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Every year in the run-up to Christmas they are available again in every supermarket and garden center: The delightful poinsettias with their striking red, pink, yellow or even two-tone "blossoms". The spurge plant with the botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima, which originates from the Central and South American tropics, can grow up to four meters high in its natural environment. However, the shrub is usually only traded as a disposable item that ends up on the compost or even in the garbage can after its flowering period. Basically, it is not that difficult to get the poinsettia or Advent star to bloom again and again.
The supposed flowers are only bracts
Cultivating a poinsettia for several years can be worthwhile. Older specimens often not only become very large and bushy, but - provided they are in the right location - can even bloom almost all year round. However, the bright flowers are only bracts, the actual flower is quite inconspicuous. Bracts are intensely colored foliage and differ only in their color from the actually green leaves. They are intended to attract insects, which in turn pollinate the plant and thus contribute to reproduction. The small, greenish-yellow colored flowers sit in the middle of the beautiful bracts (which are called "bracts" in botany). Outside the flowering period between November and February, the bracts are also normally colored green.
short day plant
Poinsettia is one of the short-day plants
If you don't know that the poinsettia is one of the so-called short-day plants, you can't get it to flower again. This phenomenon is also called photoperiodism and is often found in tropical houseplants. This is not a matter of "blooming laziness", but merely a perfect adaptation to the light conditions prevailing at home. To get the poinsettia to bloom again, all you have to do is adjust the daily lighting in the room to the needs of the plant.
The optimal care for your poinsettia - Here's how
The poinsettia can stay here until around mid-September, provided the weather holds up. At temperatures below 10 °C and / or continuous rain and strong winds, however, it is better to bring the plant indoors and place it in a suitable location.
Until then, take care of the plant:
- weekly with a good, universal liquid fertilizer
- administer this with the irrigation water
- do not use fertilizer sticks, release nutrients too irregularly
- Water when the substrate is superficially dry
- Always remove water from the saucer / planter
- water only with lukewarm, stale water
- Spray the poinsettia every few days, preferably with rainwater
Extra tip: If you take good care of your poinsettia, it can get very old and correspondingly large. Therefore, it makes sense to move the plant to fresh substrate and a larger pot about every two to three years. When repotting, ensure good drainage in the pot, for example by adding expanded clay to the substrate and pouring a layer of broken clay or expanded clay on the bottom of the pot (which should have a drainage hole, by the way).
Make it darker
Make the poinsettia darker from November
That sounds complicated, but it isn't. All you have to do is make the plant darker at least six to eight weeks before you want it to flower - the poinsettia should then not get more than eleven hours of light per day, if possible even less. You should not only protect the plant from the sun (which is no longer necessary from November anyway), but also from artificial light.
New flowering only possible after a period of rest
But not only the light conditions, but also the resting time necessary after flowering decides on the success or failure of another flowering period. In order for the poinsettia to recover, it is best to proceed as follows.
- place in a warm and bright place during flowering
- water moderately with lukewarm water
- Spray regularly with rainwater or decalcified water
- do not wet the flowers!
- gradually reduce watering after flowering
- water only little between the end of February and April
- do not fertilize during dormancy
- the dormant phase should last until around the end of April
Spend the summer with poinsettias
From the end of April / beginning of May you can gradually increase the watering and start fertilizing again. Start the new growing season with a vigorous pruning, cutting the plant back to about 15 to 20 centimeters. Use sharp and clean scissors for this, and you should definitely wear gloves. As a spurge plant, the poinsettia is poisonous, the escaping milky sap can cause skin irritation in sensitive people and also irritate the mucous membranes.
Put the poinsettia outside in the summer
Basically, pruning is not necessary, but it makes sense: This measure rejuvenates the poinsettia and ensures that it develops many new shoots - and thus not only becomes bushier, but also develops all the more flowers and colored bracts. During the summer you can place the plant in a warm and bright spot on the balcony or terrace, only direct sun should be avoided, especially at midday.
Caution: Too much water leads to shedding of leaves and rot
The poinsettia can only flower in late autumn if it is strong and healthy. The plant, which is very sensitive in this respect, does not tolerate too much moisture or even waterlogging at all. Pay particular attention to the shedding of leaves: if your poinsettia suddenly loses a lot of leaves, you are watering too much. As an immediate measure, it is best to unpot the plant and place it in fresh, dry substrate.
When is the right time to water?
Of course it is difficult to find the right time to water. The finger test can be an important help, which you can use not only with the poinsettia, but also with many other indoor plants. To do this, stick a finger into the substrate: If it feels dry not only on the surface, but also at a depth of about two centimetres, you can water. If in doubt, wait a little longer before giving water.
The optimal location for the poinsettia
Not only species-appropriate care is important for the desired success, but also the right location. The tropical plant needs a place that is as bright as possible, but not directly sunny. The poinsettia must be protected in particular from the summer midday sun, as this will otherwise burn the sensitive leaves. Brown spots on the foliage are not only an indication of a possible pest infestation, but can also result from sunburn. Also make sure that the location is warm and not drafty - the poinsettia does not tolerate drafts either. Fresh air, on the other hand, ensures that it stays healthy and grows vigorously.
This is how you simulate the formation of new flowers
From around early to mid-November you should start limiting the light rations for the poinsettia. Protection from the sun should not be a problem at this time of the year, only the electric light has to be limited. Maybe you have a dark room that you rarely turn on the light, but it's also warm. If this is not the case and you don't want to sit in the dark living room for a few weeks, this trick will also help: simply put a cardboard box or a paper bag over the plant, for example from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m.
New flowers after six to eight weeks of darkness
Also, water the poinsettia a little more frequently than during the summer months. During this dark period, the plant will develop its new bracts and flowers and needs the appropriate strength to do so. After six to eight weeks (i.e. shortly before Christmas) put the poinsettia back in a bright and warm place, stop the darkening - and hopefully enjoy the numerous colorful bracts.