Category Archives: holiday plants

Poinsettia Challenge – Steps for Reblooming

plant-185709_1280It’s January and the holidays are behind us, but if you can’t bring yourself to toss your poinsettia plant, why not try to coax it into reblooming next December? It takes basic indoor plant care skills, perseverance and some properly timed steps to insure flowering.  Here are season-by-season instructions for success.

Winter: Protect the plant from cold and drafts, with daytime temperatures of 67-70 degrees, nighttime temperatures of 60-62 degrees. To maintain healthy foliage, fertilize monthly following balanced houseplant fertilizer directions, water when the soil is dry below the surface but not soggy.  Avoid “wet feet” by draining excess water from the plant saucer.

Watch for mealy bugs (cottony puffs), which can be easily removed with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.

ec001cosSpring: By late March or early April the plant will look tired – it’ll most likely have dried, yellowed or fallen leaves. You’ll be tempted to put the plant out of its misery at this point!Instead, remove the bracts and part of the stem, ideally leaving 3-4 leaves on each stem. This pruning can be done anytime through mid-July.

Late spring/early summer: Repot the plant in a pot that is one size larger (approximately 1-2” inch larger in diameter). Use a quality, well-drained potting mixture, fortified with 1 tablespoon super phosphate (0-46-0) per gallon of soil mix. Slow-release fertilizer applied to the soil surface is also beneficial if the soil mix does not already include fertilizer.

Summer: When outdoor temperatures are consistently above 60 degrees, the plant can live outdoors in a shaded area such as a porch.

It will be putting on a lot of growth during this time and should be pruned about every six weeks to promote side branching and good form. Stop pruning in late August.

Late Summer: If the plant has been outdoors, you’ll want to bring it in around Labor Day or when nighttime temperatures drop below 55 degrees. Place it in a sunny or bright location with temperatures of 65-75 degrees. Continue monthly fertilizing.

ec002cosFall: Poinsettias require 8-10 weeks of shortened days to stimulate flowering. Starting the first week of October, put the plant in complete darkness for about 15 hours a day -ideally 5pm-8am.

It can be covered with a big box, put in a closet or sequestered in a room with no light at all.  Longer, completely dark nights and bright, shorter days are the key to successful reblooming. This step is non-negotiable.

Around Thanksgiving, colored bracts should appear. This is the sign to stop the dark treatment, continue fertilizing to promote blooms and keep in a warm, bright spot in your home and enjoy your holiday plant!

I have a big, beautiful poinsettia, have set my calendar reminders and am ready to give this a try.  How bout you?

Additional reading:

https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/poinsettias-7-412/

https://extension.unh.edu/resource/poinsettias-care-and-reflowering-fact-sheet

Photo: Pixabay.com

Drawings: Colorado State University

Written by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener

Indoor Evergreens for Good Health

An evergreen wreath on the front door and a real tree in the family room are conventional decorations for the holiday season. So are those beautiful winter containers filled with evergreen branches sitting on the porch.

But evergreens are much more than outdoor decor.

When placed indoors the greenery adds to the holiday scenery, but it’s that fresh scent that makes them indispensable.

Just like walking in the forest and “forest bathing” are therapeutic, using evergreens indoors is beneficial, too. Evergreens give us a healthy dose of phytoncides when we take a deep breath. These wood essential oils are the same airborne chemicals that trees and other plants give off in nature.

Pine scents and forest atmospheres not only remind us of the holidays, but they benefit our health physically, mentally and physiologically, according to the Michigan State University Extension.

“Phytoncides are antimicrobial volatile compounds produced by plants for their own defenses. It is not entirely clear how those scents affect human brains and bodies, but early research suggests they reduce stress hormones and enhance white-blood activity that boosts immunity and make us less susceptible to disease.”

This season, when you can’t get to the forest for a brisk walk, consider adding fresh evergreens throughout the house. Look for enclosed spaces where people gather, like the entry way, kitchen, dining room, study, family room, bedrooms, game room and even bathrooms.

