Flurry’ are other great whites." For better cold hardiness, he recommends camellias in the ‘April’ series, such as ‘April Blush’ and ‘April Snow’. They bloom a little later in northern areas.

With the right selections, Farmer says, you can have blooms from October to April. “That’s pretty amazing. Also remember that camellias make excellent container plants, but they need large containers. They do especially well in terra cotta containers that can breathe.”

Image courtesy of American Camellia Society/Photo by Randolph Maphis

Camellia hybrid ‘Dragon Fire Ball’ is a stunning camellia with an anemone form and features red blossoms with a white margin, yellow anthers and light yellow filaments.

How to Plant and Grow Camellias

Don’t plant your camellias too deep in the ground, he advises. “It’s better to plant a little bit high and keep the top of the root ball level with the soil, so water won’t stand around the truck. Camellias have shallow roots and need moderate water. Overwatering can lead to leaf and bud drop.”

Farmer fertilizes his plants after the blooms finish. “They don’t need heavy fertilizing but they’re acid-loving, so use a fertilizer formulated for azaleas or camellias.”

“Pruning is the biggest cause of their demise,” he says. "They can grow into a small tree or a large shrub, so be careful where you plant, or you could have a camellia that’s 15 feet tall by the front door. But don’t give your camellia the same kind of haircut you’d give your poodle."

Farmer says you shouldn't prune with gas-powered tools. “Don’t use gas for cutting anything, unless you’re mowing the grass. You wouldn’t use gas tools to manicure your nails. Just do a light shaping or cut the blooms for arrangements, and know when to prune. If you prune in summer, you won’t have any flowers next year. Prune after the blooms finish.”

After all, he says, camellias are easy to grow. “Think about a 100 year-old farmhouse with a big, old camellia planted out front, blooming its heart out. It may have needed help to get established, but then it did great.”

More Camellia Planting and Growing Tips

We asked Georgia Master Gardener and writer Danny Flanners for his camellia growing advice. Here are his tips.


Camellias can be planted at any time, ideally in fall when they don’t have to battle extreme temperatures while trying to get established. Be sure to give them well-drained soil, rich in organic matter, and partial shade to protect them from scorching afternoon sun. Trees also help shelter camellias from extreme cold.


Once established, the shrubs don’t require extra watering under normal conditions. But mulch around the plant to keep roots cool and retain soil moisture. Feed them in spring and again in midsummer with an acid-forming fertilizer.


Prune only to control size or shape, or to reinvigorate a plant. Any pruning should be done in late spring after flowering is complete.

Pests, Disease

Tea scale is common on the undersides of leaves. Also, keep an eye out for petal blight, a fungus that makes flowers turn brown and fall off, and for leaf gall, which causes leaves to turn brown and eventually drop as well.

Cold-Protection Tip

When the forecast calls for a hard freeze, protect the blooms on your prized camellia by covering the shrub in plastic and anchoring it to the ground with stones or bricks to trap the heat of the soil inside. Be sure to remove the plastic the next day as temperatures warm; otherwise, you may create a greenhouse effect that can scorch the plant.

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Also known as firecracker flower, this compact beauty adds a touch of the tropics to just about anywhere you grow it.

Plant type: Evergreen subshrub
Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 to 11

The bushy, two- to three-foot-tall plant bears an abundance of glossy, medium to deep green, roughly oval to lance-shaped leaves, which are stunningly shiny and reason enough to grow crossandra, even if it didn't bloom. But it does bloom with clusters of flat-faced, fan-shaped blossoms, typically in shades of peachy pink, red or yellow. The flowers can appear nearly any time of year but are most abundant in spring through fall.

How to use it: Crossandra looks terrific in garden borders, foundation plantings and pots in frost-free climates. Elsewhere, enjoy it as a houseplant or as an out-of-the-ordinary addition to outdoor container plantings.

Culture: Light shade is ideal in most areas. In hot climates, the plants prefer to be shaded for most of the day, with just a few hours of early-morning sun. Fertile, evenly moist but well-drained soil is best for crossandras growing in the ground. Those growing in pots need regular watering and fertilizing while they're actively growing; keep them on the dry side during the winter. Pinching off the shoot tips every few weeks encourages young plants to develop a full, bushy shape. Snip off the faded flower clusters to promote rebloom. Temperatures below 55 degrees F can discolor the leaves or kill of the top growth entirely, but the plants can usually resprout as long as the roots don't freeze. No serious pest or disease problems.

Special notes: High summer heat and humidity can be tough on delicate flowers, but they're no problem for this tropical treasure. Its resistance to pest and disease problems, along with its amazingly long bloom season, are other great reasons to give crossandra a try.

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Glossy Abelia

Glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora) is a fine-textured shrub that looks good with other broadleaf evergreens.

Gracefully arching branches with small evergreen to semi-evergreen leaves and clusters of delicate mid- to late-summer flowers make this a fine-textured shrub. Leaves are dark green sometimes tinged with maroon in summer, turning bronzy-red in winter. The pinkish-white flowers begin developing in early summer and continue till frost. Habit is multi-stemmed and dense. Mature size is 3 to 6 feet high and wide, but it usually grows taller in the South. Zones 6 to 9. Treat as an herbacious perennial in Zone 5.

