Ron Patterson, EastIdahoNews.com
There are two approaches to poinsettias.
First, enjoy them as long as they look nice during the winter and then throw them out. Second, enjoy them during the winter and then get them to “bloom” again the next year. The colorful “bloom” of poinsettias is actually modified leaves called bracts. The color is triggered by a photoperiodic response. Very similar to holiday cacti, they need long, uninterrupted nights.
As soon as you get the plant home, remove the foil wrap or cut a hole in the bottom so the pot can drain when you water it. Poinsettias have a moderate water requirement, so the top of the soil should be about ½ – 1” dry before watering again. Do not let them sit in water, as they are very susceptible to root rot.
Poinsettias require high light and will do best in a window that will give a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight.
Fertilize the poinsettia with a balanced, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer. The recommendations below are based on the instructions of the product you are using.
There is no guarantee they will provide color the next season, but here is a holiday schedule of things you can do to increase the chances of beautiful, colored poinsettia year after year.
Ron Patterson, EastIdahoNews.com
New Year’s Day—Keep in bright location, fertilize at half rate when new leaves and bracts appear.
Valentine’s Day—Trim back to 5 inches if the plant has become leggy.
St Patrick’s Day—Prune off faded bracts, continue water and fertilizer regimen.
Memorial Day—Tip each of the branches back about two inches to encourage side branching; transplant to a larger container if needed.
Father’s Day—Keep indoors in high-light location, or move outside to a light shade location; be sure to water regularly.
Independence Day—Move to full-sun location outside, but protect from hot afternoon sun; trim again if growing well; increase fertilizer to full amount to promote healthy growth.
Labor Day—Bring plants indoors, earlier if temperatures will drop below 50F; place where it will get at least 6 hours of direct sun; reduce fertilizer to ¼ rate.
Fall Equinox (I know it’s not a holiday)—Begin light treatment by giving the plants at least 13 hours of uninterrupted night (absolutely no light) for about 8 weeks; keep a minimum of six hours of direct light each day; maintain temperatures in the 60s; do not overwater.
Thanksgiving—Discontinue the long-night treatment, once bracts have colored they will stay colored until they fall off; continue at least 6 hours of direct sunlight; no more fertilizer is needed until new bracts and leaves begin growing.
Alternatively, you can plant the poinsettia in your flowerbed after all chance of frost is past and enjoy the beautiful green foliage until fall frost.
A side note: Poinsettias are not poisonous. While some people get skin irritation from the sap and some people and pets may vomit after eating some of the leaves, it is not a poisonous plant. But, don’t eat it anyway.
As you can see, it can be a challenge to get poinsettia to color each year. Some people have a system figured out that works well for them. If you think you are up to the challenge, have fun.
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