How to keep poinsettias around after the holidays

Last week’s column resonated with quite a few readers. I received several emails regarding houseplant challenges. I appreciate your feedback and like to hear your challenges so that I can come up with column ideas to help!

One of the questions was how to maintain holiday plants such as a poinsettia after the holidays. I hate to say this, but I tend to eventually throw them away!

I have a daughter, however, who has kept hers since she got married. I think they have been married for at least five years.

Don’t let poinsettias dry out completely. If they do, you will notice flower, bract, and leaf drop; sometimes all of these drop at the same time, leaving bare stems.

What most consider to be flowers are bracts or modified leaves. These are the showy part of poinsettias, flowering dogwoods, and a few other plants.

The flower of the poinsettia is that little, tiny bud in the center that is green and will show yellow when the flower is in bloom.

On a side note, if you find poinsettias at the store or garden center and the flowers have fallen, this plant will begin to decline. Always purchase poinsettias that are not in bloom or are just starting. They will last longer.

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Keep the soil moist, but not wet. You see that recommendation quite a bit. What does that mean?

When the top of the soil feels dry to the touch, sit the poinsettia in water. I usually fill my sink with water and allow the plant to sit for a while soaking up the water. When the top of the plant feels moist, remove it from the water.

If the plant dries out completely, it may take longer for it to completely rewet the soil. Expect leaf, bract, and flower drop.

After the holidays, if I don’t throw the poinsettia away, I place it in a south-facing window. I may also water it a bit more if it’s getting more light than before.

Other holiday plants include Christmas cacti, paperwhite bulbs, and amaryllis. These make great gifts for the holidays and two of the three will continue to grow.

Paperwhites are primarily a one-time deal. These daffodil-type bulbs are planted before the holidays and provide white flowers in about six to 8 weeks.

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Some like them, while others think the bloom’s smell. And really, they do have an odor or fragrance, depending on your sniffer.

My favorite holiday plant is the amaryllis. You can find them in pre-planted packages, containing soil, pot, and bulb ready to grow. You can also find the bulbs which you have to plant and grow on.

These spectacular flowers take about eight weeks from planting to bloom. Once the flowers die off, cut the entire stem back to the bulb. Allow the foliage to continue to grow all winter.

I put mine outside in the spring, fertilize, and encourage foliage growth for the summer. In late September, I bring them in, put them in the dark basement, and bring them out in January to bloom once again.

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at bennett.27@osu.edu.

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