to Make a Poinsettia Flower Again
Poinsettias are cheerful symbols of the holiday season that are often given and received as gifts. Offered in abundance before the holidays, poinsettias are typically thought of as
"throwaway" plants to be set on the curb when their red blooms eventually fade. Rather than buying a new plant each December, with proper care you can make your lovely poinsettia flower again for another holiday season.
If you hope to enjoy your poinsettia for another holiday season, it should be cut back to about four inches in April. The plant should be watered when the surface of the soil feels dry and it should be fertilized twice a month. By late May new growth will begin to appear. But do not expect to see your poinsettia flower again quite yet.
Once there is no more danger of frost and the nighttime temperatures stay above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, your poinsettia may be kept outdoors for the summer. Continue to fertilize the poinsettia every two weeks during the summer with a general purpose fertilizer, and prune the plant to keep a full and compact shape. The best time to prune the growing poinsettia is late June through early July and again in mid August. When pruning the poinsettia in August, pinch back the new stems so three to four leaves remain on each stem. This will help to keep the plant compact and avoid an unsightly, leggy poinsettia. No pruning should be done after the first of September.
In warm Southern climates a poinsettia may be planted directly in the garden during the summer, but in cool Northern climates it is best to transplant your poinsettia into a pot that is just slightly larger than its original pot. This can be done in early June in most areas. Be sure to use a well-draining potting soil. A poinsettia is likely to protest vehemently if it has to sit in standing water. Keep the poinsettia in an area where it will receive bright indirect sunlight.
To make a poinsettia flower for the holidays, the plant must be kept in total darkness for fourteen hours each night during the months of October, November and early December. During that same time the plant should also receive six to eight hours of bright sunlight each day. This can be accomplished by moving the poinsettia to a dark closet each night between 5 PM and 8 AM, making sure that no light sneaks beneath the door. Or simply cover the plant with a large box overnight. No peeking! Even the smallest amount of stray light will upset the schedule and the poinsettia will not flower.
Strictly follow this schedule of six to eight hours of daylight and fourteen hours of total darkness for eight to ten weeks. Continue to fertilize the plant twice a month until mid December. With a bit of planning and some luck, your carefully-tended poinsettia will flower and reward your efforts with a colorful holiday display.
by Michael J. McGroarty