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You can re-bloom your poinsettias

There seems to be two camps when it comes to what to do with poinsettias after Christmas. One camp’s motto is “I’m so glad Christmas has passed; now I can let the poinsettia die.” The other camp cheers, “This poinsettia is so pretty I must keep it to flower again!”

Getting poinsettias to reflower next year is possible, but it takes diligence. So, far all of you poinsettia keeper campers, here is the process.

Winter:

After Christmas, grow the poinsettia as a houseplant. Keep it evenly moist and in fairly bright light.

Spring:

In February or early March, cut back each of the old flowering stems to 4 to 6 inches in height to promote new growth.

Summer:

In May, repot into a slightly larger pot. Water well and place in a sunny window. When all danger of frost has past and night temperatures are above 60 degrees, the plant can be placed outdoors in a shady location. Some morning sun is OK.

Water as needed and apply a complete soluble fertilizer (20-20-20) every two weeks.

Fall and winter:

Before night temperatures fall below 55-60 degrees at night, bring the poinsettia indoors to a sunny location. Keep moist but reduce fertilization.

With poinsettias, as well as Christmas cactus, flowering is ‘photo-periodically’ induced. This means that flowers begin to form when the days are a certain length. The poinsettia is a short-day or long-night plant. Without long nights, poinsettias will continue to produce leaves, but will not flower.

Flower initiation begins in late September and early October. Dark periods longer than 12 hours are necessary for flower set.

Because flower initiation depends upon the length of the dark period, your poinsettia must be kept completely dark from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. In order to get them to flower for Christmas, this treatment should be from the end of September until Dec. 15.

Once you can see the flowers developing and the bracts show color, it is not as important to continue giving the dark treatment.

If all of this seems like a lot of work, then it’s time to change camps and leave poinsettias to the professionals. Which poinsettia camp are you in?

Rebecca Bates is an MSU Extension-Lincoln County agent, and can be reached at 601-835-3460 or by e-mail at rebecca.bates@msstate.edu.