OK, so Christmas is over and you have a few of those ubiquitous red poinsettias around the house. You just can’t stand the thought of sending them out in the cold to the dumpster. And, to top it off, you’ve heard you can grow them into small bushes and get them to rebloom every year. Well, that’s all true and getting them to bloom next Christmas starts right now.
You want to grow them in full sunlight. Remember this is a tropical shrub so full sunlight is called for. No back rooms or closets for this plant. You want to feed it sparingly (once a month) until the red bracts fade or fall off and new growth starts. As soon as this new growth starts, pot the poinsettia into a new pot one size larger than its current size. You’ll do that every spring as the bracts fade away. Use a good quality potting soil. You will also start feeding the plant weekly with a balanced plant food (like 7-7-7). Do not allow the soil to dry out, poinsettia appreciate regular waterings – not swampy but not a desert either.
As soon as all danger of frost has gone from your garden, put the pot outside for the summer. Water and feed it well because it is this summer exposure that is going to both grow a great plant and ensure you have winter blooms. In early September, pinch the ends of the new growth off . This forces the shrub to bush out and produce side shoots that will hopefully turn into red bracts as well. Bring inside before frost and put in a room where it only gets natural sunlight. No artificial light! The decrease in light levels will kick it into bloom (artificial light delays the colouring).
Repeat yearly until big shrub status is obtained.
Doug Green is an award winning garden author with a free gardening newsletter at http://www.beginner-gardening.com