Poinsettias are a prominent plant of the season; everyone is familiar with the vibrant red or white colors. But did you know that nearly 70 million plants are sold nationwide each year, making this Mexican native plant the number one flowering potted plant sold in the USA.

So if you have one or more of these plants in your house this holiday season a few tips for proper care of these delicate plants includes: indoors, poinsettias thrive on indirect, natural daylight, and exposure to at least six hours of daylight. If direct sunlight cannot be avoided, diffuse with a light shade or sheer curtain. To prolong the bright color of the poinsettia bracts daytime temperatures should not exceed 70 degrees F. Also, poinsettias should not be placed near drafts, excess heat, or the dry air from appliances, fireplaces, or ventilating ducts.

Proper watering is essential too. Too much water can lead to root rot, they like moist soils. It is best to remove the plant from the decorative pots or covers, and water enough to completely saturate the soil. It is not necessary to fertilize the poinsettia when it is in bloom.

If you are considering placing your poinsettias outside, keep in mind that poinsettias are sensitive to cold weather, frost and rain. With our winters, outside placement during the winter should be avoided.

So come January, what do you do with your holiday plant? Unlike the ones I usually own, they can stay alive. Keep the plants in indirect sun and water regularly. Once the nightly temperatures stop dropping below 55 degrees F, your plants maybe moved outdoors. Come late March or early April, your plant will lose its aesthetic appeal, at this time cut it back to about 8 inches in height. By the end of May, you should see vigorous new growth. Continue regular watering during the growth period. Fertilize every 2 to 3 weeks throughout the spring, summer and fall months with a well-balanced, complete fertilizer.

Around the first of June, you can transplant your poinsettias into larger pots using a soil mix with considerable amount of organic matter. Pruning may also be required during the summer months to keep the plants busy and compact. Do Not Prune after September 1.

So jumping ahead to next fall, if your plant is still alive, kudos to you! You must have a green thumb! Now it is the re-flowering stage. Poinsettias are photoperiodic plants, meaning that it sets bud and produces flowers as the autumn nights lengthen. Starting the first of October, plants should be kept in complete darkness for 14 continuous hours each night. During October, November and early December, the plants require 6 to 8 hours of bright sunlight daily, with nighttime temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees F. Temperatures outside this range may delay flowering. Continue the normal watering and fertilizer program. Following this regime for 8 – 10 weeks should result in a colorful display of blooms for the holiday season.

Again, these plants are very sensitive – stray light of any kind, such as from street lights or house lamps could delay or entirely halt the re-flowering process.

For more information, please contact Chelsea Dorward at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Bosque County Office at 254-435-2331

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