Many people purchase or receive a poinsettia over the holiday season but are not sure how to care for them or what it takes to get them to re-bloom. David Trinklein, associate. professor of Horticulture, MU Extension states, “It is quite a bit of work. However, it is a real botanical or horticultural challenge, and I would encourage everyone to accept the challenge at least one time.” The entire article can be found at: http://extension.missouri.edu/n/2700. Some key points for re-blooming include:

After the holidays, keep the poinsettia moist and fertilized in a sunny window. Keep plant out of drafts. Also remove the decorate paper the plant came with. This holds in excess water and can cause root rot. When the weather warms,(no chance of frost) set the plant outside in a sunny area that receives morning light and afternoon shade, keep it well-watered and fed all summer. Around Labor Day, prune it back severely. Pruning will make the plant shorter, bushier and more attractive. Around Sept. 25 (for the Midwest) put the plant into a completely dark closet or room at sunset. Then take it out at sunrise the next day. Do this for 6 to 8 weeks or until color begins to appear. Another option is to cover it every night at dusk with a light-tight bag and remove every morning. Once the color appears on the leaves, the in and out process can stop. Place it back in the brightly lit window. If the procedures are followed carefully, the poinsettia should flower by midwinter.

Dr. Trinklein warns to prepare yourself; the results may be disappointing. Because most of us don’t have the ideal growing conditions for poinsettia in our home, the plant can become “tall and stretchy.” Also the color may not be quite the same as when the plant was purchased.

So why not just throw the plant away as is often suggested? For me it’s because I like a horticultural challenge, I suspect many of you do too. I also find it hard to discard a live plant or to watch one die from lack of water. Furthermore, I find the poinsettia an attractive plant no matter what color the leaves are. I enjoy seeing it grow outside in the garden in the summer. It has an attractive growth habit and provides a different look than any other plant. People often ask what kind of plant it is and are surprised when I tell them it is a poinsettia.

Questions about poinsettia or other horticultural topics, contact Kathi at 660-542-1792. More information about poinsettia care is available in the MU Extension guide “Care of Flowering Potted Plants” at http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G6511#Poinsettia.

Kathi Mecham is a field specialist in Horticulture for MU Extension.