Helping Nebraskans enhance their lives through research-based education.

Poinsettia and Christmas Tree Care

by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

Click to email this page to a this page to a friend

Holiday traditions in homes and offices often include poinsettias and Christmas trees. Here's how to keep these traditional favorites fresh for the holiday season.

For poinsettias, start by purchasing fresh, healthy plants that have been cared for properly at the point of purchase. Probably the biggest enemy of poinsettias in homes and offices is fluctuating temperatures. Keep plants out of warm drafts, such as from heat ducts or radiators, and away from cold drafts of entrances. An optimum temperature range would be 60 to 68, temperatures above 75 can cause decline. Another related problem is excessively dry air.

Poinsettias commonly face overwatering, which will kill the roots. Roots of poinsettias, along with all other plants, need to have air. Don't overwater poinsettias; wait until the soil surface begins to dry slightly before watering. Don't let it completely dry out and become hard, however. Either remove foil wraps from the pot or place holes in it so water can escape.

Finally, try to place poinsettias near a bright window, but not in direct sunlight. Move it at night if a cold draft is likely to occur.

For many years, the poinsettia was considered to be poisonous. Extensive tests have proven this to be false. However, as with most plants, a child or pet could still have stomach distress if they were to eat poinsettias.

Purchasing a fresh tree is critical when dealing with live trees. Cut your own tree and you are assured freshness. When purchasing trees off the retail lot, avoid those dropping lots of needles easily. Once the tree is home and ready to set up, cut off an inch or so from the bottom of the trunk, place the tree into a stand capable of holding at least one gallon of water, and fill the stand with water immediately. Never let the water level go below the cut surface on the bottom of the trunk.

What's best to put in the stand to keep trees fresh longer? The answer...plain water. Check the level frequently and add more as needed. You don't need to add anything else. Another very important point is to locate trees away from heat sources and be sure all lights are in good working condition.

This resource was updated November 2006 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement


University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office

Contact Information University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lancaster County
Web site:
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68528 | 402-441-7180