Poinsettias – potted Christmas decoration
The fiery red flowers of the poinsettia have long been popular as a decorative plant for the festive period due to their long lasting qualities as a potted plant. Poinsettias originate from Mexico and can grow into a large shrub to small tree in the garden. However, the original wild types have been refined by plant breeders, resulting in a multitude of named varieties that give superior performance as potted plants.
In order to get maximum value from your potted poinsettia try and give it a position that receives at least six hours of indirect sunlight each day and is away from cold or hot draughts and has a temperature ideally between 20° and 25° C. Only water the plant when the soil feels dry to the touch, do not allow the plant to sit in standing water and avoid fertilising the plant while it is in bloom.
When purchasing a poinsettia look for one that has fully expanded and thoroughly coloured bracts (bracts are the coloured portions of the plant, while the actual flowers are the yellow centres). Also look for dense foliage that extends as far as possible to the soil line while the plant should have a balanced appearance from all angles.
It is possible to reflower your poinsettia should you become attached to it. After Christmas cut the plant back fairly hard to a height of about 20cm. Give it a handful of a complete slow release fertiliser and put it in a position where it will receive at least 6 hours of direct or indirect sunlight a day. As it starts to produce new shoots it can be moved into a larger pot or planted into the garden. Poinsettias flower naturally in winter in response to lengthening nights so expect it to rebloom around June. Professional growers coax poinsettias to flower at Christmas by creating artificial long nights in their greenhouses.