A Note From Your Poinsettia


Source: terryweaver.com, http://www.uihere.com & http://www.wallquotes.com, montage: laidbackgardener.blog


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!

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Pot covers may be cute, but they can also be deadly! Source: Karen McCourt, in.pinterest.com

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!

Thank you!


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Check frequently and water me thoroughly. Source: http://www.ftd.com

Second, watering.

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!


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I can put up with shade for a while, but I really prefer sun! Source: www.ikea.com

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!

Other Care

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.

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Cut me back severely. Source: UKGardening, http://www.youtube.com

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.

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I need short days in order to bloom. Source: laidbackgardener.com

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!

Faithfully yours,

Your beloved poinsettia,


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Getting Your Christmas Plants to Rebloom


Christmas may be over, but your Christmas plants are still alive.

There is nothing wrong with tossing a Christmas plant into the compost after it has finished flowering if you don’t feel like going any further. No need to feel guilty about this: the vast majority of the millions of Christmas plants sold each year won’t survive to see a second Christmas, so your plant will not be alone. But if you do feel like trying to make yours bloom again, here are a few tips.

Improve the Growing Conditions

It’s largely how you treat a Christmas plant after the holiday season that will ensure it will be in good enough shape to bloom again next winter. Once it’s role as a holiday decoration is over, keep watering it as necessary, but do increase the light your plant receives. Very bright light and even full sun will be necessary to get most Christmas plants to bloom again, so move it to the brightest window you have for the rest of the winter. As days get longer and hotter come spring, it may be necessary to move it back from the very sunniest windows, but it should still get as much light as you can muster. And you can even place the plant outside for the summer if possible.

Note that light your plant receives will increase naturally as the days lengthen, especially starting in March, and this will help stimulate new growth. And since your plant is now growing, you can fertilize it. From then to September, therefore, feed using an all-purpose fertilizer according to the instructions on the label: this will help give you a more vigorous plant..


A severe pruning in spring or early summer will give a more compact poinsettia next winter.

Don’t hesitate to cut back Christmas plants with upright branches (poinsettias, kalanchoes, etc.) if they’re become too leggy. Do this in spring or early summer, but no later than the end of July, because if you prune too late in the season, the newly-produced branches may not be mature enough to bloom.

Short Days

Several Christmas plants (poinsettia, Christmas cactus and Christmas kalanchoe, for example) need short days in the fall in order to bloom in time for the holidays. Put them in a room that is not artificially illuminated at night and they will flower without any special treatment. You can also stick them in a cupboard at 6 pm each evening and put them back in a sunny spot at 8 am each morning, but that takes a lot of attention because you’ll have to repeat it daily for about two months.

Read Reblooming a Poinsettia the Laidback Way for more info on how to get a poinsettia to reflower.



Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)

The amaryllis (Hippeastrum) differs from other Christmas plants in that it prefers to go completely dormant in September, so stop watering it entirely at that time. When the foliage has completely yellowed, cut it off. Since the plant is now dormant, it can be placed in a cupboard or closet or other dark spot if you want (most sources insist on that), but in fact, that isn’t really necessary. In the wild, amaryllises grow in full sun all year long and certainly don’t move to a shadier spot while they’re dormant! Just don’t water it for two to three months, period, no matter where it is placed, until new shoots start to appear, indicating that the plant is ready to bloom again. From then on, move the plant to a bright window and start watering again.

Read Now is the Time to Get Your Amaryllis to Rebloom for more information.

The Most Laidback Tip of All!

But what is the best way to ensure that a Christmas plant blooms in time for the holidays next year? Simply buy a new plant already in bud or flower come December! After all, your conditions will never be as perfect as those of the grower who produces thousands of Christmas plants every year!20170102a

Reblooming a Poinsettia the Laidback Way


Your poinsettia looked like this when you bought it…

The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) you bought for Christmas last year is probably now a small green shrub… and will remain a small green shrub if you don’t do something about it.


And probably like this right now.

You see, the poinsettia is a short-day plant, that is to say, it only blooms when days are less than 12 hours long. So its flowering starts to be initiated starting about September 22 in the Northern Hemisphere… and usually actually begins to occur about two months later, well in time for Christmas.

It all sounds wonderful: as days get shorter, the poinsettia should simply bloom naturally, right? Well, that may work in the plant’s native Mexico, or in other tropical countries where it grows outdoors, but it won’t work in the average home.

You see, we light our homes at night, extending the number of hours of daylight to 16, 17, or 18 hours a day. Yet what the plant really requires is no light at all from the end of the afternoon until the following morning. Even a single ray of light at the wrong time and it may not bloom.

So what’s a gardener to do?

The Hard Way

When I first started gardening, I was told you had to put your poinsettia in a closed box or a closet at 4 pm each day and remove it daily, putting it back in the sunlight, at 8 am. And that does work… but what a job! It means you have to be home at the right time each day (forget job considerations, or taking a weekend trip), plus you have to remember to do it every single day, without fail (not my strength: I’m good on resolutions, but weak in followthrough). If you forget even once, the plant won’t bloom. I’d be surprised even one person in 10 gets their poinsettia to bloom that way, yet check out most websites and books: that’s still the usual advice!

The Laidback Way

Here’s how I get my poinsettias (note the plural: I have all kinds, in lots of different colors) to rebloom. It works every time and requires no daily effort.

Place the plant in a room that you don’t usually use at night, but that is at least moderately sunny during the day: a guest room, for example. Now unscrew all the light bulbs in the room. Next, place the poinsettia near the window. Since you removed the light bulbs, even if you enter the room in the evening and try to turn the light on by accident (forgetting that is temporarily forbidden), you simply can’t. Whatever you were looking for in that room, you’ll just have to search for in the dark or wait until daylight to retrieve. And because your poinsettia has had a daily regime of short days, it will necessarily bloom at Christmas.

You don’t have a room that is not used at night? Then place your poinsettia near a sunny window somewhere else indoors and set up a panel of some sort between it and the rest of the room. Even a “wall” of taller houseplants will do, as long as no artificial light reaches the poinsettia. And this will give you a beautifully blooming poinsettia with no extra effort.

Otherwise, continue your usual care through the fall, remembering especially to water when the soil is almost dry and adding a bit of fertilizer. There is no need for special temperatures or extra high humidity… and certainly don’t prune (you’d be cutting off future flowering stems).

Merry Christmas in advance!