How to Care for Poinsettias
Poinsettias are known for being the official Christmas plant for the holidays but they used to be considered a weed in Mexico where when planted in the ground they can reach up to 10′ tall!
Basically, if treated like a house plant, they will do just fine. However, getting them to re-bloom is a whole different challenge we will discuss here.
Several years ago, I gave Poinsettia tours at a greenhouse that grew them over 400,000 cuttings for wholesale.
Technically, the colored bracts on poinsettias are not flowers but leaves. They require a dark period of 12-15 hours for a period of time in order to turn color, which is why we use a black out cloth to trigger this reaction.
Once they turn though, they will need plenty of bright light to intensify the hues. It’s important to keep them at least 10 feet from any cold drafts and to not let them get below 13 degrees.
Watering is the biggest factor that leads to a quick death. Let them dry out slightly between watering and don’t give them more than a 1/4 cup at a time. You can use the same liquid fertilizer you would use for your house plants as they should be treated as such.
Trying to get poinsettias to re-bloom is a challenge but if your up for it then this is what you would do.
Once the colored bracts fall off, cut back the stems to just below the flowers. Allow to grow until spring where you would place them outside in bright, indirect light once the temperatures remained above 10 degrees.
They will stay green but about midsummer cut back by 1/3 to 1/2. Bring them back indoors before the night time temps fall below 10 degrees again.
Between September 20 through the end of October, the plants need uninterrupted darkness for 12-15 hours at a time. Basically put a box over it from 5 pm to 8 am the next day during this darkness period and make sure not one single crack of light gets through… as this will stop the photoperiodism.
Feed them houseplant fertilizer and give them plenty of bright light when the bracts begin to color up.
We should talk about the myth that they are poisonous. True, they are a latex plant from the rubber tree family and they produce a milky sap that can trigger an allergic reaction to those who are sensitive to latex.
The myth that they are poisonous was brought on by a tragic death of child back in 1919 where it was attributed to ingesting the leaves of a poinsettia. However, there has been extensive studies done… more on this plant than any other in the florist industry that proves otherwise.
Simply put, a child would have to eat 500-600 leaves in order to exceed the tests done on laboratory rats that showed no signs of toxicity or side effects from ingesting the plant.
Besides all that, they are so bitter it’s doubtful your cat, dog or child could make it through one leaf. So, set that myth a side and get on with enjoying this favorite seasonal beauty!
I feel very fortunate that I get to be surrounded by beautiful plants every day. There is no doubt about it, when you are in greenhouses with plants in bloom..
their highest expression of joy
… you feel it too.
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