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Skaggs: Full sun will fade holiday flower

POSTED: November 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Fall is quickly turning into winter, and Christmas is just around the corner. It is the perfect season for gift giving and decorating with flowering plants.

The holidays would not be complete without a fresh poinsettia on the mantle. This traditional Christmas plant can add color beside a hearth or become the festive centerpiece on the dining room table.

When properly cared for, poinsettias can be enjoyed not only during the holidays but also for many months afterwards. Consider the following tips to ensure that your plants remain healthy and beautiful:

When you receive your poinsettia, remove or punch holes in the foil covering the pot. Poinsettias cannot tolerate wet feet, so it is important that any standing water is removed.

Water thoroughly when the soil feels dry to the touch. Never let the soil mixture completely dry out.

Do not fertilize when the plant is in bloom.

When in bloom, set your poinsettia where it receives at least six hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day. Placing your plant in a sunny window may fade the bracts.

The daytime temperature should never exceed 70 F (60-65 F is ideal). Avoid drafts, heating vents, fireplaces and appliances.

Want to save your poinsettia for next Christmas?

Keep your poinsettia indoors until March, or when the danger of frost is over and night temperatures remain above 50 F.

Prune the plant to about 8 inches before transplanting outside. Don't worry if you remove all the leaves. Choose a site that receives full sun all morning. Fertilize the plant every two weeks during the spring, summer and fall with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10.

Sometime during the first week of September, cut it back to branches 4 to 6 inches long. It is recommended that you transplant your poinsettia at this time into a container that is slightly larger than the original pot. Use a soil mixture containing organic matter such as peat moss or leaf mold. Leave outdoors.

In October, when night temperatures become cool, 55 to 60 F, bring the plant indoors and place in a sunny location. It must receive six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day and a period of 10 to 12 hours of total darkness for the plant at night. It is best to place the plant in a closet or room without windows for the night.

Be sure not to turn the light on, even for a short period. The poinsettia is a short-day plant, which means it needs a continuous dark period in order to form bracts. Repeat this procedure every day until Nov. 1, and then leave it in a sunny spot.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.



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