Dr. Grow: Help for your holiday plant

Wednesday, December 10, 2008
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com
While traditional red poinsettias are still predominant, varieties with other colors are available.

Everywhere you go during the holiday season, you seem to find poinsettias. This "Christmas flower" is gaining more and more popularity as evidenced by the increasing number of new varieties on the market. You can find a color that will go with any decor.

If you purchase a poinsettia during this season or get one as a gift, you need to remember several things in order to care for it so that it continues to bloom and enhance your home or office.

* When you take your poinsettia outside to transport it, make sure it is covered with a paper sleeve if the temperature is below 40 degrees.

* When you get your poinsettia to its destination, remove the protective sleeve. If foil is wrapped around the foliage, pull it down so the leaves will not turn yellow.

* Place your poinsettia in a location without a draft.

* Check your plant daily for moisture. The soil must be kept wet at all times. If the surface of the soil feels dry, give it a good drink, but do not allow the plant to sit in excess moisture that may have drained out of the pot after watering.

* Handle the plant carefully. Poinsettia bracts (the colorful leaves) are sensitive to bruising.

* Keep your home or office at 65 to 70 degrees during the day and 60 to 65 degrees during the night.

* Place the poinsettia in a bright area, but never in direct sunlight.

Most people throw their poinsettia away after the Christmas season. I suggest you keep your plant through the year and get it to rebloom next year. In order to do this, treat the poinsettia plant like a regular houseplant after the holidays. Water it as needed and feed it every month with a balanced fertilizer.

At the beginning of summer, repot your poinsettia and cut the stems back to about 8 inches. Take the plant outside and place it in a partially shaded area. Water as need and fertilize it monthly with the balanced fertilizer.

At the end of August, take your poinsettia inside and cut back the stems. Leave four or five leaves per shoot. Place it in a sunny window, water as needed, and fertilize with a high-phosphorus fertilizer each month.

Around Sept. 15, begin treating your plant with extended periods of darkness at night. Place it in a closet each night for 15 hours of uninterrupted darkness. Then during the day, place it in a sunny window. Continue to water as needed and feed monthly with the balanced fertilizer.

If all goes well you should have a "blooming" poinsettia in December. Not only will you have Christmas color next year, but you will have the fun of doing it yourself.

Send your gardening and landscape questions to Paul Schnare at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63702-0699 or by e-mail to news@semissourian.com.

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