Keeping a Christmas poinsettia blooming

PUBLISHED: 08:04 05 January 2006 | UPDATED: 20:09 28 May 2010

Keep your Christmas Poinsettas

Keep your Christmas Poinsettas

HOW many of our readers were given, or bought, a poinsettia for Christmas? These popular, strongly-coloured red and green indoor pot plants really brighten up the home, especially on the kind of days we have been having with rain drizzling down, after the

HOW many of our readers were given, or bought, a poinsettia for Christmas?

These popular, strongly-coloured red and green indoor pot plants really brighten up the home, especially on the kind of days we have been having with rain drizzling down, after the snow that started falling on Boxing Day.

Looking after poinsettias so they continue to bear the red bracts is not difficult, so long as you bear a few rules in mind.

They don't like direct sunlight, so put them in indirect sunlight for at least six hours a day. If you can't avoid direct sun, shield the poinsettia with a sheet or sheer curtain.

They like a comfortable room temperature, say 68-70F (20-25C), but they hate being waterlogged so only water them if they feel dry to the touch. And if they are in a decorative pot, remove the flower pot, water, then let the water to drain out before putting it back.

Don't put the plant in or near a cold draught - it would give you aches and pains and so it would the plant. Windows, doors, chimneys and air ducts all cause draughts

If you want to keep the plant for the next season, then after the blooming season - the red bracts are leaves, not flowers, which are the small centres - you can apply a balanced, general purpose fertiliser.

By late March or early April, cut the poinsettia back to a height of no more than eight inches (13cms). Water it whenever it feels dry, and within a couple of months you should start to see the new growth.

When the chance of frost has gone, put the plant outdoors to soak up the spring and summer sun, but watch night-time temperatures as anything below 55F (12C) could harm the plant.

Feed with the fertiliser every fortnight or so, keep the plant bushy with occasional pruning in June or July, and keep it out of the direct sun.

If the plant is getting too big for its pot, repot it into a new pot no more than four inches larger and use a soil mix of peat moss or leaf mould, continuing to feed.

The poinsettia won't start setting its buds until the longer nights of autumn and it needs 14 hours of total darkness each night. You can either move it into a suitable room, or cover with a large, lightproof box. You need to maintain a night temperature of 60-70F (14-25C), and similar for daytime when you should move the plant into indirect sunlight.

By Christmas you should be seeing results for all your TLC.

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