a Goodbye Lie favorite
Gardening: Poinsettia Tips
Nothing accents the holidays better than a poinsettia. Although some 74% of you prefer the red varieties, 26% enjoy the other colors of white and pink.
What to Look for When Purchasing
The red or colored parts of the poinsettia, which are often thought of as flowers, are not. They are leaves whose technical name is a bract. The real flowers are those little green and yellow “bumples” (my word) in the very center of the bracts.
If you are purchasing a poinsettia, make certain the green and yellow bumples in the center are in good condition, otherwise, the plant may be past its prime. Of course, make sure the leaves are healthy and grow all the way down the stem.
Lift the leaves and check for any white flies, which could infest your other plants.
Keep your poinsettia away from heating vents. Place it in a cool spot in bright light. Humidity is a help, but don’t spray those red leaves with water because they may spot.
Don’t over water, but keep the soil moist. The time to water your plant is just as the leaves begin to droop. If your plant has decorative foil covering over the pot, be sure and drain any excess water. Better yet, remove the foil and place your poinsettia in a decorative pot with good drainage.
Should you want to add some snipped off or broken colored poinsettia leaves to a flower arrangement, it is necessary to seal each stem by holding it over a flame for 15 seconds or letting it sit in alcohol for 15 minutes. Your cut leaves may last as long as a week.
After the Holidays
Once the bracts in the center have fallen off, your poinsettia may be planted outside in the warmer climates. Cutting the stems to six inches in height, plant in well-drained soil with an eastern or southern exposure. In the colder climates (as well as the warmer areas if you choose) simply leave your poinsettia in its pot and place it outdoors once all danger of frost has passed. As your plant grows, pinch back regularly to prevent the stems from becoming leggy.
Poinsettias are heavy feeders. Fertilize once a month during the growing season.
Bring your plant inside and place it where it is not exposed to exterior or interior lights at night in order to get it to turn color. Around the beginning of October, your plant will require 15 hours of darkness and nine hours of outdoor or bright light. If you have to, place your plant in a dark closet or garage every night. (A streetlight can disrupt its cycle so beware of sneaky lighting.) Feed and water regularly. Come December, your poinsettia should be presentable for company to once again admire its uniquely colorful leaves.
When the holidays are over and your poinsettia is still going strong, there is no reason you can’t leave it out on display, but you can make it brand new if you repot it in combination with some ivy, fern or African violets.
If you don’t want to repot or don’t have the time, simply set your potted poinsettia plant in a larger pot, wooden box or tub along with other potted houseplants. Arrange all the pots artistically. If a particular houseplant isn’t tall enough, recycle a plastic frozen topping bowl upside down, then place the short plant on top for instant height. Make sure that the houseplants and the poinsettia are tight together to give a look of lush foliage.
Cover any plastic with sheet moss to camouflage the pots. Insert accent bows or sculpture as desired.
This article was reviewed and approved by my dear friend and horticulturist, Larry Dingman. Thank you, Larry.
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