Plant lovers are faced with the task of providing the care that will allow their beauty to last as long as possible so we can enjoy them longer after Christmas is past.
The poinsettia for example, is a plant with very specific requirements. It cannot stand soggy roots, so the container must be checked for drainage. If the container is wrapped in colored foil, then remove at least the foil covering the drainage holes in the pot’s bottom. On the other hand, the poinsettia does require high humidity. The container can be placed on pebbles which are sitting in water just up to their tops, so the poinsettia will benefit from the humidity without actually sitting in water.
Your poinsettia will also benefit from a daily, if possible, spray misting with room temperature water. Water the soil, however, only when the surface feels dry to the touch. Treat-it like any cherished baby, and spare it from enduring a soggy bottom. The poinsettia needs a spot in your home that is cool, humid and bright.
It needs a constant temperature of between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit (15 and 17 C), absolutely free of either cold or hot drafts. Windowsills are often poor spots. Sudden changes of temperature will cause them to drop their leaves. Your new poinsettia will need a spot filled with bright light but not blazing sun which would cause it to overheat.
Given these admittedly ideal conditions, the flower bracts on your poinsettia could possibly last well into spring. If they drop, which they likely will, before it is warm enough to set the plant in the outdoor garden, move the plant to a slightly cooler spot 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 15 C), and water just a little to prevent its drying out completely.
When the weather is warm, take the plant outdoors, cut it back to about six inches and repot it in fresh soil in the same container. Set the pot up to the rim in the garden in a light, open spot. Keep it watered and fertilize with a liquid fertilizer every two weeks. As it sends out new growth, keep it pinched back for a low bushy plant. Poinsettias left to their own devices can tend to become unattractively leggy.
During this period new plants can also be started from cuttings. This is a good project to attempt because, as the original poinsettia grows older, the harder it is to get to bloom. Take off pieces of new growth about five inches long and insert in sandy soil in a fairly light spot under plastic or an inverted glass jar. Keep watered and fertilized in the same way as the older plant and bring in at the same time.
Sometime in August, depending on how large the plant has become, it can he pruned back as much as one-third and cut down, if you wish, to five stems. Before frost bring indoors to the same conditions as before – bright, cool, humid. Now if you want your poinsettia to produce winter bloom again there is one final crucial condition. From about the beginning of October onward, during the period when the flower buds are set, the plant must have at least 12 hours of absolutely unbroken darkness each night. So your poinsettia must be in a room where no lights are turned on even for a moment, once it is dark out.