by G. H. Marshall, Kansas
“WHAT SHALL I DO with my poinsettia?”
This is a question often heard shortly after the new
year starts and the colorful bracts on this favorite
Christmas flower have begun to fade and fall leaving
only the sickly yellow flowerets to exude their sticky
juice on window sill or flower stand.
Many persons will answer their own question
by setting their poinsettia on the back porch where
the winter winds will soon tell what has been done with
it. But other courageous souls will tenderly care for
the plant all year, hoping that it will bloom at Christmas,
only to be disappointed when no flowers appear. This
disappointment is really not necessary, for poinsettias
will bloom again at Christmas time for, many years if
they are given proper care.
To grow any flowering plant it is very
important that one should know something about its native
habitat, its soil requirements, and the temperature
and amount of water it likes best. The poinsettia is
a tropical plant. J. R. Poinsett of South Carolina brought
it to the United States from Mexico early in the 19th
century. Its tropical origin has much to do with what
must be done for your poinsettia if it is to bloom’
several years instead of just one.
Like the gloxinia, the chrysanthemum,
and many other plants; the poinsettia needs a long period
of rest. In order to get it, the plant must be put to
sleep. When its blooming period is over, it should be
placed in the basement, a vacant room, or even a closet,
where the temperature will not go below freezing or
rise to 60 degrees. It will need only enough, water
to keep the soil from becoming completely dry. It will
lose all of its leaves and will look hopeless, but,
if these directions are followed, when spring comes
it will prove to be very much alive.
Put Plant Outdoors When spring does come,
and the temperature has risen to 60 degrees or more,
disturb your poinsettia’s long sleep by taking it outdoors,
removing it from its pot and resetting it in a new one
at least one size larger; using soil composed of equal
parts coarse sand, good garden soil, and leaf mold.
Add sheep manure amounting to one sixth of the bulk
of the other ingredients. Set your poinsettia in the
new pot using this new soil, water it freely, and place
it in a protected but fairly sunny location. If temperatures
below fifty degrees threaten, protect the plant until
the weather becomes warmer again. Always see that your
plant has plenty of water during this early period.
Soon, new growth will appear and you can
tell what part of the stem or stems is dead. Even if
there is no dead wood, it is well to cut off two or
three inches of each old stem in order to stimulate
side growth. Do not use these tips for “slips”
as the plants they make will grow too tall and become
When new growth gets to be three or four
inches long, you must decide what size you want your
re-set plant to be, or .you may wish to propagate one
or two new plants from cuttings. If your old plant had
but one stem, this stem should be cut back until it
is only four or five inches long. If your old plant
consists of several stems, or branches, each stem or
branch should be cut back severely in order that it
may not become too large. It was probably produced from
a “slip” or cutting and had to produce roots
before it could begin to grow. Your old plant already
has its roots and can make a growth by Christmas time
that will surprise you.
Leave Plant in Pot
Never set your poinsettia in the open
– ground. If you do, you will find that when you pot
it in the fall; it will lose practically all of its
leaves, and, even if it does bloom, a flower on a –
leafless stick is not particularly beautiful.
It is well, however, to set the pot containing
your poinsettia in the ground within an inch or two
of the rim. This will keep its roots cool. Keep your
plant well watered, but do not let he soil become waterlogged.
Once a week from the time it is `set out until the true
flowers_- which are yellow – begin to appear, give your
poinsettia a feeding of liquid manure. This will add
vigor to your plant and give brighter color to the bracts.
In early fall, when temperatures begin
to slide down below sixty degrees, your poinsettia belongs
in the house, far low, temperatures cause it to lose
its leaves. Place it in a sunny window where it will
not be exposed to cold drafts.
Needs Complete Darkness Poinsettias belong
to that group of plants, which time their blooming by
the shortening of the day. If you want your poinsettia
to bloom during the Christmas season, it must have at
least twelve hours of complete darkness ` during every
twenty-four hours. The government bulletin which deals
with this subject says: ” even one minute of light
during this dark period will prevent your poinsettia
from blooming at Christmas time.” It may bloom
later or it may not. Failure to observe this rule is
the chief reason for the failure of your poinsettia
to bloom. The lack of a long rest period is a close
If these directions are followed exactly
and no untoward accident befalls your poinsettia, it
will bloom not only next Christmas, but with similar
treatment each year, for many Christmases. The writer
made the same plant bloom for more than ten years during
which time it grew to be more than six feet tall and
had more blooms each year, some of which were more than
a foot across.
If you want to grow cuttings from your old poinsettia,
here are some brief rules that will help you:
1. When the new growth reaches a length of four or five
inches sever the cuttings you want from the old stems
with a sharp knife.
2. Place each cutting in a four-inch pot in which you
have put a little sphagnum, or coarse peat moss, then
filled with thoroughly moistened sand. Use a rooting
hormone if you wish. Do. not thrust your cutting into
the sand. Make a hole for it with your finger or a stick.
Finally press the sand around it firmly, place a glass
over it and set it in a good light, but not in the sun.
Water it every morning unless the day is cloudy.
3. Later, when the cutting begins to show real’ growth,
transfer it to a six-inch pot using the same – soil
mixture that is given for setting of an old plant. If
you want to make a gorgeous display, you can place as
many as ten cuttings in a ten-inch pot.
4. Cuttings are usually made in
July. They should not be made after the middle of August.