Should I give up on this poinsettia?

greendreamhomeFebruary 19, 2014

A neighbor gave us a poinsettia for Christmas. It's currently on my east-facing patio in a new, large pot, but I think I waited way too long to repot it. (We're in Arizona, and the temps are currently in the 50s-60s at night and 80s during the day.)

I was just reading about caring for poinsettias though the year, and it sounds very labor-intensive and fussy. The plant is currently looking very sad, with its leaves all droopy (which may be normal the far from Christmas.) Is there a way of keeping it alive so it will bloom again next year? Or is that impossible because we won't get the darkness it needs and we're too hot in the summer?

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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

They aren't too fussy if you just want to grow them as a perennial, although they are a bit sensitve to soil and air conditions - too dry and the leaves will curl/droop, and too wet, and the leaves will yellow, droop, and drop. I generally water (should be no standing water in the saucer) and then watch the leaves for slight drooping before I water again. It seems easier when they are outside as the air circulation probably helps. Once they stabilize, new leaves will sprout along the stems where leaves may have dropped off.

I was actually able to get one to color up this past winter by putting it under an elevated plant light on a timer and covering the whole light fixture with plant, with a black trashbag. I had the timer set for 14 hours on and 10 hours off and after 39 days, the newest bracts were coloring (I had read the average was about 40 days). I expect they are like the bouganinvillea in terms of needing a certain amount of light to trigger bract coloring.

If you have a place to put it outside, they love that as long as they can get some shade (afternoon shade is probably best). I put mine outside when the temps are in the 50s or higher at night and keep it out through to the fall. It is recommended to prune it back during the spring/summer and then just before you bring in so that you can encourage a compact plant (they can become 4'-5' tall shrubs when grown in the ground in areas that they are zoned for). It's the new growth that gets the color when you set up the triggers for that... Otherwise it will be a nice green plant year round with sturdy stems (look out for the white latex-like sap from broken branches as some folks find it to be an irritant like fig branches).

Hope this helps you to decide if you want to give it a try!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 10:23AM
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Jenny -- Thanks for the heads-up about the sap! I'm allergic to latex, and my doctor told me to avoid planting fig trees. Now I'm thinking maybe I shouldn't worry about the poinsettia. Maybe I should find a nice, red flower to go in that nice, red pot.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 6:01PM
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I don't like the pain you have to go through to keep a poinsettia. Just use them as a holiday flower unless you live in a place where they grow in the ground. I toss mine in January. Then find something a bit more friendly to you and your climate. Hard to do, but nursing a poinsettia is not my idea of fun gardening when there's so much else you could be doing!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 4:07PM
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I find poinsettias to be very easy. It grows like a weed for me in full sunlight here in southern california. All they need is water and light -- and it probably doesn't hurt to repot it in the late spring. I wait until it shows new growth.

The key thing to remember is that poinsettias are deciduous - they are going to drop ALL of their leaves at some point before summer. The plant will be a branchy stick for a short while before it starts to grow new leaves. Mine tends to cycle around late April/early May, and its leaves start to look a little bit sad a few weeks before then.

Also, no special treatment is necessary to get the poinsettia to flower. The darkness regimen is necessary if you want to get the plant to flower in time for Christmas---and yes, it is a pain (I have tried and failed). But if you don't succeed, or don't bother at all, the plant should still flower, just later in the year. Mine flowered this year just around February and is still doing it, although it looks like it's getting ready to start dropping leaves. In general, the flower show is not as spectacular as what you get when you bring it home from the grower.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 7:34PM
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