The Adventures Of My Homegrown Poinsettia

I’ve never been accused of being a wild and crazy guy, but where plants are concerned I throw caution to the wind. Much literature says it’s too difficult to coax poinsettias to rebloom, so I set out a year ago to prove the naysayers wrong.

After Christmas last year, I kept our poinsettia growing in a sunny window during the winter months, watering as usual, but letting it dry out well between thorough waterings.

In early May I cut the plant back to 4-6 inches above soil level. The plant looked stark, with mostly bare branches. I repotted the poinsettia into a pot 2 inches larger in diameter. During the last half of May new growth sprouted along the stems.

Next we gave the poinsettia a summer vacation outdoors. It thrived on summer’s warm temperatures and balmy nights. We found a wind-protected spot that received bright morning sun, but was protected from the extremely intense sunlight of midday.

Poinsettias should be left in their pot during summer, instead of planting into a flowerbed. It’s too difficult to dig them in the fall without damaging roots and causing set-back.

During spring, summer, and fall we applied Miracle Gro fertilizer every 2 to 3 weeks. In late August, before night temperatures dropped below 50 degrees we brought the poinsettia inside to a sunny window.

Now came the interesting part. Poinsettias produce colored flower bracts in response to short days with long periods of complete nighttime darkness. Beginning October 1, we gave our plants 8 hours of bright sunlight during the day, with 15 or 16 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night.

Because the plant was so large, we moved it into a closet each evening about 5, and out again the next morning at 8. Covering with a box or black garbage bag would work with a smaller plant to achieve the required darkness. We continued until bracts were well-colored in late November.

Our poinsettia is large. It measures almost 36 inches tall and 36 inches wide. It’s a little too tall for the dining room table, unless our supper guests have necks like giraffes. But it’s beautiful.

So after growing the plant for a year and hauling it in and out of a closet for 60 days, was it worth it? You betcha!

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