Poinsettias- A Holiday Favourite
One of the most sold, indoor flowers, the poinsettia has become a big part of Christmas décor. It seems there is at least one poinsettia in every home. Poinsettias come in a wide range of styles, and colour including cream, burgundy, pink, cream/pink, spattered, etc, but red is still the most popular.
Choosing a healthy plant and keeping it healthy will mean that you can keep the poinsettia looking good throughout the Christmas season.
In order to look for a healthy plant, you want to be able to thoroughly see it, so make sure that it is not wrapped in a plastic mesh sleeve. Sleeves also prevent air flow which is important to a plants health.
Look for a plant that has strong sturdy stems and leaves that go down the length of the stem, down to the soil level. The plant should be full of lots of green, healthy leaves.
Then look at the bracts, the colourful part of the plant, which is what makes the plant attractive. The bracts should be full of colour with no green around the edges.
Inside the bract is the true flower (cyathia) This is the cluster of small yellow buds. The yellow buds should be tight and closed as this means that the plant still has many weeks left to bloom.
Also check the plants shape and proportion. It should be evenly balanced and be 2 ½ times taller than the pot size.
When you have picked out the perfect plant, it needs to be transported to its destination. It should be placed in a sleeve before taking it outdoors as poinsettias are sensitive to cold. If the temperatures are very cold, warm up the car first before bringing the plant to the car. Don’t leave the poinsettia in an unheated car, as the car will cool down quickly, and the plant will become cold. Once a poinsettia has been chilled, it will drop its leaves and will never recover.
Poinsettias require at least 6 hours of light every day so put them near a window. Avoid areas where there are drafts, heating vents, radiators, fireplaces, outside doors or where temperatures change quickly. Poinsettias enjoy room temperatures of 18-22 Celsius.
Over or under-watering can also be harmful to a poinsettia, causing the leaves to drop. The soil should remain evenly moist, but not too wet. It also should not be allowed to go too dry. When the top of the soil is dry to the touch, give the plant a thorough water, using room temperature water and avoiding getting water on the foliage. After a few minutes, throw out any excess water from the tray.
Many poinsettias get tossed into the compost after the bracts have lost their colour, but they can be saved and brought back into bloom for the following year. Treat as a houseplant and by March/April when the coloured bracts have faded the plant can be pruned back to 20 cm so that each stem has 4-6 buds. Continue to give it lots of light, water, and fertilize it regularly with a well balanced fertilizer such as 20-20-20.
By the end of May the poinsettia will have put on lots of new growth and is ready to be transplanted into a pot one size larger than it is currently in. Always use a good quality potting soil when transplanting. Place it in area where it will receive lots of bright, indirect light (avoid direct summer sun). Treat as a houseplant, watering and fertilizing. To keep the plant looking full and compact, give it a trim in July and then later pinch out the growing tips to encourage more new shoots. Stop any pruning in September and allow the plant to grow.
Poinsettias are a photoperiodic plant and need the right amount of light and darkness to get back into bloom. Starting in October, place the plant in a space where it will receive 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night and 6-8 hours of bright sunlight each day. This cycle cannot be broken. If you don’t have a room to place the plant in, you can use a box to cover the plant, or place it in the closet at night. While the plant is going through this process, it still being watered and fertilized regularly. It will take 8-10 weeks for the plant to form colourful bracts, just in time for Christmas!
Jos Van Hage owns and operates two Art Knapp Home and Garden Centres in Prince George
- Highway 16 West at Kimball Road
- Highway 97 North at Northwood Pulpmill Road ( closed for the season)