by Connie Oswald Stofko
We know that it’s easy to care for poinsettia plants. They can last through January and into spring without much effort, and many gardeners successfully nurture their poinsettias through summer.
So why can’t we get poinsettias to rebloom the following year?
And since poinsettias are so easy to care for, why do we buy the plants? Why don’t we start from scratch and grow poinsettia plants ourselves?
“It’s difficult,” said Mark Yadon, vice president of Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses, 118 South Forest Rd., Williamsville. “Out of all the crops I do here every year, poinsettias are the most difficult to grow.”
Light and temperature have to be very carefully controlled to get the plants to flower again. That’s necessary to grow a new plant and get it to flower, too.
How to grow a poinsettia from a cutting
Here’s what it takes to get a flowering poinsettia, starting from scratch.
First, start with a cutting from another poinsettia. That’s how the growers do it; no poinsettia seeds are available commercially, Yadon said. The timing of the cutting is important. You have to start with the cutting in May or June to get a new plant at this time of the year.
Then you have to root your cutting. To help the process, you might use a rooting hormone. At Mischler’s, they place the cuttings in a special oasis, something like the foam you use for flower arranging.
Keep the cuttings in a space with almost 100 percent humidity and a temperature between 72 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit until they root. At home, you could place your cutting in a blanket bag to retain moisture.
The last week in July, transplant the cuttings into a potting mix made of peat moss and perlite.
They need light, but “You don’t want it too hot, which is hard in August,” Yadon said. At this point the plant has many leaves but not enough roots to support all those leaves, so Mischler’s shades the plants to reduce stress.
“You have to watch closely to get the watering right,” he said. “Make sure you don’t overwater or underwater.” If it’s a warm sunny day, the staff at Mischler’s may have to mist the plants every couple hours to reduce stress.
Not discouraged yet? Well, poinsettias are subject to a lot of root diseases and pests. Mischler’s adds beneficial insects to their greenhouses to control predatory insects.
“We’re adding natural enemies weekly so we don’t have to spray with pesticide,” Yadon said.
In mid-September, pinch back the plants so they branch out more, are bushy and flower more.
Here’s one step that that might be easier to do at home than in a commercial greenhouse. The plants now need more room to grow, so the pots at Mischler’s have to be spread out. Poinsettia plants that took up half a greenhouse now fill three greenhouses.
The plants are sprayed with a type of hormone that stunts the plant to make it shorter and bushier. Some varieties are sprayed twice.
Why your poinsettias don’t rebloom
If you got through the summer with a healthy poinsettia from the previous year, bravo! That’s quite an achievement!
Unfortunately, this next step has probably tripped you up.
Starting at the end of September, the plants need good sun during the day. Just as difficult, they need 12 hours of darkness—total darkness—at night. No lights can be left on.
Even if the sunny window in your living room provides enough light during the day, you probably have the lights blazing during the evening. Your poinsettia won’t flower.
From this point on, the process is (relatively) easy. From the end of September through November, the plants have to be kept warm (62 to 64 degrees at night, 75 to 80 degrees during the day, if possible.)
Then just wait for the bracts to change color. What we think of as flower petals on a poinsettia aren’t petals; they’re a specialized leaf called a bract. The true flower is the part in the center of the bracts.
While many poinsettias have red bracts, there are varieties with pink, cream or speckled bracts. Mischler’s introduces new varieties each year. See all of Mischler’s new varieties here.
Mischler’s is offering free delivery of poinsettias in Mischler’s greater Buffalo delivery area if you place your order by Wednesday, Dec. 12 for free delivery by Saturday, Dec. 15. Call 632-1290.
Remember, you don’t have to grow the poinsettia from scratch. Start with a healthy plant and it’s easy to care for. Get details on how to care for your poinsettia here.
You can do a couple of holiday decorating projects– decorate a fresh pine wreath or decorate a pre-planted dish garden this Saturday, Dec. 1 at Mischler’s. See details here.
Looking for a festive backdrop for your holiday greeting card? Pose with a backdrop of hundreds of colorful poinsettias at Mischler’s. It’s free! Take your camera and pose your family or friends anytime from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 1.