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Archive for Sunday, December 4, 2005

Poinsettias can add color, cheer well beyond the holiday season

December 4, 2005

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For those who think poinsettias are just for the holidays, Dwight Jackson would beg to differ.

The Lawrence resident always tries to keep his red leafy plants alive past Christmas and through the year, hoping they'll flower again the following yule season.

Poinsettias are temperamental, but Jackson has one in his basement that he's kept alive for three years.

"It's probably not worth the effort," he says, " but it's kind of fun anyway."

The poinsettia, a native of Mexico that comes in several colors, has long been seen as the flower of Christmas. With a little care and planning, the plants can rebloom each holiday season, says Bruce Chladny, Douglas County extension agent for horticulture.

"It's not impossible to do, but it is difficult," Chladny says. "It takes a commitment."

Here's the process, according to K-State Research and Extension and other sources:


Donna Gardner, of Sunrise Garden Center, helps customer Jim Owens find some poinsettias for friends.

Donna Gardner, of Sunrise Garden Center, helps customer Jim Owens find some poinsettias for friends.

This year's poinsettia can be planted outdoors or kept outdoors in a pot starting around March. Beginning around the last of September or the first of October, the plant should be brought indoors.

The flower formation process is triggered by periods of uninterrupted darkness. The plant must be in absolute darkness at least 12 hours a day. That could mean a closed-off room or setting it under a sealed cardboard box.

During the day, the poinsettias should be placed in the sunniest location in the house, with temperatures ranging from 65 degrees to 75 degrees.

After six weeks, the buds have set on, and the darkness isn't required.

Donna Gardner, greenhouse manager at Sunrise Garden Center, 1501 Learnard Ave., says the darkness is critical.

"You have to have a room that's absolute darkness - no fish light, no night light, no bathroom light, no street light," she says.

Between the blooming period of the holidays and time for the buds to re-set, Gardner recommends fertilizing the poinsettias and keeping them watered well - but not too much to have them in standing water, considering they're related to the cactus.


Employee Donna Gardner inspects some of the poinsettias at Sunrise Garden Center. It's difficult, but not impossible, to keep a poinsettia living for another season.

Employee Donna Gardner inspects some of the poinsettias at Sunrise Garden Center. It's difficult, but not impossible, to keep a poinsettia living for another season.

Jackson says he's had trouble getting his saved poinsettias to bloom in time for Christmas. Usually, they bloom eight to 11 weeks after the dark treatment starts, but light and cooler temperatures can delay the process.

"It won't be in full bloom until after Christmas," he says. "We usually buy (a new poinsettia) anyway."

For some, simply keeping poinsettias looking good through the holidays is challenge enough.

Darrel Helling, manager of Earl May Nursery & Garden Center, 3200 Iowa, said the key was a right combination of light, temperature and water. The plants need as much light as possible, need to be kept between 72 and 78 degrees and shouldn't be overwatered.

They also should be kept away from drafts.

And if you're wanting to keep the plant past Christmas, he suggests taking great care in the selection process, making sure the leaves aren't wilted.

Not that he recommends it for everyone.

"There's a whole ordeal to go through for reflowering," he says. "It's a lot of work."

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