By: Gary Garner Sr.
Many people invest in a beautiful poinsettia then take it home and make little or no effort to make it last. As soon as the plants colored leaves begin to yellow and fall, they simply toss the plant. To me that seems like such a waste. With just a little maintenance a poinsettia can be an attractive plant well into the spring. You can even take that a step further and have the plant last for years.
What is involved in purchasing and maintaining a poinsettia for a long period of time. Start with a healthy fresh plant. Poinsettias have been developed in recent years in many different colors. All of them started from red or white. The pinks, marble, purple, many red shades all came from the original red. When you see blue, bright green, etc. these plants have been sprayed with florist paint. They may be pretty, but they will not hold up for any length of time.
Once you get your plant home your next decision is where to set the plant. You want a location that will keep the plant away from direct heat and drafts. If possible, place the plant in a bright sunny spot near a window. Poinsettias thrive on sunlight.
Poinsettias need water but not excessive amounts. Usually watering once, a week is sufficient. The amount of water will depend on the size of the plant. If the plant has a foil wrap, I suggest you remove the wrap before watering. The wrap traps the water and may lead to root rot. Always, water underneath the leaves. Water on the leaves may cause spots on the leaves to discolor or lead to holes in the leaves. Overwatering is usually more of a problem than under watering. Overwatering can be a cause of early leaf drop.
No matter how well you maintain your plant its likely the leaves will begin to drop by late March or April. When that happens, cut the plant back to six or eight inches and repot it to a slightly larger pot. Keep it watered and in a bright sunny location. Once all danger of frost is past you can take the plant outside for the summer. Places in filtered sunlight, given ample water and fertilizer the plant will be an easy-care container plant for the summer. Remember as it grows through the summer its going to be a bushy green plant.
The tricky part comes next from green to the color plant you purchased. This will take some work and dedication. Starting in early October you need to give your plant twelve to fourteen hours of total darkness in a space just under 70 degrees. I can’t stress how important the light darkness cycle is. If you break that cycle by just a few minutes, it will affect how the plant colors. Basically, the light darkness cycle must start over. With a lot of luck and perseverance it can be done but it takes dedication.
True confession time. I tried to carry one over once. I had a nice green patio plant for the summer, but my dedication then fell short. For the winter I had a motely green plant with two or three red leaves scattered about. It did not make it into the house to be used as part of our Christmas decorations.
Look at the beautiful poinsettias and other houseplants at GARY’S GARDEN CENTER on Leesville Rd. Also, ask about maintenance and how to properly water the plants at time of purchase.