By Morgan Roan
University of Georgia
Many people, however, don't know how to care for these plants. So they often go into the trash soon after the Christmas wrapping.
Keeping a poinsettia alive is "the art of knowing something about the plant in order to make it bloom again," said David Berle, a horticulture professor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
"The poinsettia should not be planted outdoors in Georgia due to the chilly winter season," he said.
What to doBerle recommended these tips for growing a healthy plant:
- Place the plant near a sunny window. But make sure it's not close to a door or heat vent where drafts of either cool or warm air may reach the plant. Keep the temperature close to 70 degrees -- "50 degrees is too cold," he said.
- When the leaves begin to wilt, let the container dry out by watering it less. This will cause the plant to fall into a semidormant stage. The leaves will shrivel and drop off.
- By late March or early April, repot the plant in a larger container. Cut it back 2 to 4 inches above the soil level. Begin to water it more often. Water the plant whenever the top layer of soil begins to dry out.
- When the new growth begins, apply a soluble fertilizer every other week. After the plant grows 4 to 6 inches, pinch back the shoot tips to allow it to branch. Poinsettias need to be pinched at least twice during the season.
- To bloom, the plant needs eight to 10 weeks of short days. Each short day should include no more than 12 hours of sunlight. Starting Oct. 1, keep the plant in complete darkness at night for 14 continuous hours. If it's indoors, move it to a dark room or closet or cover it every night with a large box. "Any type of light, such as a porch light or even a flashlight, can disturb the blooming process," he said.
Poinsettia colors"The coloring of the bracts is related to the flowering process, which happens at the same time," Berle said.
The bracts come in many colors, from the traditional red to shades of yellow, pink or white. They may be speckled or marbled in certain cultivars, he said.
Poinsettias are commercially grown in greenhouses where the temperatures and amount of sunlight are closely monitored. It's important to try to match these same conditions, Berle said, when growing your own plant.
The proper care of a poinsettia can provide a beautiful arrangement not only during the holidays but throughout the year.
(Morgan Roan is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)