Interior designers suggest tying small bunches of fresh greens to cabinets, placing on counter tops, filling bowls of greens on desks and side tables, draping swags to top window dressings and creating indoor hanging baskets.

Evergreens for the best scent include pine, cedar, balsam and juniper. Gardeners can clip from the landscape or look for fresh and aromatic branches at garden centers. Avoid any boughs that are already dry and brittle.

Experts recommend treating indoor branches like fresh lilac stems by keeping them in water to make them last the longest.

Use a sharp knife or garden shears to cut woody stems at a 45-degree angle and split the bottoms of the stems with the back of the clippers or small hammer. Strip the foliage that will be submerged in water.

Keep greens away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Treating them with an anti-desiccant plant spray or misting daily with water will help keep the foliage on the stems.

This season, forget the scented holiday candles and use fresh fragrant pine or cedar branches to lower stress and get in the holiday spirit during this busy time of the year.

Text and images by Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener volunteer since 2005

Test Your Poinsettia IQ

poinsettia-458762_960_720Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are making their December debut this week. With up to 50 million plants sold annually, you are likely to give,  receive, or at the very least, encounter the plant in your daily travels this holiday season.

How much do you know about the care and history of this botanical holiday plant?

True or False? Poinsettias are highly poisonous – keep children and pets away.

Mostly false. According to the University of Illinois Extension, “A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than a pound-and-a-quarter of Poinsettia leaves (500 to 600 leaves) to have any side effects. The leaves are reportedly not very tasty, so it’s highly unlikely that kids or even pets would be able to eat that many!” So, while ingestion can cause mild stomach irritation the plant is not considered highly toxic.

True or False?  The plant was brought to the U.S. in 1915 by a shopkeeper as a gift for parents who brought their children to breakfast with Santa.

False. Robert Pointset, a botanist, physician and first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico is credited with bringing the plant to the U.S. in 1848, when they were introduced at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

True or False? For longest enjoyment, select plants with tight oval bead-shaped structures, which are the actual flowers that surround the colored leaves or bracts.

True. The colored bracts, or modified leaves (commonly, but incorrectly referred to as the flower) will start to fade when the center cyathia  (flower) open and release pollen. Look for tight, spikey bead-shaped buds when selecting plants.

True or False? The Aztecs used the colorful parts of the Poinsettia to make a reddish-purple dye for clothing and believed the sap cured fevers.

True. Poinsettias were used for practical and ethnobotanical uses in ancient cultures, including coloring cloth and treating fevers.

True or False:  National Poinsettia day is October 1st, the day that plants should start receiving 12-14 hours of complete darkness in order to rebloom. 

Partially true. October 1st is the date to start giving your Poinsettia half days of complete darkness, called photoperiodism, to trigger reblooming.  But if you want to celebrate Poinsettia day (and who doesn’t?)  it is December 12th, the day Robert Poinsett died in 1851.

True or False: Poinsettias come in over 100 natural colors. 

True. Local garden centers have lots of red, pink, cream and coral varieties along with some sassy lime green, orangey-yellow cultivars and splotchy multi-colored bracts.  Mother Nature has no hand in producing the Bronco blue and sparkly grape colored varieties – these are sprayed and glittered.  There’s a poinsettia for every taste!

True or False: Allow a Poinsettia in bloom to dry out completely before watering.  

False. Poinsettias can be divas — water when soil surface is just dry to the touch so check daily, especially if the plant is in a small pot.  Leaves will droop and yellow if the plant gets too dry. Don’t let the plant sit in water and keep it away from cold and drafts. Ideal temperature is between 65-70 degrees and there is no need to fertilize when in bloom.

Which is the correct pronunciation Poin-set-ah  or Poin-set-ee-ah?

Either way is correct!

Check back next month for tips on coaxing your poinsettia to bloom next year. It’s a good challenge for indoor plant collectors.

Written by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener
Photo courtesy of Pixabay,  a source for royalty free photography