How to Make Poinsettias Last Longer
Unless you live in a tropical climate, you probably treat poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) as temporary houseplants.
With care, however, they can live— and look good— long past the holidays.
Cut Away Pot Sleeve Bottoms
Often, poinsettias are sold in nursery pots that are wrapped in foil, cellophane or some other non-porous decorative material. Although the pots have drainage holes, the wrapping material does not. It traps water, preventing the excess from draining away.
Poinsettias like moist soil. In fact, poinsettia plants may require water every other day. But they don't like soil that's soppy wet. They need drainage so that their roots don't rot.
To maintain the health of the plant, preserve the pretty wrapper and allow drainage, cut away the material that covers the bottom of the pot, leaving the wrapper sleeve intact.
An exacto knife, a box cutter or a pair of sharp, pointy scissors work well for this.
Keep Poinsettias Out of Drafts
Ever had a poinsettia lose its leaves soon after you brought it home?
The problem may have been due to a chilling injury that the plant incurred while it was in the store.
Poinsettias that are exposed to temperatures under 50 degrees F (10 degrees Celcius) often drop their leaves.
To avoid taking home chill-damaged plants, avoid buying poinsettias displayed in drafty areas, such as near store entrances and exits.
And once you bring your poinsettia home, place it in a warm spot away from drafty entryways.
Provide Bright Filtered Light
Poinsettias don't mind being moved around, and that's good news for those of us who use them as decorations during the holidays. But don't set them in strong light for too long.
Lots of bright, direct light will fade colorful poinsettia bracts—permanently.
On the other hand, poinsettia plants that have small, pale bracts probably aren't receiving enough light.
For holiday poinsettias with healthy, vivid color, set the plants a few feet from a window, preferably a south-facing one, allowing them no more than 11 hours of bright light each day.
Fertilize Every Two Weeks
Over time, potting mix loses its nutritional value. Not only do plants use soil nutrients, but they are also washed away by watering.
Applying a high phosphorus fertilizer to poinsettias every two weeks will keep the plants healthy, even if you've had them for a while.
Buy Young Poinsettia Plants
Young poinsettias have small bracts with undeveloped flowers at their centers. With care, they will put on a beautiful show throughout the holidays as they grow.
In order to reach maturity, the young plants need lots of bright, filtered light; fertilizer every other week; and moist, well-drained soil.
If you re-pot, using regular potting soil is fine.
Poinsettias are poisonous. When cut, they exude a milky sap that can irritate skin, causing contact dermatitis. When pruning and re-potting poinsettias, be sure to wear gloves. Afterwards, wash your garden shears and any other tools used in warm, soapy water.
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© 2012 Jill Spencer