Keeping a poinsettia alive is actually the art of knowing something about the plant in order to make it bloom again, according to horticulturists with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. For instance, the poinsettia should not be planted outdoors in Georgia due to our chilly winter weather.
UGA horticulturists recommend these tips for growing a healthy plant:
* Place the plant near a sunny window. But make sure its not close to a door or heat vent where drafts of either cool or warm air may reach the plant. Keep the temperature as close to 70 degrees as possible; 50 degrees is too cold.
* When the leaves begin to wilt, let the container dry out by watering it less. This will cause the plant to fall into a semi-dormant stage. The leaves will shrivel and drop off.
* By late March or early April, repot the plant in a larger container. Cut it back to 2-4 inches above the soil level and begin to water it more often. Water the plant whenever the top layer of soil begins to dry out. If the soil feels dry at the two-inch depth, its time to water.
* When the new growth begins, apply a soluble fertilizer every other week. After the plant grows 4-6 inches, pinch back the shoot tips to allow it to branch. Poinsettias need to be pinched at least twice during the season.
* To bloom, the plant needs eight to 10 weeks of short days. Each short day should include no more than 12 hours of sunlight. Starting Oct. 1, keep the plant in complete darkness at night for 14 continuous hours. If its indoors, move it to a dark room or closet or cover it every night with a large box. Any type of light, such as a porch light or even a flashlight, can disturb the blooming process.
The proper care of a poinsettia can provide a beautiful arrangement not only during the holidays but throughout the year. For more information on caring for poinsettias, contact the Walker County Extension Service at (706) 638-2548.
Norman Edwards is coordinator of Walker County Extension Service.
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