Greg Bowman

Last week, I shared tips on how to keep holiday poinsettias in great looking shape for family gatherings or as a home or business decorating item. For a quick review, remember that more than 70 million poinsettias are sold annual in the United States. The popularity has been added by the multiple color options on the market. Where you place the plant in the home, the temperature in the area, can be key to poinsettia success. Poinsettias need at least six hours of indirect light daily. Excessive heat spots in the home can cause problems, too. Keep away from appliances, fireplaces and ventilation ducts. The daytime temps should not exceed 70 degree, but note that chilling can cause problems also. You need to only water when the soil when the pot is dry to the touch. Make sure you have drainage holes in the container and since most poinsettias come in a container with a decorative pot cover, take the container out of the container when watering. You will not need to fertilize a poinsettia in bloom. You will see the term bracts or modified leaves in regards to poinsettias. The actual flower of a poinsettia is a small yellow flower in the center of a colorful bract.

Today, I will go back to our UGA Center for Urban Agriculture publication for tips on how to care for the poinsettia after the holidays. The publication information is by Nancy Doubrava, HGIC Information Specialist, Clemson University and by Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist.

For starters, the main reason you would keep a poinsettia is to try to get the plant to flower the next holiday season. Ms. Karen, the UGA Research and Education secretary, had a poinsettia in her office and actually managed to get the poinsettia to bloom for two more seasons after the initial year. It takes some time and effort, but it can be done.

In the spring around March and April after the bracts fade, you need to prune the poinsettia plant back to about 8 inches in height. The plant will not be very appealing after this pruning, but in time, new growth will appear from the nodes up and down the steam. You will need to keep the plant near a sunny window. You will need to water the plant regularly during the growing season. You can even take the plant outdoors when night temperatures remain above 50 degrees F.

Here is where fertilization is going to come into play. You will need to fertilize the poinsettia every two to three weeks during the spring, summer and fall with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10.

During the growing season, you will need to transplant the poinsettia into a larger container. In early June, it is suggested to transplant the poinsettia into a container that is 2-4 times bigger than the original container. The soil mix in the container should be good on organic matter such as compost, leaf mold or peat moss. At this time, pinch back the poinsettia shoot tips or prune back the branches.

You do not pinch back after September 1st. The poinsettia will need to be brought back indoors when night temperatures are in the 55-60 degrees F range. When you bring back inside, find a sunny spot for the plant.

Now, I will share tips on how to get the plant to reflower. This will take some effort, but it can be done. Always keep in mind that poinsettias are a short-day plant. This means that in order to develop the colorful bracts, the plant must have continuous long dark periods each night. Starting the first week of October, the plant must be kept in complete or total darkness for 14 continuous hours each night. This can be an 8-10 week process. The easiest way to get the total darkness is to put the plant in a closet or cover with a large box. Another key is that during this process, the plant must also get six to eight hours of bright sunlight daily.

If you will be diligent in the program, you should get a full blooming poinsettia sometime in November or December depending on the cultivar.

Poinsettias can have the same pest problems like many other plants. Whiteflies can be the most common, but you can have issues with spider mites, soft scales and mealybugs, too. Since we are dealing with a container plant, you can have root rot issues if you overwater or have the plant in a poor draining container or in poorly draining soils. You need to keep in mind the temperature and light requirements during the during stages of growing season, reflowering and when you have the plant on holiday display for overall success.

For more information, contact UGA Extension- Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email gbowman@uga.edu.