25 October 2010

Just A Cheap Throw Away Plant

It was a cold and snowy December when I purchased an average size, over-fertilized holiday poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) for $4.99 at a local discount store. It lived for two months, providing some indoor color past the holidays into the winter. After it began to lose its lower leaves in February, it was placed inside the east-facing french doors. Most experts consider this as a throw away after the holidays, but it was still alive and my conscience would not let me toss out a living plant.

In April, I began to place the plant outdoors during days along with the spring seedlings that were hardening off. I remembered seeing a hedge of blooming poinsettias years ago while in Hawaii, and wondered if it would grow outdoors here in Virginia, even through I never heard of treating the plant as an outdoor annual.

In May, I decided to try getting another season's enjoyment (and of course more than my money's worth) out of a throw-away plant, and planted it in the south facing side yard garden. I was up for a challenge.

It liked its new location, and thrived through the first half of summer. Then, the castor plants took off and overshadowed the poor poinsettia, stopping its growth. But, it continued to enjoy the hot humid summer, although in shade. Now with the castor bean plants taken out by a strong wind weeks ago, the poinsettia is again prominent.

I was expecting the plant to be gone by now, done in by shade or frost, but with abnormally warm temperatures this fall, the plant is still going. In fact, the new leaves are small and light green (with slight red tinge) in color, and red veining is appearing in the older leaves. Could the plant be getting ready to bloom because of the shorter days? Could I set it in a pot and bring it indoors if it blooms again? If the fall frost stays at bay, Virginia may soon see red poinsettias like Hawaii.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil amended with peat and humus
  • Full sun
  • No major pests or disease
  • Small amount of fertilizer


Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, canna, nasturtium, mexican zinnia, salvia, zinnia, rudbeckia, calendula

4 comments:

J.C. said...
Great idea. I had a co-worker who managed to keep one past the holidays inside in her office. It got leggy, but survived with beautiful foliage.
scdd said...
I'm ready to bring mine back inside for the winter. It still looks great.
Northern Shade said...
Your poinsettia looks good growing naturally in the garden, and you sure got a lot of value from the plant. It makes an attractive foliage plant, with the red stems and central leaf veins looking great against the green leaves. It will be interesting to see if it colours for you for Christmas, or even earlier outdoors if your frost holds off.
Swimray said...
Update:
I am now getting small red leaves on the poinsettia, but not at all like the full-size bracts found in stores at Christmas . Unfortunately, the lower leaves are also beginning to turn yellow, maybe due to cool temperatures. Photos later on the experiment.

Scdd: I assume your plant is kept in a pot outdoors.

Shade: Yes, I was pleased that it made a great foliage plant - the red veining only started recently.