Poinsettias for Florida

Poinsettia

The poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd., is a member of the Euphorbiaceae or spurge family.

Poinsettias Are Not Poisonous!

Care of Poinsettias in the Home

Location- Keep plants in a warm location free of drafts  and chilling. Bright light is always best, but avoid placing plants in extremely sunny, hot, and dry situations.
Watering - Water your poinsettia when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch. Remove any excess water from the saucer beneath the plant as Poinsettias do not like to have soggy soil. Most people kill their poinsettias with too much water. Remember this plant came from the tropical desert and i more tolerant of dry conditions than of wet.
Humidity - Poinsettias like a little bit higher humidity than the average household but will do fine in most situations without additional humidity. Misting plants or placing them on gravel trays will prolong the color and life of the poinsettia.
Fertilization - It is not necessary to fertilize your poinsettia during the holiday season. In fact, high levels of fertilizer will reduce the quality of the plant.

After the Holidays

Throughout the winter, keep the plant somewhat dry, do not fertilize until weather warms in spring.

After the weather has begun to warm, cut off the fading bracts, leaving 4-6 inches of the stem on each branch.

Begin fertilizing with a well-balanced fertilizer.

Move the plant outdoors to a partly shady situation.

Eventually you'll want to place your poinsettia in a full-sun location, but give the plant a week or two to adjust to both temperatures and brighter light levels before doing so.

Selecting a Planting Site

They should be planted in areas where they receive full sun most of the day. However, it is essential that they receive no light at night (no street light or window light) during the bud-setting period. Normally, they set flower buds in early October when nights are becoming increasingly longer.
Poinsettias grow best in moist, well drained, fertile soils (not wet sites). Soil pH should ideally range from 5.5 to 6.5, but it need not be adjusted if between 5.0 and 7.0.

Poinsettia
  Planting

Christmas poinsettia can be removed from its container and planted outdoors as soon as danger of frost is past. Backfill the hole with enough soil so the plant will sit in the hole at the same depth as it was growing in the container. Water thoroughly while planting to remove air pockets. Mulch around plant with organic materials to conserve moisture and help control weeds.

General Care

Fertilization

In North Florida, Poinsettias should be fertilized monthly, starting in May with 2 pounds (1 kg) of 18-6-12, or an equivalent amount of another complete fertilizer, per 100 square feet (10 m2) of planting area. Continue monthly applications of the fertilizer until September in North Florida.

Watering

Water relations are a crucial consideration for growing poinsettias, since prolonged dryness will result in the loss of lower leaves. The soil should be kept moderately moist, but never wet, at all times.

Pruning

Poinsettias should be pruned in early spring after blooming is over and the danger of frost has passed. They should be cut back to within 12 to 18 inches (30.5 to 45.7 cm) of the ground unless they have been frozen below this point, in which event they should be cut back to "live" wood.
Pinching the plant during growing season will result in a compact plant at flowering time. After four weeks or when it is 12 inches (30.5 cm) long, new growth should be cut back, leaving four leaves on each shoot. This procedure should be repeated every time the new growth develops until about September 10. New growth after the last pinch will usually grow to a length of 8 to 10 inches (20.3 to 25.4 cm) and, in the first week of October, will initiate flower buds.

Adapted from a University of Florida publication, “Poinsettias for Florida, Indoors and Outdoors  by Robert J. Black and Rick K.Schoellhorn

Poinsettias

Q:  I would like to plant my poinsettias in the yard after Christmas.  Can I do that here? 

A:  You can indeed plant them here in full sun, well drained, moist soil with pH between 5.5 and 6.5.  However, it is essential that they receive no light at night (no street light or window light) during the bud-setting period. Normally, they set flower buds in early October when nights are becoming increasingly longer.  Remove the poinsettia from the container and plant it outdoors as soon as danger of frost is past which will be between March and April. Backfill the hole with enough soil so the plant will sit in the hole at the same depth as it was growing in the container. Water thoroughly while planting to remove air pockets. Use organic mulch around the plant to conserve moisture and help control weeds.  In North Florida, poinsettias should be fertilized monthly, starting in May with 2 pounds of 18-6-12, or an equivalent amount of another complete fertilizer, per 100 square feet of planting area. Continue monthly applications of the fertilizer until September.  The soil should be kept moderately moist, but never wet, at all times.  Poinsettias should be pruned in early spring after blooming is over and the danger of frost has passed. They should be cut back to within 12 to 18 inches of the ground unless they have been frozen below this point, in which event they should be cut back to "live" wood. Pinching the plant during growing season will result in a compact plant at flowering time. After four weeks or when it is 12 inches long, new growth should be cut back, leaving four leaves on each shoot. This procedure should be repeated every time the new growth develops until about September 10. New growth after the last pinch will usually grow to a length of 8 to 10 inches and, in the first week of October, will initiate flower buds.

Q:  I have heard I have to put my poinsettia in a dark closet before it will change color.  Is this true? 

A:  You are the second person to ask me this very same question. I suppose this idea has come about because plant nurseries and growers manipulate the light environment by placing the plants under cover.  This will force the poinsettias to change color earlier making them available for stores to sell during the holidays. Poinsettias are native to Mexico, so you can imagine they are exposed to plenty of sunlight on a regular basis. The bracts or specialize leaves change color once the days become shorter as this marks the beginning of cooler temperatures and reduced sun exposure.  It is not necessary to put poinsettias in complete darkness but it is important to keep them away from night lights once October arrives. If the plants are exposed to bright night lights such as street lights, the bracts will stay green. If grown in pots, do not let the roots sit in water as they will easily decay. These plants prefer moist but well-drained soil.  Fertilize in small increments from May through September. Cut the stems down to about 12 to 18 inches from the ground after the fear of frost if over.  You may need to cut them a few times during growing season to keep them short and full but stop pruning after September 10.  The fancy hybrids do not grow as easily as the standard red ones.  One other quick note – poinsettias are not poisonous to humans or pets.  Some people may have a skin reaction if exposed to the white sap found in the stems. For more complete information look at the University of Florida publication: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP34900.pdf

Q:   My poinsettia has grown almost to the top of my roof which is about 12 feet tall.  I have never seen them grow this large, is it unusual? 

A:   Most people want their poinsettias in pots to place around the house or their Christmas tree.  Most people do not want poinsettias to get big which is why you seldom see them tall.  However, if you plant them in the ground outside they may have a chance to reach heights up to 15 feet.