Keeping a Poinsettia Alive

Poinsettia with health new leaves in August 2020

August 9, 2020 Location Northern California

I have read many articles about keeping a Poinsettia alive after Christmas, but I have yet to see any proof of the success. I am posting photos of my Poinsettia success story. I bought the plant during the Christmas Season in 2019 at Harmony Nursery in Sebastopol. They had two sizes in stock, and I bought the smaller size because it was cheaper. I did not care about how it looked over the Christmas season. My only goal was to keep it alive. I bought the red one because I had read, they are the easiest color to grow. I transplanted it as soon as I got it home in a bigger size pot. The idea was to get the roots to expand so they would no longer be compressed by the small pot size.

The plant seemed to be doing well. As the red “flowers” faded I gradually cut them off, but the plant did not seem to be growing any new leaves. I had bought it very early in the season (as soon as the plants hit the store shelf)  because the plants are kept inside and don’t have any access to natural light. I knew the longer it remained on the store shelf the weaker the plants life healthy would become.  I kept the Poinsettia by a window for indirect light, but I did not see any progress. When it was knocked off the table by accident, I could see the problem. The plant had not expanded its roots into the new pot.

I decided on a racial plan of action. It was either sink or swim so I untangled the plant roots and replanted it again. This time the roots did expand, and the plant began to grow its first new leaves. I decided purchasing the smaller potted specimen had been a mistake. The larger one had a larger pot size, but I assume that was offset by the larger size of the plant, and that it would make no difference. The reason they do poorly is the small pot size compresses the roots, the lack of any natural light and most people over water them. They are not real tropical plants. They like to have the soil dry out a bit before watering. I could have cut off all the “flowers” in the beginning, but any cutting caused white sap to weep from the plant, and this made me nervous.

Once the plant began to grow new leaves it also became to form wood at the base. Maybe one could call them brown stems at the base are the sign that they plant will survive. I am posting photos that I took of the plant today on August 9, 2020. You can see how the base should look with brown permanent non green growth. In case of cold temperatures, the green may die, but green leaves can re grow from the brown wood. I don’t know if the plant is going to “flower” again. If you live in a climate such as in San Diego, you can plant them outside and they will grow and re-bloom every year even without having a strict policy of keeping them in total darkness. I don’t know why people claim the plant has to have so much extreme darkness to re-bloom when they do bloom naturally in San Diego outside. Mine will always have to be potted, but at least it survived.

Poinsettia showing brown woody growth at the base

Note: the “flowers” are actually bracts which are colored leaves, but the colored leaves do go on to create seed pods, but you had best cut those off as they will reduce the life health of the struggle plant. Once mine were removed a saw more progress toward new healthy growth.

Updated: Unfortunately I sprayed it with Physan 20 because it has some kind of leaf fungus and all the leaves fell off. But then they grew back, but they were smaller after that. Then I noticed some of the leaves beginning to turn red as if could rebloom without being in 12 hours of darkness (like in closet.) I always believed that theory of 12 hours of darkness was fake. No one is going to bother to remember to put the plant in a closet a night. That is too much work for anyone who has a lot of plants to care for. Then one will likely forget to take it out of the closet in the day time. Feb. 2021

Beginning to Bloom, but still has leaf issues note the spots

Updated: The Poinsettia is looking very healthy now. All leaf spots have vanished as of July 2020. I transplanted to a larger pot and I found that the roots were encased in sponge. This sponge may have been causing the issues. I removed the sponge, but it could have killed the plant. The plant survived and became improved with greener growth. I also found keep it outside (as much as possible) helps as they like to grow with natural daylight and daylight controls this plant’s metabolic processes. But winter and indoor growing is sure to create a natural decline each year, but that can be made up for in the spring summer and fall.

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