The most wonderful time of the year is upon us! Christmas is the season where we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The official flower used to represent this festive time is the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima ).
Poinsettia, also known as the Christmas star or Christmas flower, can be seen by the hundreds at plant shops in full bloom in all different sizes. They represent good cheer, success and celebration for the month of December. These beautiful shrubs are ideal for your home decor and perfect to give as gifts.
Poinsettias can reach a height of up to 10–13 ft. They have green leaves and brightly coloured leaves called ‘bracts’ which are often mistaken for flowers. The flowers of the poinsettia grow at the centre of each bunch of leaves and are small and green or yellow.
If you bought poinsettias for yourself or received a plant as a gift, here are some tips to care for them:
* Poinsettias need partial light. You can place your potted plant near a window and allow it to get sunlight for no more than five hours per day.
* Do not over water. Water your poinsettias just enough to keep the potting mix damp. On the other hand, do not allow it to dry out by under watering.
* Never fertilise your poinsettias when they are in bloom. Fertilising should be done only after the Christmas period.
After the season, the following are some tips to ensure that your poinsettias stay healthy throughout the year in preparation for next Christmas:
* By February into March, take your poinsettias outdoors to an area with indirect sunlight and keep the soil moist.
* In April, give them a cut back using secateurs to about 6 to 8 inches tall. This is to ensure that your shrub grows back short and full in foliage. Move the plant to a sunny area and when new leaves start to emerge, use a slow-release balanced fertiliser once per month.
* At this point, you can re-pot the plant or transfer it into the ground if you prefer. If so, use a potting mix and continue your monthly fertilising regime.
* For potted plants, continue cutting back the top leaves every six weeks until the end of August. Stop all cut backs at the beginning of September.
* When the colourful bracts start to form, relocate the plant to a dark room for 12 hours and then light for the next half of the day. The period of dark and light will help the bracts to develop its beautiful colours.
When flowers bloom in late November into December, you can stop your fertiliser regime and enjoy your poinsettias for the holiday season again.
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