14 January 2012

Free Range Poinsettias

Do I have a green thumb or what?
How many people keep poinsettias after Christmas and try to get them to rebloom the next year? And how many people, with fungus gnats, white flies, and yellow leaf drop throw in the towel and throw the darn thing away? They may be cheap but they're not easy.

Two years ago, I planted a cheap holiday poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) outdoors in the spring. I wanted to give it a chance to live on past its normal life expectancy so retired and moved it to a warm sunny southern climate.

The southern side yard was a perfect place, and it grew quite well. In the fall, the new leaves became smaller, grew more slowly, and had a red tinge to them and their veins, like we all do after too many merlots. The experience was encouraging and rewarding, as reported that year. [21.10.2010]

This spring, I placed two potted poinsettias from last Christmas in the side yard, hoping to decide on a placement later. Laziness set in and 'later' turned into 'never.' They stayed in their pots with their original soil. In the fall, due to cold and longer nights, they began their change again. Our frost came very late this year; so as long as they were not yet compost fodder and not in the way of the fall garden chores, they stayed.

They were moved to the deck, close to the warmer house after the first light frost, and eventually made their way indoors. I decided to keep them going to see what would happen to those reddish leaves. Every evening upon retuning home from work, I stumbled around a dark house to find my poinsettias and move them from their sunny daytime french doors and place them in the dark cellar near the outside door. Every morning, I reversed the routine (but needed not stumble) or placed them outdoors on those occasional warm days. Poinsettias need long nights to bloom and bloom they did in time for Christmas.

One plant was purchased at an inexpensive supermarket, and the other at Home Depot. (No need to spend oodles of bucks on throw away plants during the holiday shopping season.) The National Poinsettia Cultivar Trials indicates there are hundreds of varieties. My two show notable differences.

One has dark green leaves, and much larger blooms than the other lighter green leaf. But, this one with the naked legs lost more of its lower leaves. Both plants have smaller blooms than when purchased, and much stronger stems. I will attribute this to not being fed a constant junk food diet of fertilizer. I remember that whole stems on both plants easily broke off after purchased, maybe due to the soft fast growth promoted by production nursery greenhouses.

The red flowers are actually bracts (like dogwood tree 'petals') and have so far lasted a month. The yellow flowers in the centers are just now beginning to bloom. Next year I promise to take better care (larger pots, pruning, and some love) during the summer and hope to write about the larger blooms in 2013.


Nancy said...
The bigger plant is stunning! So many flowers! Congratulations on your hard work. Are the small flowers maybe not as far along?

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...
Great post Ray. I love the 'Free Range' part of it. Good for you to get them to 'bloom' again.
We were at one of the big warehouse stores and they had Free Range Chicken Broth, and we ask, how does broth range?
Garden Sheds said...
Sadly I don't have a green thumb. But those are just lovely poinsettias. Another informative post from you. Unquestionably this blog is greatly appreciated.