How to use it: In masses, on banks and as hedges. Looks good with other broadleaf evergreens — for example, giving a pleasant textural effect against the stiffer hollies.

Cultivation: Give abelia a moist, well-drained acid soil in partial shade to full sun. Given those conditions, abelia usually requires little care. A full-grown hedge, unpruned except for the occasional wild branches and routine thinning, can be quite lush and beautiful. To maintain vitality and reduce density, remove a third of the old wood in late winter, cutting each can at the base. Less than perfect conditions can lead to legginess, so prune back for a bushier shrub.

'Sherwood' in spring (Photo by Marie Hofer)

Notable Cultivars

'Sherwood' — Height is 3 to 3-1/2 feet high and 4 to 4-1/2 wide. Leaves are smaller than the species and turn dark purplish-green in winter. Flowers are slightly more pinkish than those of the species. Semi-evergreen in USDA Zone 6.

'Sunrise' — Leaves are edged in creamy yellow to gold, turning orange, yellow and red in fall. Mature height is about three feet.

Abelia 'Edward Goucher' — The result of a cross between A. x grandiflora and A. schumannii, the leaves are lustrous green and the flowers are lavender to rosy-pink. Mature height is five feet high and wide.

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This tropical evergreen shrub is a versatile plant that can adapt to a variety of gardens.

In Zones 10 and warmer, firebush is a colorful tropical evergreen shrub with tubular red-orange flowers. Plants can grow to 10 feet tall. The flowers are attractive to hummingbirds. Great in full sun and a well-drained soil. Versatile in the garden either in mixed containers or as a specimen or in mass. Hardy as a perennial to USDA Zone 8, where it displays bright-red fall foliage and dies back to the ground in winter. Where it's perennial, expect heights of four to five feet.

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Learn more about this evergreen shrub and its ability to adapt to different environments.

Plant type: Evergreen shrub
Botanical name: Ilex glabra
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 9

Dark green, lustrous leaves that are longer and more slender than that of I. crenata and a somewhat looser habit gives this wonderful evergreen a tidy but relaxed air. The species grows six to eight feet high and eight to 10 feet wide, but there are smaller cultivars. Berries are black on the species, but some of the cultivars have white fruit.

Cultivation: Very accommodating, inkberry adapts to a wide range of soils--acid or alkaline, dry or wet--and in sunny to moderately shady sites.

How to use it: Think of the inkberry as performing the same services as Japanese holly, just a little looser and more informally. Use it in masses, as a foundation planting (give it room to expand a bit) or as a great filler on lightly shady slopes.

Selected cultivars:

  • 'Nordic' is a compact form to three to four feet high and wide. Tends to drop its leaves near the base and get leggy.

  • 'Compacta' is smaller than the species but is nevertheless a good-sized shrub, averaging four to six (and sometimes more) feet tall and wide. Also tends to drop its lower leaves.

  • 'Nigra' holds its leaves near the base. Average size--four feet high and wide.

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Mexican Heather

Mexican heather looks dainty and delicate, but this sturdy little shrub is actually tough as nails.

Plant type: Broadleaf evergreen subshrub
Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 to 11 (may act as a perennial in Zones 7 and 8)

It grows in densely branched, two-foot-tall mounds of slender stems clad in masses of small, oblong to lance-shaped, bright green leaves that are evergreen in frost-free areas. Clusters of tiny flowers—usually in shades of purple, but sometimes in pink or white—bloom all along the stems from spring to fall, or even year-round in mild climates. Mexican heather can be sold under a variety of other names, including false heather, Hawaiian heather and elfin herb.

How to use it: In frost-free zones, Mexican heather makes a wonderful evergreen groundcover and provides non-stop bloom in borders, foundation plantings and containers. In USDA Zones 7 and 8, treat it like a perennial for spring-to-fall interest in beds and borders. Elsewhere, enjoy Mexican heather as an annual, either in the ground or in pots. In any area, the fine-textured foliage and flowers make it a perfect partner for bolder leaves and blooms. It also makes a lovely houseplant.

Culture: Average, well-drained soil with full sun to light shade is fine in most areas. In hot climates, partial shade can help to keep the foliage from fading. Water and fertilize potted plants regularly during the growing season, less during the winter. Older plants tend to get a bit leggy; if needed, trim them back lightly or entirely to the ground, and they'll come back better than ever. Start from seed in spring or propagate by cuttings. Mexican heather may self-sow in mild climates.

Special notes: Compact, long-blooming and practically problem-free, Mexican heather is truly a treasure for busy gardeners, especially in the hot, humid conditions that can quickly stress fussier flowers.

Selected Cultivars

  • 'Alba'. Has white flowers.

  • 'Rosea'. Offers pink flowers.


Next Up

White Winter Flowers

Fill your indoor scenery with blooming houseplants to infuse your home with color, fragrance and beauty.

Iron Valley Real Estate | Frank Hornstein Group
Frank Hornstein
17527 Nassau Commons Boulevard
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
Cell: 302-604-4746
Office: 302-541-8787

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