January 2012 Newsletter (vol.3)   >>   Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Poinsettias in a Greenhouse

 

Your poinsettia has provided holiday cheer for weeks. You are now faced with a dilemma; should it stay or should it go? Many people take the latter of the options and toss it out with the Christmas tree, but there is another option. Keep your beautiful poinsettia and even get it to bloom again for the holidays next year.

Many people do not realize that a poinsettia is actually an easy to care for, sub-tropical houseplant. They require a bright, well lit area with temperatures between 60-70 degrees. They enjoy humidity; however it is best to only water them when the soil is dry. You do not want them to sit in water. They are highly sensitive to cold temperatures, so when deciding what would be the perfect location for them, be mindful that their leaves should not get too close to a window and that they are not put in a drafty area.

It is a common thought that the large colorful bracts are the flowers, but that simply is not the case. The small round button like blooms in the center of the bracts called cyathia, are the true flowers of the poinsettia. The bract is actually a modified leaf that evolved in an effort to attract pollinators to those inconspicuous flowers.

After the holiday season, it is important to keep up with many essential steps in order to have a beautiful poinsettia by next Christmas.

FEBRUARY

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Bracts fade. Lateral growth starts.

 

The bracts will retain their color for several months. During this time, side shoots will develop below the bracts and grow up above the old flowering stems.

MARCH

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Remove flower. Cut stems to 6 inches. Many laterals will start to break.

 

Once the bracts become a muddy green color, cut back about 6”, continue watering and start applying a bi-weekly fertilizer. Beware of the milky sap which will stick to your hands and pruners.

MAY-JUNE

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Repot in larger pot if necessary. Relocate outside.

 

After the danger of spring frost is past and night temperatures exceed 50 degrees, you can put your poinsettia outside.

JULY

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Pinch all lateral shoots to 4 inches. Root newly pinched shoots if desired, then pot.

 

In July, prune all shoots to about 4”, leaving 1-3 leaves on each shoot and fertilize.

LATE AUGUST-EARLY SEPTEMBER

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Take inside.

 

Take the poinsettia indoors before the first frost in the fall!

SEPT. 20 until DEC. 1

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Keep in light only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Put in dark place (no lights) 5 p.m. to 8a.m.

 

Coaxing poinsettias into bloom requires some effort. Poinsettias are called short day (photoperiodic) plants. Short day plants grow vegetatively during the long days of summer and produce flowers when the days become shorter in the fall. To get the bracts to change color for Christmas, the plant must receive 14-16 hours of complete darkness per day, from early October to mid December. This can be obtained by putting a box over the top, or placing the plant in a dark closet. During the months of October, November and the early part of December they require 8-10 hours of daily sunlight and temperatures ranging from 60 to 70 degrees. The rest of the time should be spent in total and complete darkness.

DECEMBER

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Full Bloom.

 

After nine weeks of keeping your plant in the dark, color should start to develop and your poinsettia should be blooming by Christmas. Stop fertilizing about December 15th. Keep watering it and treat your plant as if you first brought it home from the store!
While this task may look daunting, the rewards will be significant. Not only were you thrifty by not having to re-buy a new poinsettia, you also successfully cared for and re-bloomed a great plant!

 

Sources:
Jauron, Richard. “Care of Seasonal Houseplants after the Holidays.” December 2002.
<http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/2002/12-6-2002/flower.html>.

 

Carlson, William H. “Poinsettias: Care of House and Garden Plants.” Cooperative Extension Service, Michigan State University. November 1992. <http://www.aces.uiuc.edu/vista/html_pubs/point/point.htm>.

 

“Care After Christmas” Paul Ecke Poinsettias
<www.pauleckepoinsettias.com/care/reblooming.aspx>