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With the holiday season now fading, those colorful poinsettias will be doing the same thing in the upcoming months.
The most popular Christmas plant in America, millions of poinsettias are given and received as gifts each year.
But is it possible to keep it alive and going until Christmas 2012?
According to the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, poinsettias can be maintained if you’re up for a challenge.
A native plant of Central America, poinsettias were popularized in the United States more than 170 years ago when Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. foreign minister to Mexico, brought them here. Given that, it’s no wonder that poinsettias require delicate handling and loads of proper loving care.
Post holiday tips
– At home, place a poinsettia in direct sunlight for about three to four hours per day. If possible, set the room temperature at 65-70 degrees during daylight hours and reduce it to 60-65 degrees at night. Poinsettias do not like cold, frost, cold drafts or being placed near fireplaces and heating vents.
– Keep the soil moist by thorough watering. However, don’t allow the plant to sit in water that’s drained through the pot. It may be a good idea to remove the foil from the pot. If your home is very dry from the heat, periodically mist the plant. If the leaves begin to turn a light shade of green, give the plant more sunshine.
– Apply a general-purpose fertilizer every 14 to 21 days.
– By late February/early March, most of the flowers will be gone, making it time to help the plant regenerate. Cut back the old stems and be patient. This is a year-long process.
– In May/June, repot the plant to give it more leg room. Place it in a container that is about three inches larger in diameter. Keep it well-watered and located in the sun.
– Once nighttime temperatures climb to more than 60 degrees, move the poinsettia to a shady location outdoors to get it acclimated. Then you can move the pot to a sunny place. Some growers choose to plant poinsettias in gardens at this time. If you choose to leave it in a container, turn the container about one-quarter per week to assure even growth.
– If you prefer short, bushy plants with plenty of flowers, start pinching. Removing the shoots can encourage branching, so pinch off the top quarter-inch about every 21 to 28 days and prune it into a rounded shape. If you don’t pinch it, the plant will be tall and spindly. During this time, don’t let the plant dry out and be sure to feed it about every 14 days with a general-purpose fertilizer.
– Long nights and short days of sunlight trigger poinsettia flowers to grow. From late September/early October, place the plant in total darkness for 12 to 14 hours each day. Any leaks of light at night will keep the plant from flowering. Place the plant inside a box, closet or inside a dark plastic bag with a tie-strap at the top that can be lowered to the base during daylight hours. During the day, provide a least six hours of sunlight per day for the plant.
– A poinsettia is a desert plant, so after it flowers, gradually reduce the water until early November when all the leaf-like bracts drop off. After Thanksgiving, keep the poinsettia out. This will ensure colorful flowers by next Christmas.
– Scotts Miracle-Gro contributed to this story.