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Post-Christmas poinsettia care. January 5, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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If you’re like our friend Ben and Silence Dogood, you probably have a poinsettia or two (or, in our case, seven) around the house after Christmas. And, while you might not be ambitious enough to try to rebloom your poinsettias next holiday season (this requires a lot of effort and expertise), you also might want, like us, to keep your plants gorgeous and thriving as long as possible.

Here are some tips to prolong your poinsettias’ life and attractiveness:

* Consider the source. Poinsettias are tropical shrubs, native to Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. We think of them as disposable seasonal annuals, but these hardy perennial plants bloom in winter in the U.S. because it’s their normal bloom season (summer) where they’re native.

* Consider the more immediate source. Our Christmas poinsettias have been very carefully raised under specific light, humidity, heat, and fertilizer regimens in commercial greenhouses. Then suddenly, they’re in your house, with typically low light, cooler temps, and extremely dry winter air. Surprise! They’re not happy.

* Don’t overwater. If you’ve ever tried growing poinsettias before, you’ll probably have noticed the awful tendency the plants have to drop shriveled or even fresh leaves and colorful bracts (the things neophytes think are flowers, but are really colored leaves; the flowers are the tiny yellow knobs in the center of the so-called petals). To prolong your poinsettia’s life, let the soil dry in the pot before watering, and don’t water so heavily that the plant sits in water. This will kill your plant faster than anything short of leaving it outside in freezing temperatures.

* Give them light. We’re talking about tropical plants here, not to mention plants raised in high-light conditions in greenhouses. Instead of placing them where they’ll add the most decorative accents to your house, why not give them as much light as possible during the day, then placing them in their decorative positions at night. You’ll both be happy.

* How long will they live? If you follow all the tips for poinsettia care I’ve listed, you’ll have a lot less leaf and bract (the colored “flower” leaves) drop than you would otherwise. If you have the patience, I’d recommend coaxing your poinsettias along through the cold months, then setting them out on your deck or patio with your other container plants. You’ll get some handsome plants for your minimal effort. But I don’t recommend trying to rebloom them. Far better to start with new plants every year.

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