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What To Do With The Poinsettia

If you had a poinsettia for the Christmas season, by January you may be wondering what to do with it. When the plant completes the blooming cycle, you can either dispose of the plant or take the challenge and start a program that brings it into bloom again next December. Although this is actually a simple procedure, it is a lengthy one, and often neglect to stick to the schedule results in no bloom. After flowering ceases in January and leaves begin to drop, keep the plant on the cool side, watering once a month until spring. When spring arrives blend one teaspoon of 14-14-14 slow-release fertilizer into enough soilless mix to repot your plant. Cut it back to four or five inches. When new leaves start growing and danger of spring frosts are over, plant, pot and all, outdoors in a bright location for most of the summer, allowing it to dry out between each watering. Pinching encourages more branches therefore more blooms. In Mexico, poinsettias grow outdoors as shrubs. To control the stem elongation in potted plants, commercial growers often use a growth retardant. Garden centres usually sell this product, however, I omit using it and enjoy a slightly taller plant.

By late August and before fall frosts are upon us, dig up the potted plant and position pot and plant into an attractive, decorated container indoors. Another teaspoon of 14-14-14 slow-release fertilizer will do wonders now to carry the plant through the upcoming winter. To initiate flower buds, poinsettias require complete, uninterrupted darkness for 14 hours followed by 10 hours of daylight. Generally, the bracts begin to reveal colour within six to eight weeks. An unused room often works best to manage the light and dark cycle. The old saying that if you cannot get your poinsettia to rebloom it is likely that you have not put it to bed early enough, is actually true. Even a yard light can prevent the leaf bracts from developing vibrant colours.

Observing this astonishing transformation is a unique experience for any home gardener. By December, when bracts are in full colour, bring the magnificent plant back amid the lights and enjoy this holiday beauty.

– Lillian Deedman writes from Killarney, Manitoba

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