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Published: Wednesday, 12/28/2011

COMMENTARY

Poinsettias aren't just for the holidays

BY KELLY HEIDBREDER
BLADE COLUMNIST

There's a beautiful flower that looks like a pretty bow on top of a Christmas package.

Pretty poinsettias are grown in different shapes and colors, from white to deep purple and mixtures in between, just like the many colors of ribbon on the gifts you have unwrapped. But if you don't want to toss them aside like that used ribbon, you will need to give it some special attention.

Poinsettia growers say most people kill them with kindness and overwater them.

Try the ice cube trick. They recommend using ice cubes to keep your plant evenly watered. Put six ice cubes in a six and a half inch pot every week. The ice melts slowly and will keep the plant watered for the whole week.

Amy Stone, Ohio State University Extension agent for Lucas County says, "They should be evenly moist; not too wet and not too dry. Your poinsettia will start to drop its leaves if it gets too much of a good thing."

Poinsettias like to be in a warm room between 60 to 70 degrees and out of any drafts. Feed it with a slow release fertilizer one time through the holiday season to keep it strong.

Help your poinsettia rebloom in 2012

Those big red blossoms aren't blossoms at all. They are leaves called bracts. The flowers are the tiny yellow nubs in the center of the plant. The green stems are called petioles.

Ms. Stone says by February, the flower in the center of the plant will start to grow up and out. The plant is getting ready to be cut back. She recommends cutting the stems down to six inches long. More leaves will start to sprout right where it has been pruned.

She says, "A few leaves per stem will help it feed itself. Keep it in a sunny window and fertilize it every two weeks."

In the summer, Ms. Stone says to put your poinsettia plant in a bigger pot and set it outside. One trick is to dig a hole in your garden and put it in the hole, pot and all. If the pot has holes in the bottom, the plant will take up moisture from below and it will get nature's help for a few months.

"It is best to keep the plant short like your mums," Ms. Stone says. "Pinch off the new growth in July. Leave the shoots only four inches long then take your poinsettia inside by late August."

Poinsettias need to go dormant to bloom. Put it in a dark place for a while, then bring it into the light to bloom.

OSU scientists suggest putting it in a lighted room for eight hours during the day starting Sept. 20. After eight hours in the light, the plant has to go back into the darkness for the remaining 16 hours of the day.

Do this every day until Dec. 1 and you will start to see the bracts colors flush out.

She says, "Keep it watered and fertilized and it should bloom again next Christmas."

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at getgrowing@gmail.com.



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