I’d be interested in hearing any success stories. Who out there has taken the challenge—keeping a commercially-grown poinsettia plant going and growing after the holiday festivities are over. Any ‘noche buena’ success story will do. Have you had a Euphorbia pulcherrimal eureka—either indoor or outdoor?
I’ve never tried this but I’m happy to pass along a conglomeration of advice I found:
First, you’ll want to try this with the healthiest of the poinsettias you purchased in the first place. When one buys a poinsettia plant, make sure it has not been exposed to the cold. Preferably you’ll want its flowers still closed (little flowers are at the center of the large colorful bracts), no wilted green leaves, or really soggy soil. Also avoid poinsettias that have been displayed crowded amongst others and displayed in sleeves. They need air circulation. When transporting from shop to home, keep them protected in a bag shielded from windy cold as much as possible; don’t leave them in a cold car. That goes for transporting at any time.
Tender Loving Care once home: If they are protected from drafts and heat sources, kept in rooms between 68 and 72 degrees, and enjoy six hours of indirect sun or fluorescent light (not too bright) you may be able to eke the plant out for a full six to eight weeks. They don’t like watering extremes—so don’t let the soil get too dry or stay too wet. If you’re still using the decorative foil, remove it so water may drain. If your home is dry you may keep it in a gravel-filled pan half-filled with water to help with humidity. Refrain from adding fertilizer until after the blooming season.
If the plant has managed to make it through March (that’s a success in and of itself) cut the stems back to eight inches on April Fool’s Day. Keep watering, but at this point it might need less water due to the lesser foliage. You can use some all-purpose fertilizer once a month.
Look for the new growth to appear in May (you’re doing great). Fertilize every two or three weeks with a balanced all-purpose fertilizer.
Halfway there. Come summer move the plant outdoors, night temperatures should not go below 55 degrees. Around June 1 you may ramp up the size of the poinsettia’s pot. Lots of organic peat moss or leaf mold is recommended. They enjoy indirect sun and regular watering as usual.
Plan on pruning the plant in late June/early July for shapeliness, no later than September 1 though. In mid-July pinch each stem back, leaving 3 – 4 leaves on each stem.
In the middle of August, bring the plant back inside, continue to water and fertilize into the early fall. Flowers will develop as the nights get longer. They get stimulated by a good short day and a long night.
Lights out! Starting October 1, the poinsettia must be kept in complete and consistent darkness for 14 continuous hours each night (5 pm to 7 am). No cheating or peaking here. Any flash of light will throw it off its flower production course. They should be put under a cardboard box, in a closet, in a cabinet that doesn’t get light at all . . . or any spare 65 degree abandoned room in your house. October through early December, they only get to see the bright light of day 6 – 8 hours per day. On top of that daily maneuvering you’ll continue with a normal watering and fertilizer schedule.
With lots of luck you will start seeing the brachts change their color and you may get some full blooms for the holiday season. If you lack the practice and controlled greenhouse environment, I’m told, chances are you won’t be able to strategically time its peak around the holidays or re-bloom the poinsettia to its original flush.
But if you did hang in there this long, congratulations, and continue with the same TLC you did about a year ago. Think of the euphoria derived from keeping it going for 12 months! Let us know if you’ve tried prolonging poinsettias and how it worked out.
Photo source: ‘Carodean Road Designs,’ Flickr Creative Commons
Nancy R. Peck