Reflowering your poinsettia
December 20, 2005
Lunceford on Landscaping.BY LU SNYDERSo many poinsettias are thrown away after Christmas, you wouldn’t know they can provide years of color and enjoyment. This year, as you clean up the mess from the holidays, don’t toss your poinsettias in the trash. Keep them for next year. It’s easy to get poinsettias to bloom year after year – you just need to follow some basic guidelines.
Though you needn’t fertilize your poinsettias while in bloom, begin fertilizing them once a month in January. The added nutrients will help keep your plant healthy and growing. A slow-release, water-soluble fertilizer, such as Age Old Organic’s grow formula, can be particularly beneficial.Prune your plant, in late spring or early summer, by removing the bracts (the colorful leaves that many think of as the flowers) and cutting the stems – leaving a few leaves on each stem.Remember, by pruning you are guiding the shape of your poinsettia – whether you want it to grow short and bushy, or tall like a tree.This is also the time you should repot your plant. As with any plant, replant it into a pot only 2 to 3 inches larger than the old one and use a well-drained potting soil.
The pros at Colorado State University’s Cooperative Extension recommend adding one tablespoon of treble super phosphate (or you could add three tablespoons of super phosphate instead) to each gallon of soil.Place your poinsettia in a sunny area where there is little temperature fluctuation – ideally, where the temperature only ranges between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.In warmer climates, it’s OK to put your poinsettia outside for the summer once the night’s are above 50. But Summit County’s summer nights often dip into the 40’s and 30’s, so (unless you’re diligent about bringing it in when the mercury drops) it’s best to keep it inside year-round. Water your plant regularly throughout the spring and summer, and turn it regularly to encourage even growth. If you want a bushier plant, pinch back the longer shoots.
Stop pruning and reduce fertilization by the end of August.Unlike most plants that bloom as the days get longer, poinsettias require long, dark nights to set buds and flowers. To get poinsettias to bloom in time for the holidays, begin putting them in complete darkness – for 15 hours a day – at the beginning of October. Use a heavy, opaque bag or inverted garbage can to cover your plant, or put it in a dark closet. You must not let your plant receive even the slightest amount of light during this required dark period. Even a little bit of light can delay or stop the flowering process.
Place your poinsettia in the sun during the remainder of the day. As November comes to a close, the bracts should begin to show their color. Continue to give your plant the required darkness daily, into the beginning of December. You can uncover it as the holidays approach.Getting your poinsettias to reflower is a simple, satisfying and inexpensive way to decorate your home for the holidays, year after year. LU SNYDER writes for Neils Lunceford Inc., a local landscape and design company based in Silverthorne. Contact the nursery at (970) 468-0340 with any questions.