Poinsettia, A Perfect Shade Plant for the Garden

Can you imagine Christmas without poinsettias? This tropical plants give such color and beauty to our holiday decorating.  But what do you do with them after the Christmas tree  and decorations are all put away and you are left with these plants that are still healthy and looking good?  If you are like me, the gardener in you won’t allow you to throw perfectly good plants  away.  So just send them to vacation under a sunny window in the garage where they won’t freeze and with minimal care (watering only when needed) they will be happy until spring.

Bright red poinsettias just scream Merry Merry!

Bright red poinsettias just scream Merry Merry!

After all danger of frost has past and the nights are holding 50 degrees,  plop those leggy (maybe even leafless) poinsettias directly in the shade garden soil, cut them back and enjoy a great foliage show all summer. But, don’t forget that they are tropical so if you’ve grown attached you may want to dig them back up before the first frost, or toss them because you have now gotten your money’s worth of enjoyment.

If you are looking to challenge your green thumb and would like to take a shot at getting these poinsettias to bloom once more in time for the holidays then here are a couple of steps:

  1.  Sometime around the middle of September pot the poinsettias and give them a week to acclimate before bringing them inside.
  2. In order for Poinsettias to bloom you will have to shorten the length of daylight. Do this in late September by placing the plant in total darkness for 15 hours every night. A closet works great…(no peeking with a light of any kind). 60 – 65 degrees is optimal. Set the timer, routine is important. Miss a day and the results can change. Did I mention it is a challenge?  5pm till 8am is a good schedule.
  3. Each morning bring the  plant(s) out of the closet and set it in bright light  for the remaining 9 hours.

Usually after about 4-8weeks of this daily “in and out of the closet routine” the bracts (you may think of them as blooms) will start to show color. When this happens they can stay out of the closet for good in a bright sunny spot where the color will fully develop for the Christmas holidays.

Remember to water soil evenly and let soil dry out between watering like you would any other houseplant throughout the whole process and beyond.  Fertilize weekly with a houseplant fertilizer or compost tea.

Just so pretty!

Just so pretty!

It is hard to recreate a commercial grower’s conditions for growing poinsettias, the bracts will probably not be a big or showy as they were the previous year.  So, just have fun with the process and see what happens. If you get beautiful re-blooms your gardening buddies will have green thumb envy and you will be the talk of the garden club.


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