NASA CLEAN AIR PLANT #43
These finicky short-day plants require specific growing needs in order to retain their Christmas blooms.
However, with proper care, your holiday poinsettia should continue to put out blooms, or in the least remain attractive for weeks after.
Light - Place it near a sunny window. South, east or west facing windows are preferable to a north facing window.
Poinsettias are tropicals and will appreciate as much direct sunlight as you can provide.
Heat - To keep the poinsettia in bloom as long as possible, maintain a temperature of 65 - 75 degrees F. during the day.
Dropping the temperature to about 60 degrees F. at night will not hurt the plant. However, cold drafts or allowing the leaves to touch a cold window can injure the leaves and cause premature leaf drop. If you've ever see a gangly poinsettia in bloom, with only a couple of sad looking leaves hanging on, it was probably exposed to temperatures that were too cool or extreme shifts in temperature.
Water - Water the plant whenever the surface feels dry to the touch. Water until it drains out the bottom,
but don't let the plant sit in water. Wilting is another common cause of leaf drop. A wilted plant can be revived
and salvaged, but it will take another season to improve its appearance.
Humidity - Lack of humidity during dry seasons, in particular winter, is an ongoing houseplant problem. If your home tends to be dry and your poinsettia is in direct light, you will find yourself watering frequently, possibly every day it might not be getting the humidity it needs. A pebble tray is a great method of providing the humidity your poinsettia requires. This is done by filling a waterproof saucer with gravel, then adding water halfway up the gravel. Place the pot on the gravel surface but do not allow it to sit in the water.
After Christmas Care
January-March: Keep watering the poinsettia whenever the surface is dry.
April: Starting April 1st, gradually decrease water, allowing the soil to dry between waterings. Be careful the stem does not begin to shrivel. This is a sign the plant is too stressed and is dying. In a week or two, when the plant has acclimated to this drying process, move it to a cool spot like the basement or a heated garage. You want to keep it at about 60 degrees F.
May: In mid-May, cut the stems back to about 4 inches and repot in a slightly larger container, with new potting soil. Water it well. Place the newly potted plant back into the brightest window you have and once again keep it at a temperature of 65 - 75 degrees F. Continue watering whenever the surface of the soil feels dry. Watch for new growth. Once new growth appears, begin fertilizing every two weeks with a complete fertilizer. I like to use the purple box of miracle Gro.
Left unpinched, right pinched
June: Move the poinsettia outside, pot and all. Keep it in a partially shaded location and maintain your watering and fertilizing schedule.
July: In early July, pinch back each stem by about one inch. This is to encourage a stout, well branched plant. If left unpinched, the poinsettia will grow tall and spindly.
August: By mid-August, the stems should have branched and leafed out. Once again, pinch or cut the new stems, leaving 3-4 leaves on each shoot. Bring the plant back indoors and back into your brightest window. Continue watering and fertilizing.
September: Continue regular watering and fertilizing. Make sure the temperature stays above 65 degrees F.
Poinsettias are short-day plants, meaning their bud set is affected by the length of daylight. To re-bloom, poinsettias need about 10 weeks with 12 hours or less of sunlight per day. You will have to artificially create these conditions and it's crucial that you be diligent.
Beginning October 1st, keep your plant in complete darkness from 5 pm to 8 am. Any exposure to light will delay blooming. Use an opaque box or material to block out light. Many people place their plants in a closet, but if light gets in though the cracks or if you open and use the closet, it will affect the bud set. Move the plant back to the sunny window during the daytime and continue watering and fertilizing.
November: Around the last week of November, you can stop the darkness treatment and allow the plant to remain in the window. You should see flower buds at this point
December: Stop fertilizing about December 15th. Keep watering and treat your plant the way you did when you first brought it home in bloom. If all has gone well, it should be back in bloom and ready to begin the process all over again.