I’m your poinsettia. I’ve been decorating your living room for a few days now and I’d love to do it for a long time to come, but for me to last, I need your help.
Don’t Let Me Drown!
First, a few words about that cute pot cover I’m sold in. I hate it!
True enough, it does make me look pretty, but it also causes me trouble. It’s completely watertight, allowing no drainage whatsoever, so when you water me, any excess water just accumulates and then my roots, which need to breathe air, start to drown and that’s the end of me!
So, could you please remove it or at least punch holes in the bottom, then set me in a plant saucer? That way the water can escape!
I just came out of a huge greenhouse where my watering was automated: I’ve never been exposed to dry soil in my life! As soon as my soil got close to drying, a computer warned the system, and I was carefully inundated with nice warm water. It was heaven!
But there is no automatic watering system in your home. If you let my potting soil dry out, some of my roots will die and since I now have fewer roots, I won’t be able to support as many leaves. So, my lower leaves will turn yellow and fall off and I’ll be less attractive. If you do this a second time, I’ll lose even more leaves, then more again, then even some of my beautiful colored bracts! Sob! I’ll look like a tornado hit me and I just know you’ll toss me!
So, I need your help!
Get in the habit of touching my potting soil every three or four days. Go ahead and shove a finger right into it: that does me no harm whatsoever. If the soil seems damp, everything is fine, but check again in three or four days. If the soil seems dry, water me. Slowly, but abundantly, with tepid water (I hate cold water!), until the excess water starts to drip out of my pot’s drainage holes.
15 minutes after you water, come back and discard any water that remains in my saucer. That will make me so happy!
If you always water me well, I promise to stay in bloom right through the holidays!
Now let’s talk about light… and here I’m willing to compromise a bit. I prefer bright light, but I can tolerate a few days, even two or three weeks, with little light. So, yes, you can place me on a coffee table or desk away from any window during the holidays. After all, my role is to decorate your home. But afterwards, place me near a sunny window. Yes, full sun if possible, if not, the brightest conditions you can provide!
If I get a lot of sun in addition to regular watering, I’ll hold on to my bracts for ages, until as late as May or even June!
A few more fairly minor details: I’m fine with hot temperatures during the day, but prefer cooler nights. So, if you could lower the thermostat just a bit before you go to bed, to maybe 65 ° F (18 ° C), I’d appreciate it. I’ll be able to sleep better.
And keep me out of cold drafts and away from radiators. Do you like blasts of cold or hot air? I didn’t think so. Well, neither do I!
And don’t feed me yet. Before I was sent to the store where you bought me, I was so heavily fertilized that I’m still full. I mean, Christmas Day turkey full! In fact, I won’t be hungry for a few months yet. In March, when the days get a little longer, that’s when I’ll then start looking for some extra minerals.
Then, just give me a bit of all-purpose fertilizer at each watering. A pinch or two will do: I’m not a greedy plant. Still, I don’t like being starved either.
Extending My Usefulness
Look, if I bloom until May or June, I figure I did my job. I hope you enjoyed my efforts! After that, it seems to me that I will have the right to rest a little. Maintaining colorful bracts is exhausting, so don’t complain if I drop them: you’ll have had your money’s worth.
What, do you want me to bloom again? Hmm. Let me think about it.
You see, that wasn’t part of the contract. The nurseryman who produced me certainly didn’t have that in mind! He saw me as a temporary decoration, something you’d dispose of when I start to decline. However, it’s true that you’ve been nice to me. So … okay, I’m willing to try. But that will require some extra effort on your part.
First, when my bracts start to fall off, cut me back severely, to 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) from the soil. Go ahead: it doesn’t hurt me! Instead, it will stimulate me to grow back more densely, so I’ll be even more beautiful next year.
Keep on watering me (never let me dry out!), fertilizing me and giving me the brightest light you can muster. You can even put me outside for the summer. I love that! But bring me back indoors in early fall, before the first frost.
I’m now going to reveal you my biggest secret: I only bloom if I have long nights or, if you prefer, short days, that is, days of less than 12 hours. So, from the 22nd of September on, you can no longer keep me in a room that is illuminated at night. Even a few rays of light at the wrong moment can throw off my flowering!
Instead, place me somewhere I get intense sun during the day, but no light at all at night. Maybe you can put me in a guest room and remove all the light bulbs so that no one can turn on a light at night by accident? Or you can stuff me into a closet at six o’clock each evening, then move me back to a sunny spot at 8 am? Whatever works for you, but do give me those short days.
After about 2 months of short days, a little miracle will occur. The new leaves that appear at my top will be colored bracts! Moreover, as soon as I start to change color, you no longer have to worry about providing short days. It’s just to start the color change that I need days less than 12 hours long.
So, you’ve been so good to me that I’m going to give you a present: just do as I say and I’m going to bloom for Christmas next year, just for you! And the year after, and the year after, for as long as you like!
Your beloved poinsettia,