Poinsettias, also known as Christmas plants, remain one of the most popular holiday flowers. They are a member of the euphorbia family (Euphorbia pulcherrima) and originate from Central America. The showy red, pink, white, or bicolored portion of the plant, popularly referred to as the flower, consists of modified leaves or bracts.
If you take proper care of your poinsettia plant, it will last well beyond Christmas and into the next year. In fact, poinsettia plants grow well all year round, and even thrive in warm summer conditions. Best of all, you might be able to force it to bloom the next holiday season. There’s no reason to get rid of the plant once Christmas is over.
Follow these tips for good poinsettia care:
Selection – Choose a young, healthy poinsettia to bring into your home. The foliage should be full, attractive and balanced looking. Examine foliage to ensure it is dark green down to the soil. Avoid buying one with bracts, or leaves that are green around the edges. This colouring means it was shipped before maturity. The plant should be at least two times taller than its container. Dip your finger into the soil. If it is wet and the plant appears wilted, it probably has root rot.
Location – Place the poinsettia in indirect light in your home. It should receive six hours of indirect light daily. Avoid bright sunlight, which can damage your plant. Place it behind a screen or curtain near the window. Do not leave it in your garage or put it near a heating vent or cool window. Extreme warm or cold temperatures can damage the plant and lead to loss of leaves. Do not display it on top of a television.
Temperature – Keep the plant at a daytime temperature of 16 to 21 degrees Celsius and about 13 degrees at night. Transfer the plant to a cool room at night, if necessary.
– Before watering, check the soil. Give your poinsettia water only when soil is dry. If you leave the plant in its decorative foil wrapper, punch holes in the bottom to ensure proper drainage. Do not let the plant sit in a drainage dish of water. Poinsettias thrive under humidity, so lightly mist the leaves occasionally. Water the plant immediately if you notice wilting and dropping of leaves. Wait a few minutes and water again.
– Feed your poinsettia with a soluble houseplant fertiliser once a month. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully. Avoid feeding it while the plant is in bloom.
Forcing another bloom
– In some cases, poinsettias can be made to bloom again. Start to force-bloom your poinsettia about 10 weeks before you want it blossom. In late September or early October next year, place your poinsettia in darkness for 12 to 14 hours a night. Consider storing it overnight in a closet, box, or cabinet. It’s important that dark conditions are strictly maintained as any stray light could negatively impact the flowering process. During the daytime, bring the poinsettia into the sun until it flowers.
– After the festive season, remove any dry or dead foliage. After the poinsettia bracts fall off, let the plant dry out. However, do not let the stems shrivel. Move it to a cool location of about 13 degrees.
In May, cut the stems back to 10cm above the soil. Repot the plant in a new container that is no more than 10cm bigger than the original container. Use a fresh potting mix without soil, but high in organic matter, like peat moss or leaf mould. Put the container in a sunny location and water it well. Encourage new growth with a water-soluble fertiliser every two weeks.
– Poinsettia plants are susceptible to other pests that infest house plants. Check the leaves of the plant regularly for insects like white fly, gnats and fungus. Washing the leaves can help keep insects at bay. If you find them, treat them immediately with insecticidal soap or an indoor pesticide recommended by a sales consultant at your closest Stodels garden centre.
Interesting Poinsettia facts:
- Poinsettias are native to Mexico.
- Poinsettias are not poisonous.
- Some people may experience a skin irritation from the milky sap.
- 12 December is National Poinsettia Day in America.
- Poinsettias are the most popular Christmas plant, even though most are sold in just a six-week period.
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