My Poinsettias from last Christmas are making a comeback. I really can’t take much credit. I’ve tried to keep them alive in the past without much success. This year was a whole ‘nutha thang, and I’m no longer a poinsettia murderer. My hope is that we will have red poinsettias for Christmas this year at our bed and breakfast in Albuquerque, without buying new ones. It could happen! Here is the story…
Because this all happened by accident, I thought I’d share my fortuitous story with you all to give you all some hope for this usually ill fated Christmas plant. I bought the poinsettias a week or so before last Christmas at Lowe’s. I really looked around for some healthy, thick foliage plants that would last well through the winter. I must have hit Lowe’s at just the right time, because a new shipment had just arrived. Now…this is very important – when hunting for poinsettias, don’t feel sorry for a sad looking plant, because even though they are easily revived with a good soaking, you will still loose a lot of leaves. Sad looking Poinsettias make for less of a holiday feeling around your house, so save your “rescue mode” for the spring when they will really need you. Also, don’t pick a plant that is light as a feather because it has been stressed and probably has been dry long enough to start dropping leaves before you get it to the car. That’s the extent of my poinsettia expertise. The rest just happened.
During the winter months keep the poinsettia’s soil moist, but not soaking. They like sun, but we just kept ours in a very bright room and didn’t really give them much full sun until well into mid January. And there they sat in a sunny south facing window until spring.
Like many plants indoors at our house in the winter, they got dry and unhappy. Our dry Albuquerque climate, coupled with the heat being on through the winter until mid April or a little longer, sucks any minute amount of moisture out of everything like my grandson sucks the sweet off a lollipop. Many of our houseplants get awfully sad. The poinsettias are the most affected being tropical plants, and by the beginning of May I really wanted to throw them in the trash. They weren’t dead, but in the words of Miracle Max they certainly were “mostly dead”. I couldn’t bring myself to be the executioner, so I just stuck them out in the back yard on a bench in the shade, figuring that would finish them off. They could die a slow death on their own, out of view and my conscience would be clear. No regrets. Wrong. My husband watered them, thinking I was trying to keep them alive,ecause they still did have a few leaves left on them. Suddenly, within two weeks new leaves started to sprout along the stems. (Insert Hallelujah Chorus here.)
The tips were dried out so I cut them back and also trimmed off the stems down to where the new growth had begun to sprout. I then moved them to a table that got early morning sun, more and more each day as the sun moved north, and gave them some Miracle Grow top feeding pellet fertilizer. By mid June they were actually quite attractive plants and I gave them a place that also offered some late afternoon sun in addition to the morning dose they were happy with. I re-potted them in July, because they had already reached the size they were when I brought them home, and fertilized again. I was letting them dry out between deep watering, which in the Albuquerque Summer means they were getting watered twice a week. It should also be mentioned that they were semi-protected under the roof of my potting shed and never got rained on or terribly wind blown.
For August and September they were moved to a shelf on the north side of the tool shed, and still got really good morning sun. Maybe the cement Celtic cross and cherubim hanging on the wall above them helped. It sure didn’t hurt. I kept them on the same watering schedule until late September when they were barely getting any full sun, and then only watered once in a while when the soil looked dry and the pots felt lighter.
Now it’s the end of October. The nights have been very cold, but not freezing. Frost is eminent this week, so we brought them inside. One of them is fuller and darker green than the other. Both have very red stems and red veins in the leaves, but the lighter green one has top leaves that are tuning red and I’m watching closely for the tiny flower buds to form in the center of the red leaves. They’ve been moved to a part of the house that has exposure to full sun for a few hours, is in bright light the rest of the day, and is darkest for the longest number of hours each night. They supposedly need at least 10 hours of total darkness in a 24 hour time period to bloom out. We’ll be sure to keep lights out from 9pm until the sun comes up, and hope for the best. I’ll let you all know what happens. More results to come…
Trying to grow things in Albuquerque!
Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!