Garden growing instructions for poinsettia plants received during the holiday season
After the plant has passed its prime, which is usually in late January or February, it is time to withhold water, and the plants should go into a dormant stage for a month or so.
When the weather warms up in March or April and after the threat of frost has passed, cut the plant back to 6 inches above the soil level. Water sparingly in the beginning, then after about two weeks, new shoots will start to develop at the “eyes” of the stem where the leaves were attached last year. Remove the plant from the container and plant outside in a well prepared garden bed. The soil must drain properly, and there should be considerable organic matter such as peat moss, leaf mold, or redwood sawdust incorporated into your soil mixture. Poinsettias will do best in a protected area; along a south wall is usually satisfactory.
Immediately after planting, give it a thorough soaking. The amount of water needed thereafter will depend on the type of weather that prevails and the amount of growth on the plant. When there is little growth and cool weather conditions, less water is required. When there is a great deal of foliage and warm weather, the demand for water is greater. Generally speaking, the plant should be watered well about once a week during the summer time.
To keep the plant from becoming too tall, cut it back on July 4. Do this by taking the new growth (growth from the plant this year), and cutting it back to about 6 inches from the old stem. This procedure will produce much shorter plants at Christmas with twice as many stems.
Starting about June 1 and continuing until December 1, plants should be fertilized at least once a month with your favorite garden fertilizer. Be sure it is high in nitrogen.
Various insects including mealy bugs, aphids, and red spiders can attack poinsettias during the summer season. Neem oil works very well as a treatment for such pests.
To properly set buds so that the flower will develop in the fall, the poinsettias must have enough consecutive long nights in the fall to properly go from a vegetative state to a flower state. If a streetlight, porch light, or some other light source shines on your poinsettia during September, October, or November, your plant may be delayed in blooming.
At best, poinsettias are not usually good cut flowers. But if you want to try, this might help: after cutting the stem, place the bottom of the stem into 2 inches of wood alcohol (from your drug store) or boiling water. Leave for 2 minutes and then put the stems into deep, cold water. Poinsettias, like other cut flowers, will last longer if kept at low temperatures (60 degrees) and higher humidity as compared to higher temperatures (75-80 degrees) and lower humidity. For longer life, add 1 tsp. of household bleach per gallon of water to keep it pure and add some commercial floral preservative also.
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