The red flowering poinsettia is by far the most popular flowering potted plant for the Christmas season. White, pink, and variegated white and pink are also available. Many new, long lasting varieties of poinsettias are now available. If properly cared for they may last a month or more after Christmas.
Care of the New Plant
- Poinsettias use a lot of water. Check daily. Make sure soil remains moist, but do not allow water to remain beneath the pot in the saucer or wrapping. Too much water will cause the roots to rot, and the plant will deteriorate.
- Keep the plant out of drafts. Excessively hot, dry air from heating ducts will reduce the life of the plant. Also avoid cold drafts. Poinsettias are semi-tropical, and cannot tolerate cold temperatures or rapid temperature changes.
- Keep the plant where temperatures remain above 60 degrees. Temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees are ideal. It is not necessary to move poinsettias into a cool room at night.
- Place the plant in good light, but not direct sun.
- Do not allow the plant to wilt. Poinsettias are closely related to many desert plants. Their first response to dry conditions is to drop their leaves in order to cut down water loss.
Poinsettias are perhaps the most difficult flowering potted plants to rebloom in the home. Unless there is a special interest to try the technique, discard the plant after flowering.
After blooming, gradually withhold water. The leaves will then yellow and fall. Store 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.
In spring place the plant in a warm room, and prune the stems back to about 6 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. House plant potting soils available at garden shops are satisfactory. Or use one part garden soil, one part peat moss or leaf mold, and one part sand or perlite.
After repotting, place the plants in a bright sunny south window until frost danger is past. 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 the surrounding soil.
As new shoots develop, cut them back to allow two nodes or pairs of leaves to remain. Do not pinch back shoots after mid-August.
Plants may be started from cuttings, but rooting is fairly difficult under home conditions.
Keep the plant in a 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. Night temperatures for flower development should be between 60 and 62 degrees. At higher temperatures, flower development will be poor. Day temperatures may be 70 to 75 degrees.
The poinsettia is a short day (long night) plant. Make sure that it receives no additional light at night while flowers are forming. This 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 a. m. each morning.
If these procedures are followed carefully, the plants should flower by mid