Poinsettias Are Here
The poinsettia is one of the most popular plants for the holidays.
It has undergone much improvement in terms of size, durability and
range of colors. The brightly colored bracts (often referred to
as the flowers) come not only in the traditional red, but also white,
yellow, pink and bicolors.
Selecting a Quality Plant
Look for a full plant with dark green leaves and brightly colored
bracts. Examine the true flowers, which are the small, round yellow
parts in the center of the bracts. If they are tightly closed, it
is an indicator that the plant is fresh. As the plant ages, the
true flowers will open. Avoid plants that are wilted, that have
faded bracts, or have lost their leaves. These plants have received
improper care and will not be long lasting.
When purchasing the plant, be sure to have the store clerk wrap
the plant in a paper sleeve or bag. Poinsettias are tropical plants
and are subject to chilling injury at temperatures below 50°F.
Do not leave the plant in a cold car while shopping, or carry it
home in the trunk.
Caring for Your Poinsettia at Home
Poinsettias must be cared for properly to insure that they flower
well for a long time. Water so that the planting mix is kept consistently
moist. Do not let the soil become soggy or overly dry as this will
stress the plant and decrease flowering time. A plant that has its
pot wrapped in decorative foil is at risk for over-watering. Punch
holes in the foil to let water drain through. Do not let the poinsettia
sit in a saucer full of water.
Keep the plant in a cool room (65-70°F) during the day and
drop the night temperatures another five degrees if possible. This
will help to extend the flowering time. Place the plant where it
will not be affected by either hot or cold drafts. Plants kept in
drafty areas may experience early leaf drop.
Give the plant good light. Bright, indirect light is ideal. The
plant can be placed in direct sunlight but this may increase its
water needs. North facing windows get very little light and should
After the holiday season is over, you may want to keep the plant
for next year. During the winter, maintain the poinsettia as you
would any other houseplant: give it good light, regular watering
and a monthly treatment with fertilizer. In spring, cut the stems
back to 4-6 inches tall to stimulate new growth. If you prefer not
to maintain the plant through winter, you can withhold water until
the leaves drop and store the plant at about 60°F, with minimal
watering until spring. In spring, cut stems back as described above
and begin watering again. After new growth begins, pinch out the
tips of the stems, if they appear to be growing too tall or leggy.
In summer, the plant can be kept indoors or placed outside. If
placed outside, start it out in a partially shaded area and gradually
move it to full sun after about two weeks. Fertilize as you would
other houseplants. In fall, bring the plant indoors before night
temperatures drop below 60°F.
Reflowering Your Poinsettia
Poinsettias can be difficult to reflower. Poinsettias are short-day
plants, which means they flower in response to short daylengths
(12 hours or less). To force a poinsettia to bloom, you must start
giving it long nights and short days starting around the last week
of September. From that week until around Thanksgiving, the plant
should receive about 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness everyday.
Any light during the dark period will delay flowering. The plant
will need to be in the light for the other 11 hours of the day.
The plant can be placed in a closet or box each day for the dark
period. Once the long night/short day treatment period is over,
you can treat the poinsettia the same as one just purchased from
the store (as described above).
December 2001 - January 2002: Pointsettas
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