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The Plant Doctor: Poinsettias can be saved to bloom another season

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Unquestionably, the most popular Christmas plant is the celebrated poinsettia. With careful planning, horticulturists encourage the plant to bloom right on cue. Regrettably, most poinsettias will be discarded shortly after the blooms depart the plant. With a little care, however, most of these truly beautiful plants can be saved to bloom still another season.

Start with the pampering part: The indoor regimen should include bright light with a few hours, if possible, of direct sun. Never let it go dry or saturate it with water.

Temperature, particularly in the winter, should not be less than 55 degrees to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. These plants are native to tropical Mexico and Central America, thus they rarely are exposed to very cold temperatures.

During the spring and summer the plant can be drastically cut back in order to encourage a healthy, shapely growth pattern.

If your goal is to have the modified leaves, known as bracts, turn color in time for the upcoming season, mark your calendar back eight to 10 weeks and follow the formula listed below.

Poinsettias, which are classified as short day plants, will require a minimum of 13 hours of total darkness and nighttime temperature of 60 degrees to 70 degrees. It is vitally important that the plant not be exposed to any stray light. Indeed, many horticulturists keep the plant either in locked closets or specially designed cartons.

For your purposes, select a carton that will properly house the plant, close it tightly and keep it in an area that receives little or no light. Your plant will also require about six hours of bright light each day. The schedule must be consistent — it is effectively the plant’s call, not yours.

While references are somewhat contradictory, the sap of the poinsettia is an irritant to your skin and if not ingested, not poisonous to people or animals.

Questions or concerns regarding gardens or houseplants may be directed by e-mail to Harvey.Goodman@att.net.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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