Poinsettias, the indoor plants that just shout Christmas at you, will once again be displaying their seasonal colour in the plant room here at Silica Lodge towards the end of November, so it seems like an appropriate time to remind you about their care. Hopefully then you will have that beautiful colour lasting over Christmas and well into the New Year.
The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is a shrubby deciduous plant which will grow to 5ft. or more in its natural habitat in Mexico. Luckily for us this plant can be grown indoors as a small flowering pot plant due to the use of dwarfing agents used in its production. If you decide to keep your poinsettia for another year however, bear in mind that it will start to revert to type and will grow back much larger than the original plant purchased.
Although the most popular colour for poinsettias is still red, there are other colours available. Pink, white, burgundy and some variegated types have been produced although personally the reds have my vote for being the most Christmassy.
The colour on a poinsettia comes from the bracts (modified leaves) and the true flowers, which are yellow, nestle in the centre of the bracts.
Poinsettias thrive in good light and will be at their best if kept in your warmest room, moving them off windowsills at night when you close the curtains. Water well when the surface of the compost is starting to dry out and remember that poinsettias like a humid atmosphere, so mist-spray regularly.
If you wish to keep your poinsettia for another season cut back the stems to 4” or 5” after the leaves have fallen. Keep the compost on the dry side and re-pot in May increasing the watering and start feeding. Remove some of the new shoots to leave 5 or 6 of the strongest. To encourage the bracts to colour up again your poinsettia will need 14 hours of total darkness every day for 8 weeks. The best way to achieve this is to cover it completely with a black polythene bag from early evening until the next morning. If you start doing this from late September your poinsettia should be wearing its full festive colours again by Christmas.