Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.
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OK, the holidays are over, but you still have a pretty poinsettia plant hanging on to dear life. It seems a shame to discard the plant just because the leaves start to drop. (In the spirit of disclosure, I will admit that I do discard my plant each year.) However, some people have great luck getting poinsettias to sprout new, colorful bracts each holiday season. Here’s how:
If you want to keep your poinsettia for re-flowering next year, cut it back to about 8 inches in height in the spring when the bracts start looking old and worn out. Within a couple of months you should see vigorous new growth. Keep watering, fertilize regularly and repot to a slightly larger container. Prune when needed (but no later than Sept. 1) to keep your plant nicely shaped.
Poinsettias are photoperiodic plants, which means they set their buds and produce flowers when the fall nights become longer, blooming naturally during November and December.
Getting the plant to bloom in time for Christmas is tricky. In October, they must be kept in complete darkness for 14 continuous hours in 60 to 70 degree temperatures; light from street lights, lamps or outdoor house lights might delay or stop the re-flowering process. You might consider covering the plant with a paper bag or upside down waste basket to achieve this continuous darkness. During the day, your plant will need six to eight hours of bright sunlight during October, November and December. This 14-hour darkness treatment should last until the plant begins to show some color in the bracts, usually around Thanksgiving.
So if you’re up for a little TLC with this beautiful holiday plant, keep it around and follow these tips for a pretty bloom next December.
Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. Call 970-879-0825 with questions.