Have a "Pointy" Christmas...
It's the time of year when our halls are decked with brilliant red hues. And the flower of the season? Poinsettia. It's poisonous plant that we all love and adore, and that with a little love, will bloom long after the fa-la-la's have faded into a new year. (And if you want this colorful gem to bloom again for the next season of red....well, I have a few hacks for that...(but in all honesty, It's a tall order.)
So, without further ado, here are some tips on how to care for poinsettias during the season:
1. First and foremost, Buy a Healthy Poinsettia
Inspect poinsettias carefully before you buy a plant for decor or gifting. A healthy plant has:
Dark green foliage before color develops.
The red (or other colored leaves) will be completely colored WITHOUT green perimeters.
Lush and filled with leaves, not yellow and sparsely covered (yellow is often a sign of iron deficiency or illness)
Balanced from all sides (so, try not to find one that looks like its been through the ringer)
Displayed naked without plastic sleeves that can cause plants to droop. Cover the plant only when transporting in temperatures below 50 degrees.
2.5 times taller than its diameter.
2. Be Careful Taking It Home (Poinsettias Hate Cold)
Although known for the Christmastime decoration abilities, poinsettias actually originated in Mexico and don’t like the cold, even for a few minutes (which isn't always a problem in North Texas, but....) Make sure you wrap the plant before driving it home, and then keep it away from hot and cold drafts, such as heating vents or drafty doors and windows, which can make leaves drop. (and note, that your porch is not a great idea either for the plant's health, or that of any pets that might think a nibble is a good idea).
3. Once You Get It Home, Pay Attention to these details:
• Avoid Direct Sunlight. Poinsettia's do best with about 6 hours of indirect light a day.
• Just like they hate the cold, poinsettia's prefer to avoid the heat as well. A comfortable 70 degrees day and night should do them well.
• Find the right amount of neglect when it comes to watering. Water only when the soil is dry to the touch. (*Hint: If you keep the plant in foil, poke a hole in the bottom of the foil to allow water to drain and prevent root rot, and be sure to empty drip trays after watering. )
•. Feed blooming poinsettias every 2 to 3 weeks with a water-soluble plant food; water monthly after blooming.
4. Want it to Bloom again? (#perennial)
This won't be an easy fete, however, if every month for the following year you take time to groom or repot the plant, you might just have luck in inducing additional blooming seasons.
Below are some monthly tips:
January-May: Daily sunlight and just enough water to keep the soil moist (Not soggy). Feed with fertilizer every 2-3 weeks. And in early April, you'll see a need to prune your poinsettia to 6-8 inches tall.
June: It's time to repot your poinsettia with fresh soil and move it outside where it can get 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. (but check it regularly so you don't scorch the leaves or dehydrate the soil.) Continue fertilizing until early fall.
Late July: It's time to prune back the poinsettia. Feel free to take of 2-3 leaves on each stem, and if necessary, remove the top of the plant to prevent it from getting "leggy."
Early Fall: If our temps drop into the 50s at night, it's time to bring the poinsettia inside. Otherwise, continue fertilizing and watering when the soil becomes dry to the touch. (and don't forget to let the plant see some daylight.)
October to November: To force the leaves to color to red again, the plant needs uninterrupted darkness from 5 p.m. to about 8 a.m., and then returned to bright sun for the rest of the day. Fertilize weekly. Once the leaves begin to color, suspend the dark-light routine, and keep the plant moist and in a sunny spot for 6-8 hours daily. After the full color has been achieved (congratulations!), stop fertilizing and move the poinsettia to wherever it will be admired most and get ready for Christmas!