From the Desk of Ed Hume: Autumn Ponsettia Care

October 21, 2009 at 12:00 AM Leave a comment

This week’s article from Ed goes into a little more detail about taking care of your poinsettias and Christmas cactus’ this Winter season.  We hope his advice can help your plants to bloom beautifully during the holidays!

Did you save your poinsettia from last year?  The newer varieties have beautiful foliage and make very attractive year-round houseplants.  But how do you get that plant you saved ready to bloom for this Christmas?

First, let’s make one thing clear, it’s probably too late to get it to bloom for Christmas of this year!  It’s more apt to flower in January, or at the earliest, February.  If we want it to flower at Christmas time, one should start the conditioning process around late August or early September.  Nevertheless, take the time to try to get it to flower and see how long it takes in your home.  Then next year, you’ll know when you need to start the conditioning/flowering process.

The first step is to get the poinsettia plant indoors before the first frost.  Frost will ruin the foliage and, in fact, is apt to be the plant’s demise.
Next, put your poinsettia plant in a room where the temperature is about 65 to 72 degrees.  It needs to be a room that you don’t use too often because this plant is light sensitive.  In other words, it won’t bloom unless light conditions are right.  So here are the requirements: 10 hours of bright light and 14 hours of total darkness each night.  And total darkness means total darkness.  Sometimes people will recommend that you put the plant in a closet and forget it…that’s wrong!  It needs 10 hours of bright light each day.  If you put it in the closet as they recommend, the plant is apt to die.

By the way, you can do the same thing with a Christmas Cactus, only it needs cooler temperatures.  Keep the room at about 50 to 60 degrees.  Utility rooms, basements, or unused bedrooms are all ideal spots.  They are light sensitive too, so be certain each day they get 14 hours of total darkness and 10 hours of bright light.

When can you tell that they are ready to bloom and be moved back into the living area?  Easy: when the flower buds begin to show.  They’ll be right at the tips of the stems. In the case of both plants, there will be a swelling of the new tip growth, obviously a bud.
Since it’s winter and most of us have turned the heat on, it will be necessary to provide humidity for both poinsettias and Christmas cactus.  I recommend that you simply place a glass or decorative vase filled with water near the plants.  As the water evaporates, it helps provide the humidity the plants need.
Watch the watering closely as there is a tendency to over-water all houseplants, especially those that are getting ready to flower or are in bloom.  In fact, it is estimated that 93% of all houseplant loss is due to over-watering.

If you follow these few requirements of both poinsettias and Christmas cactus, you’ll stand a much better chance of getting them to flower for you this season.
And, if you are lucky enough to get a new plant this holiday season, remember their special watering and humidity needs.
Enjoy your plants, and for more information on poinsettias and Christmas cactus visit our web site at

Ed Hume


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Podcast Mondays: Poinsettias Clip of the Week: Christmas Poinsettias

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