How To Care For Poinsettias

Recently I came across an article about poinsettias. I thought that perhaps you may be interested in learning more. If you’re like me, you’ve either purchased or recieved one of these lovely plants at holiday time and would like to know the steps to keep them alive to reflower again the next year!

How to care for Poinsettias

By Kurt M. Jones, content courtesy of Colorado State University Extension Office

Poinsettias often lose their color in late winter, usually by mid-March. When the plant has passed its stage of usefulness in March or April, remove the colorful bracts and part of the stem. The cutting back can be done anytime from March through mid-July, depending on the desireable size and shape of the plant. Be sure to leave three or four leaves on each stem to insure suf?cient photosynthesis.

During early summer, the plant will need to be repotted into the next larger size pot. Use a well-drained potting soil, such as a blend of sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite and/or perlite.

Thoroughly mixing a phosphate fertilizer with the soil at the time of repotting is a common practice. Place the poinsettia in a bright area where the temperature will remain constant. Water as needed to keep the soil moist to the touch, and fertilize with a complete fertilizer every two to three weeks.

During the summer, the plant can go outside if it is partially shaded and temperature doesn’t fall below 55 degrees. To keep the plant well-formed, trim tall growth at six-week intervals. The last pruning should occur in late August.

Poinsettias are short-day photoperiodic plants. This means they set buds and produce ?owers as the autumn nights lengthen, blooming naturally during November or December.

To lower and develop colored bracts, a poinsettia must receive as much sunshine as possible during the day. Starting about Oct. 1, it also needs atleast 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night at a temperature between 60 and 70 degrees.

Stray light of any kind such as street lights, pool lights or lamps could delay or halt the re?owering process. Keep this dark treatment until color shows in the bracts.

This normally happens near Thanksgiving, but could happen as early as two weeks before Thanksgiving. Continue watering and fertilizing to encourage good growth.

There are many pests that can infest poinsettias. Insects should be washed off with a mild soap solution using a sponge or spray bottle.Mealybugs and white?ies may require a pesticide treatment or removal of infested plant parts. Mealybugs can be treated using rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs.

Cool, moist soil temperature encourages root diseases. If lower leaves start turning yellow and fall off, root rot may be present. This can be overcome by using a fungicide as a soil drench.

One common misconception with poinsettias is fear they are poisonous. In a 1995 poll, 2 of every 3 people held the false impression poinsettia plants are toxic if eaten. Research conducted at Ohio State University showed rats fed unusually high doses of poinsettia plant parts were not adversely affected. To equal this experiment, a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 500 poinsettia bracts. Based on that research, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission denied a 1975 petition to label poinsettias as dangerous. Poinsettias are not edible and are not intended to be eaten.

If eaten, parts of all plants may cause varying degrees of discomfort, but usually not death. Keep all plants out of reach from small children.

If you would like more information about poinsettia care, call the extension of?ce at 539-6447 or visit us at the fairgrounds in Poncha Springs. Kurt M. Jones is the Colorado State University extension director for Chaffee and Park counties.

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