Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Poinsettia Is Still Going Strong

Christmas is over, the New Year arrived, Valentine’s Day came and went, spring is on its way, and yet, my poinsettia is still going strong after all this time. Okay, it’s not as perfect as it was when I first brought it home (it is beginning to look a little tired), but still. It looks pretty darn good even though quite some time has passed since its arrival. I’m not really surprised since the location I chose for this holiday plant is one of the best spots in the house.



Now, as many of you know, poinsettias are often treated as temporary gift plants and kicked to the curb once the bracts begin to age and the aesthetical appeal is lost. But poinsettias are far from being temporary. They can be kept for a long time as an attractive foliage plant and - with proper care, dedication and a little luck - be encouraged to re-bloom for the next year’s holiday season.

Here’s what you need to do after the holidays:

In late March or early April, cut back your poinsettia to about 6-8 inches, continue watering regularly and feed with an all-purpose fertilizer. Vigorous new growth should appear by the end of May. After the danger of frost has passed and night temperatures do not drop below 12°C (55º F), you can place your plant outside. Poinsettias can be grown in full sun outdoors but they must be gradually acclimatized to it. At the beginning of June, repot your poinsettia into a slightly larger pot with fresh soil that drains well. Continue with regular watering during this growing period and fertilize your plant every 2 to 3 weeks right up until the fall.

(Note: If you are keeping your plant indoors, as I always do, keep it in a very bright location near a window and provide the same care as you would to a plant spending the summer outdoors)

When October arrives, check the Poinsettia for pests and diseases, bring it indoors and place it in a sunny location, preferably a southern window. During this period, your plant’s growth will begin to slow down as it begins the flowering process, so reduce fertilization. If you want blooms in time for the holiday season, you must provide 14 hours of continuous darkness every night for 8 to 10 weeks, beginning no later than the first week of October.

Shield your Poinsettia from any light sources starting from about 5 in the evening to 8 o’clock in the morning. You can accomplish this by placing it in a dark room or inside a closet (remember to move it back into the sun in the morning). You can also provide your plant with complete darkness by placing a large cardboard box over it in the early evening for at least 12 hours. Remove the cover in the morning and place the plant back in the sun. Continue the ‘complete darkness’ ritual until there is definite colour on the floral bracts and they are almost fully expanded.

There’s no doubt that the flowering process of this colourful symbol of the Christmas season requires dedication and patience. But when your Poinsettia is in full bloom come the holidays, adorning your home with its brilliant tracts, the detailed care and added pampering will have been well worth the effort.

2 comments:

  1. I've never tried to grow a poinsettia, but they do sell them here at Christmas too! Yours looks very happy considering it has been going for so long!

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  2. Hi gippslandgardener. My poinsettia is growing happily; it's obviously very satisfied with where I'm growing it.

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