Sunday, January 29, 2012

Keeping That Poinsetta

It’s soon time to start my seedlings.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s January. Are you nuts?

No. I love flowers and want to enjoy them as soon as possible and as for all as possible, so I start my seeds in early February and transplant them outside in early May. But since I have a few weeks before I start, I decided to take on another plant project--my Poinsettia.

My DH and I received this poinsettia as a gift from the Cancer center of which he is a patient. I’ve never had one this big. It is absolutely gorgeous and I want to keep it year around, and hopefully enjoy it again next holiday season, so I did a little research.

Poinsettias (euphorbia pulcherrima) are actually desert plants and are native to Mexico and Central America. The Aztecs called them cuetlaxochitl. Poinsettias were introduced in the United States in 1825 by Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, and quickly caught on as a popular Christmas plant.

Poinsettias are not poisonous. However, the sap is a little caustic and may cause skin irritation, and certainly can cause indigestion if digested. So if you’re handling the plant, it would be a good idea to wear gloves.

You can keep your poinsettia in full foliage well into February if you place it where it will get at least six hours of bright indirect light and where it is out of drafts, both hot and cold—not near windows or heaters. The flower of the poinsettia is actually the yellow centers. The red or white are actually leaves. After the flowers start to drop off, gradually decrease watering the plant until the bracts all drop, then allow the plant to dry out completely (the poinsettia is a desert plant). Now, store the plant somewhere with a cooler temperature around 50 degrees. Remember we are trying to recreate a Mexican Winter, so a 50 degree basement or garage makes a fine location.

When the temperature in your area warms, around 50 degrees overnight, you should repot your plant, using the same pot with fresh soil and start to gradually water again. Remember, gradually is how you stopped watering. Also, start to fertilize every three weeks.

In mid-August, cut the plant back. Cutting back to three to five stems will produce a bushy plant with big flowers. Don’t prune your plant any later than September, if you wish it to bloom for the holidays. Bring plant inside when temperatures become too cool.

To get a poinsettia to reflower you have to keep it in total darkness at least 14 hours a day for eight to ten weeks in a cool place (55-65 degrees). If you start this procedure around October 1st, color should return to the bracts by mid-December. IMPORTANT; Any exposure to light will prevent flowering. Cover the plant using a light-proof bag or place it in a closet. Night time temperatures above 70-75°can decay the plant or prevent flowering.

Here are some tips for making your poinsettia last during the holiday season.

• Place the poinsettia in a sunny window.
• Do not let any part of plant touch cold window panes.
• Indoor temperatures, from 60 to 70°F, are ideal for long plant life.
• High temperatures will shorten the life of the colorful bracts.
• Water only when the soil is dry.
• Placing your poinsettia in a cool room 55 to 60°F at night, will extend blooming time.
• Do not fertilize when plant is in bloom.
• Avoid temperature fluctuations and warm or cold drafts.

There you have it, all that I’ve learned. Now, to put it to practice. We’ll see if I have the same beautiful poinsettia next Christmas season.

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