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GardenSMART :: The Point About Poinsettias

The Point About Poinsettias

By Lisa Bartlett, Smith Gilbert Gardens

The poinsettia is a terrific, carefree houseplant that thrives in the harsh, dry conditions of our homes. With their red and green colors is it any wonder that they have become such a symbol for the holiday season? Poinsettias come in a wide variety of colors now, from the traditional red to the variegated and white varieties.

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Poinsettias will continue to be attractive all the way to spring, where, after danger of frost, you can plant them outdoors in your border. Their striking bold leaves will add a nice texture to either your border or your containers. Poinsettias can be carried over from year to year, but it is tricky to coax them into blooming again. However, it can be done.

General Care

When your plant starts to look the way you feel after the holidays–as in tired, follow these tips to revive it:

  • Water less (about once a week) after the blooms and leaves drop or shrivel. The plant needs this rest period after its blooming season.
  • Cut back the stems to half their size in March or April. When new growth begins to appear, it is safe to resume a more normal watering and feeding schedule. Use regular houseplant food and follow the instructions. Be careful not to use too much or you could burn the plant.
  • Move the plant outdoors when the outside nighttime temperatures rise above 55°F.
  • Provide light, but avoid placing it in direct sunlight.
  • Plant the poinsettia in the ground or leave it in the pot if you wish. Repotting may be necessary at the end of summer after the plant has grown. If the poinsettia is planted in the ground, you can expect a shrub-like plant during the summer. It really adds a nice bold texture in the garden.
  • Pinch back new growth in June, July, or August to promote a bushier plant.

Tips to Make Your Poinsettia Rebloom

Here is the tricky part — getting your poinsettia to bloom again.

When fall temperatures begin to drop, bring the plant indoors. From October 1 to December 1, (or for at least 40 days) a poinsettia will need a strict light/dark regimen to produce color. Provide 13 to 16 hours of complete and uninterrupted darkness daily. At dusk, place the plant in a dark room (or closet) or cover with a box or paper bag. At dawn, move or uncover the plant to allow 8 hours of sunlight.

It sounds labor intensive, but it can be such a fun project for the children in your life. If you are lucky, you will have a healthy, colorful plant for the next holiday season. Good luck!

Lisa Bartlett is the Garden Manager of Smith Gilbert Gardens. Kennesaw Georgia's premier public garden, it is an established garden with over 3,000 species of plants, many rare. This garden stands out as an exceptional blend of art, history and horticulture, all creating a tranquil retreat from the city. 


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