A Gardener’s Diary: Keep those poinsettias going

The Christmas favourite can last well past the holiday season, with these simple tips

As I write this column, it is still very cold but the temperature is starting to warm up a little. I hope this is it for the rest of the winter. With no snow on the ground, some of the plants might have got some damage with the very cold wind we had. Another week or so and the days will be getting longer. So far everything seems to be doing well inside in my jungle. My Christmas cactus is blooming very nicely and some of the geraniums that have lost a few leaves have buds and some have flowers. My cutting of impatiens is also blooming.

In the fall I had some very nice hot pepper plants. I just could not leave them to die in the cold. I transplanted them and took them inside. Last week I cut off the small ripe peppers and I am drying them for later use. The green ones that were left on the plants are turning red.

For you who want to save your poinsettias for another year, protect plants from temperatures under 50 degrees F (10 C). Chilling causes the leaves to drop. Place plants in a room where there is sufficient natural light. Poinsettias must have at least six hours of bright indirect light to thrive. Never allow them to sit in water and only water when the soil feels dry to the touch. Keep the plant from touching cold windows. Keep poinsettias away from warm or cold drafts from radiators, air registers or open doors and windows. Ideally, poinsettias require daytime temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees F (16C to 21C) and night time temperatures around 55 degrees F. (13C). High temperatures will shorten the plant’s life. Move the plant to a cooler room at night, if possible. Check the soil daily. Water plants thoroughly after purchase. Be sure to punch holes in foil so water can drain into a saucer, and discard excess water. Water when soil is dry. Wilted plants will tend to drop bracts sooner. Fertilize the poinsettia if you keep it past the holiday season. Apply a houseplant fertilizer once a month. Do not fertilize when it is in bloom. With good care, a poinsettia will last six to eight weeks in your home. With a little extra care, it is possible to keep your poinsettia year-round and have it bloom the following Christmas.

In February, your poinsettia flower will have faded and lateral growth will have begun. In March, remove flower and cut stems to six inches. June 1, repot the plant in a larger pot, if necessary, and plant outside in the pot. July, pinch all lateral shoots to four inches. End of August, dig up the pot and bring the poinsettia inside. From Sept. 20 until Dec. 1, keep the poinsettia in light from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Place in a dark place (eg. closet) from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. By following these cyclical tips, your poinsettia will return to its full bloom later in December. Once poinsettias finish that process, the plants require abundant light during the day for the brightest colour.

A lot of time and money has gone into research and testing to prove that poinsettias are not poisonous.

This will be my last column for the year and I will be back on Jan. 8. I wish all of you merry Christmas, happiness and peace in your heart.

For information: 250-558-4556.

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in the North Okanagan and member of Okanagan Gardens and Roses Club. Her column appears every other Wednesday. She will take a break over the holidays and return Jan. 8.