Poinsettia Time!

Today is the 7th and that means it’s time to check in on the progress of your 2011 Christmas Poinsettia Plants.  That’s right, YOUR poinsettia plants, not ours.  Remember, mine are now long gone- maybe to serve as compost for some 2012 plants.  Hopefully your plants are faring much better and are ready for a triumphant return this December.  Here are the plans for your plants for October:

The poinsettia is a short-day plant budding according to the amount of daylight.  They are going to need about 10 weeks of long hours of darkness to bloom full and strong for Christmas.  Long hours of darkness means at least 12 hours of darkness a day.  You will need to create an artificially dark environment for your plants.  It is recommended to keep the plants in total darkness from 5 PM until morning each day.  It is best to put the plants in some type of closed box or chest.  Putting them in a closet or closed off room is risky if there is any chance light might enter through cracks.  Just the smallest light will throw the bloom schedule off.  During the non dark hours each day the plants should continue to be placed in bright daylight and watered regularly.  Keep this treatment up for the whole month of October and into November.  Next month will be time to plan for the glorious return of bright brilliant blooms.

Poinsettia Check!

Today is the seventh and that means it’s time to check on the progress of my 2011 poinsettia plants.  If you recall from August I was down from my 5 originals to just 1 that was struggling through.  The sad news is that they have all died.  I might have been more attentive in the leaner early spring months and nursed them a little more. The good news is it is only about 7 weeks until I can buy 2012 plants!  I promised to post the tips and plans for the whole year.  So even though mine have been added to the compost bin I will still let you know what comes next.  September is easy- continuing watering and fertilizing.  Just be sure to keep them above 65 degrees (no problem lately around here!).  October will bring some challenge- complete darkness for the plants.  Check back on October 7th for all the details on operation black-out.

Flower Check!

Well, it’s the 7th of the month again and you know what that means.  Time to check in on those 2011 Poinsettias.  The road to saving those flowers from last year to add to Christmas 2012 has been an interesting test of will.  I am back to the thinking that it is certainly just easier to by new ones on Black Friday at Lowe’s for 99 cents.  Those 2011 plants are remaining outside in the warm summer air (that’s a HUGE understatement lately) and be kept moist (a challenge when it’s 140 degrees out).  Early July is the next step to cut back the plants.  The guide instructs to cut all stems back an inch or two.  This will encourage the stout growth that will create a bushier plant come December.  Honestly my plants now look like a collections of stems with very few leaves.  My guide tells me this is to be expected and that I should see some bountiful growth from now to mid-August, when we move them back indoors and eventually back to many hours of total darkness. Hope springs eternal that this will be the best looking Poinsettia plants I’ve ever owned by December.  We shall all see!


Poinsettia Update

My 2011 poinsettias- May 2012.

Hopefully you remember my quest to keep 2011’s poinsettia plants for Christmas 2012.  I have been carefully following the suggested care ideas each month.  April meant drying the plants out and keeping them cool.  Mine definitely have dried and look rather pathetic.  To be honest, they look like they are ready to be thrown out!  But I will stick to the plan and see if we can keep them going.

May is when the plan gets a little more complex.  Sometime in the middle of the month, I’m thinking next week, it is time to cut.  Cut all the plants back to about 4 inches.  Then take them and repot in a larger pot with new potting soil.  Put the plants in the brightest window you have and keep the temperature around 70, give or take 5 degrees.  Bring back the water and keep the plants damp.  As soon as you notice some new growth it’s time to start using a fertilizer- just follow the directions on the container.  Keep this up until June and then we’ll talk about moving the plants outside.  (Anyone else starting to agree it is WAY easier to just buy new ones on Black Friday at Lowe’s for 99 cents?)

Poinsettia Check

Last month I shared a little about keeping and caring for your Christmas poinsettia all year round.  It seems really simple and cost smart.  Why buy new plants every year if you can keep the same and let them grow and grow?  On the 7th of each month we get an update on the care plan with a check-in on my plants.  First let’s review our care instructions.  For January and February we need to keep the plant growing as we do in December.  The challenge is to do just that- keep them growing!  It takes the basics:

Light needs to be direct.  They need lots of sun!

Heat is needed.  They like it no cooler than 65.  You have to avoid cold drafts.  This includes being near a cold window- bad news!

Water often.  They should be kept wet, but be cautious not to over water.  The damage can take a year for recovery.  If you have low humidity you will need to water daily.

I found out first hand the damage from that cold window.  I had my plants in front of a door to my back porch.  The side touching the windows took a little hit.  Bad damage!   My plants are looking a little rough but they are making it.  NEed to pluck off the dead leaves and keep the water flowing.  We keep this up until the end of March, then it will be time to start cutting back the water and shutting down the growth.  Send some pics of  your plants for show and tell in our March post on the 7th.

Poin-SET-ee-ah or Poin-set-CHA, What do you do with them now?

Everyone loves the beautiful red leaved plants that we include as part of our Christmas decor.  The poinsettia is as much a part of the Christmas greenhouse as holly or a fir-tree.  But how did we come to include these plants as part of Christmas?  The plant is a native of Mexico and is more a small shrub or tree than a flower.  The red color is actually the leaves of the plant changing color, not petals at all.  The Aztecs used the plant to make dye for fabrics and to paint their skin.  The Christmas connection is said to originate in the 16th century with a young girl who wished to make a gift to Mary on Christmas Eve but was too poor to afford a gift.  On the way to the church she was visited by an angel who told her to pick some weeds along the road.  When she presented these at the church they were transformed into the beautiful red poinsettia plant.  In the seventeenth century Franciscan monks in Central America had incorporated the plant into the holiday season and said the shape of the plant represented the star of Bethlehem and the red color the sacrifice Jesus was to make.  The plant was introduced to America in the 1820s by our first minister to Mexico, Joel Poinsett, obviously the plant’s American namesake.

The popularity spread quickly in the US in the 20th century.  From 1900 through the early 1990s a single family, the Eckes, dominated growth and spread of the plant.  In the early days of color television the family sent free plants to news and other TV studios to use a set decoration on the air to increase popularity and demand for the plant.  In the 90s the family met new competition as the secret method they had for growing the plants so full ( a genetic hybrid) became known to all.  Since 2008 the largest producers of the plant no longer grow in the US.  Today the plants may be red, pink, or white in coloring.  Even brilliant yellow and silver varieties are grown.  There are more than 100 different varieties of the plant.  But what do you do with them from January through November?

Keeping your poinsettia plants year round is not as easy as it might seem.  This is why so many people just buy new ones each fall.  I still remember the gigantic plants my great, great aunt had at her house when I was growing up.  She diligently cared for hers and the plants were close to 30 years old I was told.  The key to keeping the plant year round is the care.  In late spring it must be cut back and then in the summer placed in bright sun to grow anew.  You must regular pinch back the new growth to keep it a stout plant and not grow to be tall and spindly.  The real challenge is in early fall when you must keep the plant in total darkness for about 14 hours a day.  Check out the great tips on care from about.com’s gardening section- Poinsettias- Keepers or compost? .