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.

Poinsettia Cuttings

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.

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