House & Home

A View From The Garden

Quite a few of us probably bought or were given a poinsettia this holiday season. And how beautiful they are!! I especially like the white and golden ones. But after the holidays are long gone, do you wish the plant would just curl up and die? Or are you determined to save it and make it grow and bloom again? I think that most of the time, they just continue to hang around and then we feel compelled to try and keep them. Well, here is how you do that:

A grower has gone to a lot of specific trouble to grow that plant and you will need to replicate those growing conditions to get yours to re-bloom. (Technically, to reproduce the colorful leaves called bracts that encircle the tiny real flowers that look like the center of a flower.) [expand]

First of all, I hope that when you brought it home, you put it into a bright spot in the house away from drafts and hot dry heat sources and that you removed the decorative foil or cellophane etc. so that the pot could drain thoroughly when you watered it. I hope you did not water it too much but just when it was dry and then maybe in the sink so that water could go all of the way through the plant and drain out the bottom completely before you put it back into that bright spot. I hope you handled it carefully as it is brittle and can be broken easily and that you checked frequently for bugs and sprayed it with horticultural soap if you found them. (Or maybe just threw that one away and got a new one so it would not infect your other house plants.)

So when the holidays are over and the plant finally begins to lose the colorful bracts (in about April), it is time to cut it back. If you want to keep it small, it can be cut back to within a couple of inches of the main stem, or it can just be pinched. Pinching and pruning should cause new shoots to grow on the stems. This is the time when it can be replanted, if needed, and you can begin to fertilize with a house plant fertilizer once per month.

When temps outside are reliably above 60 degrees day and night, the plant can be moved outdoors. Put it into the shade for the first couple of days and gradually day by day, move it into a sunnier spot until it is in partial sun all day. Water and fertilize as before, and keep pinching and looking for bugs.

When temps are about to go below 60 degrees in the fall, bring the plant inside and place in COMPLETE darkness. A black plastic bag works well, as even the smallest bit of light will throw off this next phase and no flowers will happen!!! It must be in this complete darkness for 12 to 13 hours per day. The other part of the day it must be in as much sun as possible. The temperature at night must be between 60 and 70 and in the day 70 to 85.

After two months of the above routine, put the plant into the sunniest spot and hope.

Actually, I think the best thing to do is to just bite the bullet and throw them away after you are tired of looking at them and buy another one next year!!!!

For gardening discussion, call Janelle Myers at 631-434-5067.

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