Poinsettias are one of the most popular holiday plants in the United States. Here along the Central Coast, we are blessed with several local producers that keep local nurseries stocked with some of the highest quality plants in the nation. The purpose of this short article is to help you select and care for a “nursery quality” poinsettia.
The most important piece to selecting the right poinsettia these days is color and texture. Thanks to modern breeding, poinsettias come in an ever increasing range of colors including marbled and speckled varieties. Some of my personal favorites are the “Picasso” and “Ice Crystal” varieties. The color in these are amazing.
When selecting poinsettias, look for plants that are fully mature with good color. Plants with too many green leaves will often not mature and provide color in time for the holiday. The foliage of the plant should be dark green in color, indicating good health.
The proportion of plant height and shape relative to container size is also an important factor.
Plants should appear balanced, full and attractive from all angles. A generally accepted standard is that the plant should be approximately 2½ times taller than the diameter of the container. Finally, you will want to select plants with stiff stems, good bract and leaf retention and no signs of wilting, breaking or drooping. Often times over-watering of poinsettias can cause drooping and leaf drop.
Once you have selected your poinsettia, you’ll want to place it in a relatively warm place with temperatures no less than 50 degrees. Over-watering is the biggest issue so be careful when watering. Always water from the side and be sure to feel the soil to make sure it even needs water. If the top inch feels moist, then your poinsettia does not need water.
Should your poinsettia be inside a decorative pot, remove your poinsettia for watering. Take it to the sink to water thoroughly until water flows through the pot. Allow the poinsettia to drain thoroughly before returning to its decorative pot.
When you get your plant home, either remove the foil wrap entirely or poke holes in the bottom or it so you plant won’t sit in standing water. Check the soil moisture every 3-4 days by poking with your finger. Poinsettias prefer to be kept evenly moist (not soggy) so let only soil surface become dry between watering. The environment in every home varies so feeling the soil is the best indicator of when your plant needs water.
For good color and vigorous growth, begin a regular fertilizing program as soon as your plant gets home. Use 1 Tablespoon of Miracle Gro per gallon of water, every two weeks. Use enough ofthe solution so that a little comes out the bottom of the pot.
Poinsettias need 4-6 hours of bright, indirect light every day. Place your plant in an eastern window or in a southern or western window with some protection from direct sun (a sheer curtain, an overhang or tree, etc.)
Locate your plant away from drafts, radiators and heaters. If your house is heated above 65 degrees at night, place your Poinsettia on the ground or near a window where it’s cooler.
You can even bring back the bloom and colorful bracts next holiday season by continuing with you regular fertilizing and watering and by following these simple steps. You can keep the plant outdoors spring through fall in part shade if you choose.
St Patrick’s day- Cut stems back to 6″ or so leaving 3 nodes (place where leaves join the stem) per stem.
Memorial Day- Repot if necessary into a pot 2″ larger in diameter and pinch stem tips to encourage bushiness.
July 4th– Pinch tips back again.
Labor Day- Move plant back indoors if it has been out, check for insects (bring a sample if you see any), and keep it in 4-6 hours of direct sun a day.
Columbus Day- Your plant now needs 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness every day for 10 weeks or so. Place plant in closet or cover with a cardboard box form 6pm -8am daily. Move back into bright light after colorful bracts have developed and enjoy!
Now that you know you can keep your Poinsettia all year here is a video on replanting you may enjoy!
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