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Thoughts from the Cottage…

Keeping the Poinsettia?

January 2014      

Aside from a Christmas tree, nothing says “holidays” like a poinsettia. A beloved holiday tradition both for decoration and gift giving, poinsettias also make attractive indoor plants all year long. You don’t have to throw them out with the tree. If you care for it properly, there is no reason why you can’t keep it until next year.

Poinsettias prefer humid conditions (they are native to Mexico and Central America, after all). If your home is especially dry due to heating or climate, you may want to mist your poinsettias with water from a spray bottle daily. Keep the soil slightly dry. But keep in mind though that after a couple of days without enough water, poinsettias may begin to drop their leaves. Let the soil dry out between watering and then water thoroughly. Check soil moisture by sticking your finger into the soil every couple of days. Add water when the soil is dry down to your first knuckle. Be sure not to let the plant’s pot stand in water at the plant’s base. Instead, a layer of pebbles in the bottom of the tray keeps the plant out of the water and increases the humidity around the plant.

Poinsettias like plenty of bright, indirect sunlight. Keep them near the sunniest window in your house so that they get adequate light. Poinsettias are sensitive to extreme temperatures, however, so don't place them directly in the sun, next to a heater or near a drafty window. A daytime temperature between 65 and 80 degrees and nights around 60 degrees will provide perfect conditions for continued growth. Keeping the temperature constant 24 hours a day helps the plants thrive and decreases leaf shedding.

April 1st, gradually decrease water, allowing the plant to get dry between waterings. Be careful the stem does not begin to shrivel. This is a sign the plant is too stressed and is dying. In a week or two, when the plant has acclimated to this drying process, move it to a cool spot like the basement or a heated garage. You want to keep it at about 60 degrees F.

Mid-May, cut the stems back to about 4 inches and repot in a slightly larger container, with new potting soil. Water it well. Place the newly potted plant back into the brightest window you have and once again keep it at a temperature of
65 - 75 degrees F. Continue watering whenever the surface of the soil feels dry.

Watch for new growth. Once new growth appears, begin fertilizing every two weeks with a complete fertilizer. Follow fertilizer label recommendations.

In June more the poinsettia outside, pot and all. Keep it in a partially shaded location and maintain your watering and fertilizing schedule.

Beginning in July, pinch back each stem by about one inch. This is to encourage a stout, bushy and well branched plant.

Mid-August, the stems should have branched and leafed out. Once again, pinch or cut the new stems, leaving 3-4 leaves on each shoot. Bring the plant back indoors and back into your brightest window. Continue watering and fertilizing.

In September continue regular watering and fertilizing. Make sure the temperature stays
above 65 degrees F.

Poinsettias are short-day plants, meaning their bud set is affected by the length of daylight. To re-bloom, poinsettias need about 10 weeks with
14-15 hours of uninterrupted darkness. You will have to artificially create these conditions and it's crucial that you be diligent.

Beginning October 1st, keep your plant in complete darkness from 5 pm to 8 am. Any exposure to light will delay blooming. Use an opaque box or material to block out light. Many people place their plants in a closest, but if light gets in though the cracks or if you open and use the closet, it will affect the bud set.

Move the plant back to the sunny window during the daytime and continue watering and fertilizing.

Around the last week of November, you can stop the darkness treatment and allow the plant to remain in the window. You should see flower buds at this point

Stop fertilizing about  mid-December  Keep watering and treat your plant the way you did when you first brought it home in bloom. If all has gone well, it should be back in bloom and ready to begin the process all over again.