That Continues to Give: Poinsettia
Every year we receive a treat that truly
begins our holiday season from my husbandís boss: a bright red poinsettia.
Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are recognized internationally as the
Christmas flower. (It is actually the bracts that are the RED color while the
flower is rather inconspicuous.) To keep these Mexican natives alive is one
thing; to make them bloom again is yet another. Simple survival requires an evenly moist soil and proper
climate control. Maintaining their health to enjoy the following Christmas
season requires patience and time.
Allow your plant to dry out a bit between
watering, but not get dry and droopy. About every three days should be
adequate. And donít water from the top of the plant, but at its roots making
sure the moisture goes where it is needed.
Submerge your poinsettia (but not the surrounding paper it usually is
wrapped with) into a bucket of water and when it quits bubbling, take it out.
And donít ever put it near a heat source, like a heater vent, or in
To encourage bloom next year, gradually cut back
on the watering after your poinsettia has stopped blooming but donít let it
dry out completely. You might
want to dilute soluble fertilizer by about 1/10 of normal strength and give a
little of it each time so that it still has some nutrition reserve. Repot the
plant in spring and reshape it to prevent legginess.
Pinch out the tips of new shoots and take it outside if you wish, but
make sure it is not in direct sunlight. As
the fall nights get cooler, bring the poinsettia back in to prepare it to
bloom. At the end of the season,
you should cut the plant way back. Then
keep it in a dark area. But
donít let the temperature get below forty degrees or so.
Poinsettias are tropical so they canít take the cold. A garage or
some other dark, cool room is a good holding place to get it ready to repeat
its cycle for Christmas. Since poinsettias are photoperiodic --- requiring a
twelve-hour period of absolute darkness each day in order to bloom --- one way
to trick them into performing is with a box.
Beginning anywhere from mid-September to October 1, place a box that
allows no light to penetrate it (you might need to cover the box with black
butcher paper) over the poinsettia at 5:00 p.m., then remove it at 8:00 the
next morning. Repeat this
procedure until you begin to see color in the top leaves, which typically is
Or, if you have a life, you can do like me: enjoy
your poinsettia while it is gorgeous, put it out of its misery when it begins
to fade and then wait expectantly until the next year for the holiday season
to begin again. And remember to send your boss a sweet ďthank youĒ note
for the plant. Maybe youíll get
another one next year!