Keeping your Poinsettia - After the holidays

Keeping your Poinsettia - After the holidays

Many people try to carry their poinsettia plants over and rebloom them the next year. If you have a big ol' green thumb and the incentive you might give this beautiful plant a try.

Poinsettias are perhaps the most difficult flowering potted plants to rebloom in the home. I have never had a personal success story, but I think my mother has, she has a big ol' green thumb, and as her grandchildren are fond of saying Grandma can do anything. If you must try, follow the instructions carefully.

After blooming, gradually withhold water. The leaves will then yellow and fall off. Place the dried-off plant in a cool place with temperatures 50 to 60 degrees until spring. Water only enough to keep the roots from drying out. This means very, very, little water.

In the spring place the plant in a warm room and prune the stems back to about six inches. If there is more than one plant in the pot, divide and repot them at this time.

For repotting use a well-drained soil. Potting soils available at garden shops are satisfactory.

Or even better you may use one part vermiculite, one part peat moss or leaf mold, and one part sand or perlite. See this is where the big 'ol green thumb comes in. If you are scratching your head saying what are those items you are not a serious 'Big ol' green thumber'

After repotting, place the plants in a bright, sunny, south window until frost danger is past. In New England that often means, wait a really long time. Sink the pot outdoors where it gets some wind protection, but where it gets sun most of the day. Light shade in the hottest part of the summer afternoon is desirable. Lift the pot occasionally to keep roots from growing into surrounding soil. A small piece of brown paper bag at the bottom of the hole will also help keep the pot from rooting in the soil.

As new shoots develop, cut them back to allow two nodes or pairs of leaves to remain. This will develop a large, bushy plant by late summer. Stop pinching back after mid-August.

Plants may be started from cuttings, but rooting is fairly difficult (when I say fairly I am being generous) under home conditions. Keep the plant in good growing condition by watering and feeding regularly during the summer. Add a complete liquid fertilizer about once every two weeks. Watch carefully for insect or disease problems and control immediately. Discard diseased plants. Before the weather becomes cool in fall, bring the plant indoors and place it at a bright, sunny, south window. Cool night temperatures will improve flower quality. Day temperatures should be 70 to 75 degrees. Good luck with the listed daytime temps here in New England.

The poinsettia is a short day (long night) plant. Make sure it receives no additional light at night while flowers are forming. The critical period begins about October 1, and continues until colored bracts and flower buds are visible.

Even short periods of dim light can prevent flowering. If the plant is kept in a lighted room, cover it every night at dusk with a light-tight bag or cover. Remove the cover at about 8:00 a.m. each morning. This type of devotion to a single plant usually only comes from a master gardener or ...a 'Big ol' green thumber'

Extra illumination from a street or yard light will have the same effect on a poinsettia growing outdoors as it does on plants growing indoors. If you want them to flower, be careful in selecting the location in the landscape. Place the plant so it will receive no additional light after October 1, until the time the bracts show color if they are to bloom by Christmas. If these procedures are followed carefully, the plants should flower by Thanksgiving. You know Thanksgiving the holiday where some well loved family member will accidentally drop a drink on your poinsettia and ruin all your hard work. This is the time when you have to try really hard to remember how much you love your family. ;)

If placed in a protected area where early fall frosts will not harm them, they will make beautiful plants for the next holiday season. They should be cut back 8 to 10 inches each spring to encourage new growth from the base As new shoots develop, cut them back to allow two pairs of leaves per shoot to remain. Every time a new shoot produces about four or five pairs of leaves prune it again. Do not prune after mid-August or flower buds and colored bracts may not form in time for Christmas. Am I repeating myself? You can never say this stuff too many times.

For best results poinsettias must have a well-drained soil and must be fertilized regularly. While poinsettias will not tolerate a wet, poorly drained soil, they do require plenty of water for optimum growth. They tend to drop their leaves if allowed to become too dry.

Now for Best, best results buy your poinsettias each year at Carey's Flowers, come early when the selection is still vast and enjoy a beautiful, living, blooming addition to your home at Christmas time.
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