You know it is really the holiday season when you begin to see poinsettias on every counter and tabletop. Few flowers say “Christmas” the way a poinsettia does. In fact, the flowers’ appearance brings so much cheer, many people want to keep them blooming long passed the holiday season.
And maybe you can.
First, if you want to extend the life of your points, it is best to live in Mexico or Southern California. Poinsettias thrive there, year round, growing as small shrubs and trees. If you live anywhere else, be sure to protect your plants from cold, drafts, winds and rain. Night time temperatures below 50 degrees Farenheit are chilly enough to kill a poinsettia.
So, if you are a Northwesterner, keep your plants indoors, well away from drafty hallways or heating vents.
Be sure to remove the plastic or paper sleeves that are used to protect plants during transport. The sleeves can restrict air flow, causing the stems to slump. If you want a nice, bushy plant, keep the air flowing around the pot.
Never let the soil dry out. For many plants, drying and re-wetting is fine – but not for the poinsettia. Wilting plants rarely recover fully. If you buy your points from Plantscapes, you can have a wetting agent added to the soil, which will help keep the soil evenly moist, extending the life of the plant. But note – “evenly moist” is not water-logged. Never over water poinsettias. And take care with saucers underneath the pots or inside the foil “hat.” Poinsettias hate wet feet. You’ll notice the water damage immediately – but you won’t be able to cure it so easily.
In their native climate, poinsettia are perennial plants that can bloom for many years. Of course, the “blooms,” or bracts, are actually leaves that change color with a change in day length. Getting a poinsettia to bloom for a second year outside of California is quite a difficult feat. Just getting the plant to survive from one season to the next is an accomplishment. Most poinsettia lovers agree, it is better to treat the plants as annuals – looking forward to their appearance in late November and enjoying them until January. As the leaves drop and the once compact plant grows spindly and bare, it is time to harden your heart – and begin looking forward to next year’s crop.
BONUS FUN FACT ABOUT POINSETTIA CULTIVATION FROM WIKIPEDIA
“Until the 1990s, the Ecke family of Encinitas, California, had a virtual monopoly on poinsettias owing to a technological secret that made it difficult for others to compete. The Ecke family’s key to producing more desirable poinsettias was to create a fuller, more compact plant, by grafting two varieties of poinsettia together. A poinsettia left to grow on its own will naturally take an open, somewhat weedy look. The Eckes’ technique made it possible to get every seedling to branch, resulting in a bushier plant.
“Albert Ecke had emigrated from Germany to Los Angeles in 1900, opening a dairy and orchard in the Eagle Rock area. He became intrigued by the plant and sold them from street stands. His son, Paul Ecke, developed the grafting technique, but it was the third generation of Eckes, Paul Ecke, Jr., that really was responsible for advancing the association between the plant and the winter holidays. Besides changing the market from mature plants shipped by rail to cuttings sent by air, he sent free plants to television stations for them to display on air from Thanksgiving to Christmas. He also appeared on television programs like The Tonight Show and Bob Hope’s Christmas specials to promote the plants.
“However, in the 1990s, a university researcher discovered the method and published it, opening the door for competitors to flourish, particularly in Latin America where the cost of labor is far lower. The Ecke family, now led by Paul Ecke III, no longer grows any on farms in the U.S., but as of 2008, they still control about 70% of the domestic market and 50% of the worldwide market.”