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Gardening with Laurie: Poinsettia care after Christmas

By By Laurie Garretson
Dec. 27, 2012 at 6:27 a.m.

Laurie Garretson

Now that the holidays are almost over, people will soon be taking all their lights down, packing them up and storing them away for another year. Christmas trees will be undecorated. Cut trees will be dragged out to the curb, hopefully for recycling and fake trees will be put back in their box and stored away with the decorations. There's one holiday decoration that many people have trouble dealing with after the holidays, their poinsettia plants.

Poinsettias are very popular for holiday gift giving and for holiday decorating. But what are you suppose to do with the plants after the holidays are over? That is assuming the plants survived the holidays. As I see it, there are a few options.

For one, you could throw it in the compost pile. I would suggest cutting the plant up before composting it. My second suggestion would be to hand it off to a gardener friend that enjoys revitalizing plants. My third suggestion would be to keep it, if it's not in too bad of shape. If you enjoy having this plant around, there's no reason why you can't keep it growing. It can easily become another house plant until all danger of frost and freezes have passed and then move it outdoors.

Poinsettias are tropical plants that can be planted in the landscape. Of course, being tropical means you will have to protect the plant whenever we have a frost or freeze predicted.

Poinsettias grown indoors will like a sunny location with ideal temperatures around 70 degrees. They will not grow well near a furnace, vent or close to a fireplace. Water them thoroughly when the soil feels dry. Never let the plant sit in a saucer of water for an extended period of time. Poinsettias can get root rot if kept too wet. Fertilize the plant a couple of times a month.

Toward the end of February, cut the poinsettia plant back to about five inches in height to help promote new growth. By the middle to the end of May, the plant will probably need to be moved to a larger container. A pot that is about two inches larger in diameter than the old pot would be a good size to use and should work well for several more months.

To have poinsettias bloom for next year's holiday season, you will need to move the plant to a totally dark location toward the middle of September. It will need to spend 12 to 14 hours each day in this total darkness, and I do mean totally dark. During the daytime it will need to get six hours or more of sunlight. Continue this routine until the first of November.

Some gardeners will place their potted poinsettia in a black trash bag and tie the bag closed with a twist tie to allow the plant to have the dark hours it needs. Then open the bag and allow the plant to get the sunlight it needs. Following this schedule should provide the right conditions for the plant to be blooming for you by the holidays.

Until next time, let's try and garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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