Esprit de Isle

Lucky Bamboo, Feng Shui, Bonsai & Gardening | The Spirit Of Whidbey Island

You are here: Exotic Plants Poinsettia, Advanced Care & Propagating

Poinsettia, Advanced Care & Propagating

POINSETTIAS - ADVANCED CARE & PROPAGATING

Well, the glow is almost gone. Christmas is over and you've been lucky enough to keep your poinsettia plants alive but now, they are starting to look a little tattered and faded. If you're like most of us, you begin looking around and start the chore of removing all the trappings of the holidays - but, what to do with the poinsettia that still looks like it has life to it? Why don't you try experimenting to see how long you can keep it growing?

ADVANCED CARE

If the plant still has color and relatively healthy looking bracts (flowers), continue to water when the soil is dry on the top and a few inches down into the pot. Do not over water - just enough to make the soil damp.

After the leaves and colored bracts have definitely begun to dry out, discolor and drop, give the plant a severe pruning. That means to snip off all of the branches and the main stem right down to 2-3 inches from the top of the soil. You'll be leaving it like this for a few more months but be sure to pay attention to the room temperature (normal) and in a bright room. During this time, be sure the dirt never dries out completely. It's important to keep the soil moderately moist.

When spring arrives in April or early May, it's time to jump-start your poinsettia! Now is the time to give it a healthy dose of water, and continue to keep the soil moist until new growth appears. After this, you can continue to keep it watered just like a regular house plant and you'll be rewarded with slender branches and leaves.

It's doubtful that you'll ever be able to have the plant produce the colorful bracts again under normal household conditions. But it might be fun to try.

FORCING POINSETTIAS TO BLOOM AGAIN

Tricky but it can be done! After you've followed the instructions for Advanced Care above, you should re-pot the plant using fresh soil now! It's fine to put it back into the same pot. Putting in into a larger pot will create more growth but it's apt to become leggy and not so likely to bloom.

After changing the soil, keep your poinsettia in a bright room making sure it does not receive direct sunlight. Continue to water, keeping the dirt moderately moist.

Now you'll have to plan ahead. If you want the plant to flower during November and December, you'll have to begin preparing it at least 4 months prior. Around the end of August, the plant will need at least 14 hours of darkness per day for two months. Pitch black. No light whatsoever. If you have a basement that has a room with a door that shuts, you're in luck. That would be an ideal situation - but, you'll have to remember to bring the plant out of the darkness for 8-10 hours of light each day, and remember to keep it watered. That's a pitfall for most of us - we speak from experience.

You must follow this routine for about 2 months, religiously. Then, around the first week of November, you'll be able to bring it out, allow the color to develop and brag to your friends! The rejuvenated poinsettia should be ever bigger than the original plant. It's worth the effort to try this at least once!

PROPAGATION

New plants can be grown by taking cuttings. The proper time to take the cuttings is after you've pruned the parent plant (see Advanced Care above), and when the new shoots have begun to grow. Allow the new growth to get 4 or 5 inches long, then snip them from the parent plant. Poinsettias have a sticky, latex sap and it will ooze out of the cut stem. Use a spray bottle of water to wash away the latex and stop it from oozing out.

Put the cut ends of the cuttings under the water faucet, and wash the whitish sticky sap from the ends. Or you may also dip them in a cup of water and swirl them around under the sap is washed away.

Now is the unusual part of this process - lay the cuttings on a sheet of paper towel, place it in a safe place, and allow the stems to dry for two or three days.

Then, using a good grade of potting soil (with perlite) in a 4 inch pot (plastic is fine), fill the pot with soil and tamp down. Then insert the cut end of the poinsettia stem into the dirt, and add water. Some experts recommend adding a layer of sand (clean, washed aquarium sand is good) to help prevent rotting. It can take up to 8 weeks for the plants to grow healthy roots so don't expect it to happen overnight. As long as you keep the soil moderately moist - not wet, not dry - and as long as the little starts are not wilting over and drying up, you're on the right path. Just be patient.

When the cuttings begin to put out new growth, you can think about transplanting into a larger pot - up to 6 inches and continue to give them regular care. Again, if you want them to have the pretty colored bracts, you'll have to follow the regimen of 14 hours of dark, 8 hours of light, for 8 weeks.

Good luck!