From the Desk of Ed Hume: Proper Care of Poinsettias

January 3, 2011 at 12:00 AM Leave a comment

Now that Christmas is over, there are a few things you can do to keep your flowering poinsettia or other flowering plants blooming for the longest possible time.  As I have mentioned before, the newer varieties of poinsettias can, with a little care, be saved and made into year-round houseplants.

Of course the poinsettia plants do not flower all year, but these new varieties generally have attractive dark green leaves, making them nice foliage plants.  Then if you like, you take up the challenge of trying to get them to flower again next Christmas.   One of the little known facts about the poinsettia is that it is one of the plants that help purify the air in the home according to NASA research.  So you can enjoy the attractive green foliage and know you are helping to purify the air in your home at the same time.

Right now, I think the most important thing you can do to help keep your poinsettia in bloom for the longest possible time is to place a glass or decorative vase of water next to your plant.  As the water evaporates it helps provide the humidity the plant needs.  With this simple step we have had poinsettias remain in bloom for months after the holidays.  Friends of ours have experienced the same results as well.

The second most important thing is to check the watering needs of your plant every day or two until you can determine how frequently it needs to be watered.  Here’s the problem: different growers use various soil mixes and some soils retain moisture for a longer period than others.  One way you can do this is to simply lift the plant.  If it’s light it needs water, and if it’s still heavy it doesn’t need to be watered yet.  Don’t bother touching the soil to try to determine water needs.  That only tells you whether the surface soil is moist or dry.   Though the surface may be dry, the soil in the pot may still be soaking wet.

Here’s the way I check soil moisture in the pots of poinsettias and other houseplants: Take a wooden toothpick, insert it halfway into the soil, then pull it out.  If there is soil particles on the toothpick, the plant does not need to be watered yet.  It’s much like testing the batter when baking a cake.  By the way, if you have houseplants in large pots, use a wooden match stick to test watering needs. There is a hidden advantage in this type of testing: You are making small holes in the soil that allow air to get to the roots of your plants.

Keep the poinsettia in an area where it gets bright light.  Bright light doesn’t have to mean direct sunlight.  In fact, if the leaves get brown spots on them or if the leaves begin to yellow a bit, check to see if the plant is getting too much sunlight.  Poinsettias are native to Mexico so they are sun plants, but conditions in the average home are not similar to outdoor conditions in Mexico, so too much direct sun may be a problem.

Late August or earliest September is the time to begin getting the poinsettia ready to flower for next Christmas, so we’ll discuss how to go about it at that time.

Enjoy the poinsettia for a longer time by giving it the care it needs now and in the months to come.

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