This year I received a poinsettia as a gift. Its the first time Ive had one in my home in more than 10 years. I have fond memories of having a poinsettias beauty in my home for many months after the holidays, but I cant remember how I did it.
I did a little Googling for poinsettia care and found out its not hard to keep them living (just add water and a little fertilizer), and make sure the drainage holes arent blocked by festive wrapping.
Its a bit trickier to get their bracts (leaf-like part of the plant) to turn red for next years holidays.
Poinsettias are native to the western coast of Mexico, a warmer winter climate and cooler summer climate than ours. Therefore, they dont do well in extreme heat.
To get a poinsettias bracts to turn red (or whatever color cultivar you have), you have to keep the plant in total darkness for fifteen (yes, 15) hours a day. Start this regimen the first week in October and continue until the bracts turn color.
This should occur in early to mid-December. Keep the plant in a place where daytime temperatures are 60-75 degrees F and night time temperatures a little cooler.
Then move the plant to a spot with bright, but indirect light. Again, keeping the plant in warm daytime temperatures and cooler night temperatures make a poinsettia happy. Dont let the bracts touch a cold window.
During the rest of the year, youll have to prune the plant a little from time to time.
In the wild, theyre actually a shrub that can grow up to 5 feet tall! Youll want to transplant your poinsettia to a larger pot as needed.
The University of Illinois has several web pages dedicated to poinsettias with some great information. See: http://urbanext.illinois.edu/poinsettia/index.cfm.
For information on care of other holiday plants like amaryllis, Christmas cactus, and others, see: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/downloads/9211.pdf.
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