Tips for growing poinsettias and getting the bracts to color. How to grow Euphorbia pulcherrima indoors. Greenhouse poinsettia plant care. Poinsettias and cats.
Red and White Poinsettias Used as Bedding Annuals
When the poinsettia plant was first introduced, it was among the most difficult of house plants. The older varieties used to drop their leaves shortly after being moved into the home.
Fortunately, time and hybridizers bring about many changes.
The newer cultivars are much more tolerant of indoor growing conditions. They are also more compact growing poinsettias than the older types.
If you receive a Christmas poinsettia bush as a gift and want to keep it fresh and colorful throughout the holidays:
1. Remove any gift wrapping that is around the pot so that the roots can breathe.
2. Do not feed it. There is enough fertilizer in the pot to feed the plant until after next spring.
Give the fast growing poinsettia bright light and keep it in a coolish room (about 60 degrees F). Keep the soil around the roots barely moist.
To maintain the compact growth habit, pinch the tips out when the plants are about 6 inches tall.
The poinsettia bush will become leggy if the room is too dim.
No matter what you do, the leaves will drop eventually making the plant unattractive. This is the time to prune it.
Cut the stems back to a height of 4-5 inches. Keep the pot warm and dry until new leaves start to grow. Then, repot it to refresh the soil, bring it back into good light and start watering it.
I don't advise growing poinsettias as houseplants year round. They want too much sun to be happy indoors for long.
Once you're beyond the last frost date, plant them in the ground or set the pots outside.
The bright environment of a greenhouse is probably the best indoor setting in which to place a potted poinsettia. The problem you are most likely to encounter here is whitefly.
Maintain good air circulation by using vents and fans. Check the undersides of the plant's leaves often for insects. Pick off and discard infested leaves by bagging them.
Hang yellow sticky traps or release beneficial insects (parasitic wasps or lacewings) into the greenhouse.
It is difficult to control whiteflies by spraying as they will fly away when disturbed. If the spray does not land directly on the insects, it won't kill them.
If you don't mind turning the plant poisonous, you can apply a systemic pesticide to the soil. The pesticide will be taken up by the plant's root system and transported into the leaves and stems.
Poinsettias growing in an Altamonte Springs, Florida landscape in March.
Of course, this will only be possible if you live in USDA zones 8-11.
In zone 8, expect the plant to die to the ground each winter.
In zone 9a, expect frost to end the color show in January or February.
In zone 9b and warmer, poinsettias will grow and "bloom" beautifully and for long periods of time. Right through to early summer in warm years.
Plant your poinsettia bush in an area that is protected from high winds.
It is not salt tolerant. If you live on the coast, plant it away from salty breezes.
Euphorbia pulcherrima appreciates full sun and well drained soil. A southern exposure suits it best.
Indoor poinsettia plants can be induced to ''bloom" at any time of year by keeping them in the dark for 12 hours out of every 24 for 4-6 weeks.
When growing poinsettias for Christmas color, keep them in the dark for 14 hours out of each day from early October onward.
Site the plants where they will not be exposed to any light after dark. A street light shining on them will prevent them from getting the hours of darkness that they need in order to produce the boldly colored bracts.
To get the plant to bush out and "bloom" heavily a series of "pinchings" will need to be performed. Start in March. Every time 12 inches of new growth appears on the plant, pinch out the top 2 inches. Keep the plant watered throughout the season and feed it after each pruning. Stop pinching it by mid September if you want it to color up in time for Christmas.
Propagate by taking cuttings which should root (in free-draining soil) in less than a month.
The poinsettia's brightly colored bracts make good cut flowers so long as the stem ends are sealed to prevent them leaking sap.
Cut the poinsettia flowers with at least 4 inches of stem attached. Seal the cut end of the stems by dipping them into boiling water or holding them over a flame for a few seconds.
The flowers will last for at least a week in water.
Contrary to the fears of many cat owners, no.
Euphorbia pulcherrima is nontoxic to humans and animals. If your kitty eats a piece of your poinsettia bush, it may get a tummy ache and vomit, but you don't need to rush it to the vet.
You might want to keep the cat away from your poinsettias in order to avoid a mess being made of your floors.
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