Sunday, December 8, 2019 By: Ask A Master Gardener

Poinsettia Care

Poinsettias: How to Achieve Re-Flowering Next Season
Tom Ingram: Ask A Master Gardener
Sunday, December 8, 2019
Q: Each year I purchase a new poinsettia and each year I end up throwing it away. Is there a way to keep it until next year? CH
A: Poinsettias are our favorite Christmas plant with sales of over $250 million dollars each year. That’s a lot of poinsettias!
Poinsettias are the namesake of Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, who first brought these plants north to the United States. In their native Mexico, they are a perennial and can grow 10 to 15 feet tall making a beautiful shrub. In honor of Poinsett, Dec. 15 is National Poinsettia Day which coincides with the death of Poinsett in 1851.
Believe it or not, the poinsettia has also been known by several names; such as the Lobster Flower or the Flame-Leaf Flower due to the red color of its bracts (that is what those red leaves are called). But good luck walking into your local nursery and asking where the Lobster Flowers are. OK, so enough with the history lesson, let’s get back to the question.
As gardeners we hate to just throw away a potential new member of our garden tribe, but some plants kind of nudge us to move in that direction. If you want to try and keep your poinsettia alive while encouraging it to develop those beautiful red bracts next year, here is what you are going to need to do.
1) At the first of the year you should fertilize your poinsettia with a good all-purpose fertilizer and provide it with adequate sun and water indoors.
2) Sometimes the plants can become leggy, so around mid-February, trim it back to around 5” in total height.
3) Mid-March remove the dried and faded parts of the plant.
4) Mid-May (after the danger of a freeze is over), you can move the plant outside to a place that gets indirect sunlight. Keep them away from locations that get hot-drying winds. Trim the longer branches back about 2 or 3 inches to shape the plant into a rounded bushy plant. Be prepared to replant if it outgrows its container. Continue to water and apply a house plant fertilizer at the recommended rate.
5) In late September, bring the plant indoors and place it in a sunny location. At this point the plant needs to rotate between absolute darkness and sunlight to begin developing that bright red color. To accomplish this, leave them in the sunny location each day, but place them in absolute darkness from 5 p.m. each evening and leave them there till about 8 a.m. Follow this daily procedure daily for about two months and you should you get good red bract color, typically by Thanksgiving.
Or, you could do what most of us do; enjoy them while we have them and purchase a new one each year.
You can get answers to all your gardening questions by calling the Tulsa Master Gardeners Help Line at 918-746-3701, dropping by our Diagnostic Center at 4116 E. 15th St., or by emailing us at
Garden tips
• Apply dormant oil for scale infested trees (crape myrtle bark scale) and shrubs when temperatures are above 40 degrees.
• If your roses have not been mulched, do so now. This is a good place to use those fall leaves which have been shredded with a mulching mower. Mulch not only will prevent cold damage to those plants which are susceptible but will prevent warming of soil on warm winter days which may promote premature cold sensitive new growth


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