Poinsettias are just not what they used to be… thank Goodness!
When I was a young man of about 14 years I worked in the greenhouse alongside my dad and older brother growing poinsettias. In those days poinsettias were fairly new. We planted three plants per pot and each plant only bloomed with one bract (flower). I can still remember the variety we grew, Eckespoint C-1, which had been newly released in 1968. In those days poinsettias came in any color you wanted, as long as it was red. One of the struggles we had was to get them to bloom in time for the holidays. The next struggle was to get the bloom to last clear through the holidays. And the other thing we struggled with was to keep all the leaves from falling off before Christmas. Sometimes by Christmas you would have a pot with three red blossoms sitting on top of 3 sticks with no leaves.
Poinsettias growing in our greenhouse in a previous year
Well, that certainly is not the case any longer. Poinsettias now have dozens of bracts on each plant and they come in dozens of colors and types. We are growing 25 different varieties ourselves this year. Every shade of red, pink, and white is represented, along with many mufti-color variations. Some even have rose-like blossoms rather than the traditional flat bracts. And they last forever, too. It’s not unusual for your poinsettia to still be blooming for Valentines day or even later.
So a lot of folks now keep their poinsettias growing all year and then wonder why they don’t bloom again for Christmas. It has to do with the day length. Poinsettias naturally bloom for Christmas because they naturally bloom when the nights are longest. Unfortunately, if we are growing them in our homes they don’t get the long nights that they need because almost no one turns all the lights off in their house for 12 or 14 hours every day.
Just beginning to turn color- October 24, 2012.
While it’s not easy, it is certainly possible to get that poinsettia that you have hanging around the house from last Christmas to bloom again for the holidays. It’s too late to get it to bloom for Thanksgiving, but you might have time to get it to bloom for Christmas. Read on if you would like to give it a try. If you follow these directions carefully, it is possible to have your poinsettia in bloom for Christmas.
You probably haven’t completed these early steps, but I will include them so you will have them for reference for next year. The summer steps don’t have an affect on making them bloom, they are designed to give you a better shaped, sturdy plant.
April: Color has faded. Cut stems back to about 8”. Keep near sunny window and fertilize when new growth appears.
June: Repot if necessary. Be sure pot has drainage holes and is no more than 4” larger in diameter than original pot. Fertilize as you would any flowering potted plant. Continue to water when dry to the touch. You may move plant outside under light shade if nighttime temperatures stay above 55° F.
July: Cut stems back, leaving 3 to 4 leaves per shoot. Water and fertilize as needed.
October 1 through Dec. 1: Poinsettias need 12 to 14 hours of darkness every day to trigger them to bloom. Ensure that the plant receives bright filtered sunlight from 8 am to 6 pm. Then place in dark (NO LIGHT) 6 pm to 8 am. Setting a box over the plant each evening or placing it in a dark room or closet every night can accomplish this. It also helps if nighttime temperatures are maintained between 60° and 70° F. Temperatures outside this range may delay flowering.
Good luck to you. It’s a lot easier to grow poinsettias today… as opposed to my youth when we had to trudge through six foot drifts of snow to the greenhouse… uphill… both ways.