Date: April 1989 (Revised April 1995)
Source: NDSU Extension Service Horticulturists
Poinsettia plants you may have had in past holiday seasons are quite different from those available in recent years. The most important difference is that many new varieties will last much longer than their predecessors.
The new varieties, if well grown, can retain blooms into March. You may even wish to keep the plant and bring it on to flower again next Christmas.
To enjoy the poinsettias' beauty over a longer period, you need to apply fertilizer to the soil. This was unheard of a few years ago with the old varieties.
Begin feeding your plant a complete fertilizer two weeks after you bring it home. Use a 10-10-10 or similar analysis fertilizer. Apply this to the soil at the rate of one teaspoon per gallon of water.
Poinsettias do best in a sunny location away from heat sources or cold drafts. They need a uniformly moist soil at all times and a night temperature of 65 to 70 degrees.
After the garden soil warms up in late May, move your plant outside. Cut the stems back to 3 to 5 inches from the soil. Repot the plant using a soil containing at least 25 percent organic matter. Sink the pot in a sunny location with well-drained soil. Rotate the pot every two weeks, to break off roots growing through the drainage holes.
Before the first killing frost, bring the plant indoors to a sunny room. Keep a night temperature of about 60 degrees.
Beginning October 1, poinsettias need complete darkness every day from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. Put a cardboard box over the plant to provide this necessary short day. Be sure the box fits tightly so no light reaches the plant. Continue to cover your plant every night until the flowers begin to show color in late November.
Many people do not provide the required short days and 60 degree temperatures at the proper time. As a result, their poinsettias do not bloom during the Christmas season.
Additional information on this topic is included in the Extension bulletin H-906, "Poinsettia Care in the Home," which is available at your county office of the NDSU Extension Service.
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