by Denise Grant
Many people do not realize Poinsettias are a perennial plant. They are originally from Mexico and are more of a desert plant that likes warm weather. In the warmer climates they are huge bushes, almost resembling trees. The first poinsettia was discovered in the 1800’s by Joel Poinsett.
With proper care Poinsettias can be kept alive for years. My one Uncle has poinsettia plants that are over 15 years old. He has named them after the people who gave them to him for Christmas. Each year he trims them down and they come back bushier and prettier than the year before. My aunt who lives in Florida will set here out her poinsettias from spring to fall and bring them back in when the cold and frosts begin around the holidays. They grow to four or five feet tall.
How to care for your poinsettia.
Poinsettias love bright sunlight. When you have one in the house find a sunny window to set it in. If you live in a cold climate like I do make sure you don’t get the plant too close to the window. They are very sensitive to cold weather and the glass will be cold enough to affect the plant. Cold drafts are not good for the plant either. If you have a cold window or draft you may have to move the plant at night or find a better location in
A poinsettia needs watering when the soil is dry to the touch. They also like warm water.
If your poinsettias leaves are turning brown and falling off this is a sign that you are over watering them.
The poinsettia has become known as a Christmas plant but with the proper care will live all year long, with many of the new varieties blooming until May. In the spring the plants need to take a rest. When it’s time for them to rest for the season they will let you know: no matter what you do, your poinsettia will look sickly, thin down in leaves and the leaves will turn yellow.
When this happens move your Poinsettia to a cool, light place and reduce watering the plant until the soil is nearly bone dry. At this time the plant will look leggy. Cut the stems back to about three inches. This will let the plant go to sleep and when it is ready to grow again it will come back full and beautiful. Your poinsettia will bleed a little when you trim it so have some powdered charcoal on hand and use it to stop the bleeding.
If you want additional plants take the cuttings that you have removed from the plant and cut into six inch pieces. Place these in soil and add some root tone and they will root. I also cover the pot with plastic for a greenhouse effect. Some people start poinsettias in florist oasis sections.
When it’s time to set your poinsettia out to grow for a new season, repot it using fresh soil. Give it a light touch of water and sit it in a sunny, cool window. You will soon begin to see new shoots sprouting from the stems. Keep these trimmed back to only three or four shoots. This will keep your Poinsettia from being too bushy and allow plenty of room for the leaves to develop to a large size.
You can put your Poinsettia outside after all danger of frost is past. If you place the planting full sun it can stay outdoors until fall. But in colder climates you may have to bring it in at night. My poinsettia can set outdoors in my Zone 5 climate if it’s on the patio or outdoor garden room where it’s sheltered from wind. Poinsettias do not handle any frost at all and even cold night will slow its growth.
Many people will se the pot in the ground for protection from cold and for the warmth from the ground. If you choose to do so, turn the plant once in awhile so that it get equal amounts of sun on all sides and grows evenly. Give the plant a little fertilizer two or three times a year during its growing season.
How to get your Poinsettia to bloom
A Poinsettia is a short day plant, so in order to make your Poinsettia bloom again it needs uninterrupted dark. Your plant will need at least 15 hours of total darkness each day. The best place for your plant to have total darkness is in a closet or cellar if it’s not cold or drafty. Yes, it sounds cruel but its just the cycle this plant is accustomed to and needs to reach its full color.
Start this process in late September and continue through to around Thanksgiving. You will notice your plant will have leaved out and the colors will be returning. Bring them back out into the daylight and thoroughly water it again. While this may take a little time and effort, when these plants are again making a lovely display during the holidays.
These plants do take effort to make them colorful but they are such pretty plants and having one for years with all the memories attached makes the plants twice as meaningful.
Poinsettias are beautiful plants but they are toxic so watch children and animals around the plants.
Denise Grant is a native of Kinzua and resident of Akelely, PA. You can follow her blog at The Gardener's Rake.