Poinsettias require extra care to keep them blooming

The showy poinsettia can be kept blooming through the holidays and beyond with these tips from Tracey Paton Miller, Cleveland County Extension horticulturist.
BY TRACEY PAYTON MILLER Published: December 24, 2012
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Most cultivars hold their bracts for a very long time, giving you months of enjoyment before defoliation. Therefore, I recommend buying a new plant, then try to keep a poinsettia through the year. However, I know some of you will want to try over-summering a poinsettia.

Many poinsettias can be grown indoors as a foliage plant after the color is gone. Or you can plant your poinsettia outside. To do this, cut back the stems in March to 4 inches above the soil surface. In mid-May, plant the poinsettia in the pot, in a partly shaded area. Fertilize using a complete, pelleted fertilizer during the summer and prune any roots outgrowing the container. Long shoots will form; prune these in mid-July and again in mid-August to induce branching. Move poinsettias indoors in late September.

Poinsettias “color” in response to short days. To produce color, plants must be kept in darkness from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. and placed in a sunny window during the day.

Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous. However, some may be allergic to the milky sap exuded when plant parts are broken. Poinsettias are purely used for their beauty, so enjoy them while you can.

By Tracey Payton Miller is a horticulture educator with the Cleveland County Extension Service.