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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Feb. 27, 2024

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Gardening With Allen: Tips to prolong poinsettia plants

By , Columbian freelance writer

I bought a poinsettia plant at Thanksgiving last year. It started losing leaves and flower petals before Christmas. Is there some way to make them last longer?

If properly cared for, a poinsettia plant should keep its flowers and leaves until well after Christmas. The two main causes of early leaf and flower loss are cold shock and over watering.

Where poinsettias grow naturally in Mexico, the shortening days of fall cause them to bloom shortly before Christmas. Greenhouse growers in the U.S. duplicate these shortening days by covering plants with black cloth in the early afternoon so they bloom by Thanksgiving.

Poinsettias can be damaged at cold temperatures above freezing. This can occur anyplace between the greenhouse where they were grown until after they reach your home. The two most likely times for cold exposure are during transport of the plants to the store or home from the store. Plants can be damaged by going from a heated greenhouse to a cold truck or sitting on an outdoor dock during transit. It’s hard to know if damage has occurred on the way to the store, although leaf loss in the store indicates either cold damage or rough handling. The safest place to purchase plants is from a retail greenhouse where they are grown.

Plants should not sit in an unheated car if outside temperatures are below 45 degrees. It is a good idea to cover plants when transferring from store to car on cold days.

Check the soil to see if it is dry on top before watering. Then apply enough water so a little runs out the drain holes. Plants are usually wrapped in foil. Do not let water accumulate inside the foil wrap. You may remove the wrap or make holes in it so the water drains into a saucer or the sink. Water in the foil can be reabsorbed by the soil so the soil remains too wet. Roots need oxygen as well as water. If all the soil pores are filled with water there will not be adequate air for the roots. When roots start to die, plants will lose leaves and flower bracts also.

Plants do best with plenty of light. Lamps near plants can be left on all night.

Columbian freelance writer