The Garden Corner

The Garden Corner by Sharon Allen When purchasing poinsettias make certain that the leaves have dark green foliage, bracts are in proportion to the plant, and flowers have little or no pollen showing.

In most plants the bract (a modified leaf) is small and scalelike, but in poinsettias it is large and beautifully colored. The actual flowers are the red or green button � like parts in the center of the bracts.

Protect your poinsettia well for its trip to your home. As a tropical plant, it is very sensitive to cold temperatures. Once home place it near, but not touching, a sunny window and water only when it feels dry. Apply a soluble

houseplant fertilizer whenever needed if you plan to keep the poinsettia for any length of time.

Although I have never tried to save a poinsettia and make it reflower, I found two different methods that I will pass on to you. Both methods suggest cutting the old flower stems back to 4-6 inches in height, shaping the plant for next year.

Method one suggests 1. Removing flowers and cutting back the old stems in February or early March; 2. Sinking the pot (repotting if necessary) to the rim in the ground in a well- drained, slightly shaded spot outdoors when danger of spring frost is past and night temperatures exceed 50 degrees; 3. Taking the poinsettia indoors well before the first frost date (placing in a sunny window or taking outside during the day); and 4. Keeping it in complete darkness between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. daily from the end of September until color shows in the bracts (usually early to mid December).

Method two suggests cutting the plants back three times: New Year's Day, Valentine's Day, and St. Patrick's Day; taking the pot outside and sinking it into the ground on Memorial Day; and bringing it in and bagging it on Labor Day.

Good luck.

Sharon Allen is a Master Gardener. For comments, suggestions, and questions write to her in care of the Clay County Extension Office, 515 High Street, Vermillion, SD 57069, or contact her directly through the Internet at sallen@sd.value.net.

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