Save the Poinsettias!

This time of year poinsettias take center stage, boasting big, beautiful red blooms (leaves, really, known as bracts), with petite yellow flowers nestled amidst the magnificent color.  While also available in pink and white, for me, red remains the heart and soul of the Christmas season.

Last year I decided to save my poinsettia plants, and actually put them in the ground.  What better way to decorate the house for the season than an abundance of beautiful poinsettias, right? 

Okay, so it’s easier.  They grow by themselves all year long then, poof!  Gorgeous red blooms for Christmas.  Does it get any better?  To tell the truth, I first came up the idea while driving through the neighborhood.  On the corner of my usual route, there’s a cute cottage home with a HUGE poinsettia plant.  (More tree than plant, the way this thing has grown wild.)  Wild and beautiful.  

The first time I saw the red blooms take over the scraggly branches – and realized it was a poinsettia – I was in awe.  Complete awe.  I had no idea poinsettias grew this way!  And if looks were any indication, it appeared as though it was growing naturally, without the assistance of pruning or fertilization.  Perfect, I mused.  A seasonal plant that survives on its own, yet heralds in this glorious time of year… 

Why, it’s doubly perfect!  Chocked full of inspiration, away I went, determined to have one for my own yard.  If they could do it, I could do it

Immediately upon my return home, I thumbed through my home and garden magazines, and noticed a plethora of articles on this very subject.  Wonderful.  It meant I didn’t have to start this project from scratch. 

As directed, I placed my plant in the ground, selecting a nice spot where it would receive plenty of indirect sunlight, and made sure it was well protected from cool drafts.  As a native of Mexico, this plant doesn’t like the cold, so whenever the temperature dips below 50-55 degrees, you must be vigilant and cover it else it shrivel up and die.

Note:  For you Arctic Amigos living north of the Florida border, don’t try this at home.  Save your plants, but keep them as indoor “pets” only.  Do remember to water them, a common problem with any indoor plant I adopt.  (The whole watering schedule thing puts a crimp in my carefree and spontaneous style – that, and children tend to be quite demanding, though getting pretty good at accomplishing their own chore list.  Note to self: houseplant watering is now a kid’s job.) 

But as I was saying, outdoors I have an irrigation system.  It works on a timer and is quite reliable.  Following my gardening guidelines, I decided on the northern side of my house (summers can be brutal in Central Florida), dug the hole, loosened the roots, fertilized with an all purpose fertilizer and let it grow!  

Fanning my feathers like a grand peacock, I’m proud to say:  it’s alive and doing well.  Then — another brainstorm hit.  How about reproducing these spectacular results?  If one can survive, so can two, or three, or as many cuttings as I can root from this existing plant of mine! 

Excited by the prospect, though uncertain which method was best, I decided to experiment.  Have I mentioned I have mad scientist tendencies?  I prefer to refer to it as creative, but either way, some cuttings went into dirt and one went into water.  Shoot, if my mother can do it, I can do it!  (Whoa back, cowgirl — she is the “rooting” queen.) 

That's my little gal, down toward the left

But so full of gusto, I decided to continue full steam ahead.  Just to be sure, I gave myself a boost with rooting “tonic.”  You know, that little powder you dip the stems into before you plant them?  For this particular experiment, I used Rootone, though I imagine there are others on the market that will produce results equally as well. 

The stuff works wonders.  As you can see, my little babies are faring quite nicely.  (Big smiles here.)  Small, but I only rooted this past September.  With relative ease, I might add – unlike my human darlings.  Those children take work and lots of it.  Albeit, a labor of love, I add with another smile, but if you want to give the gift that keeps on giving, my advice: Save the poinsettias!  Next year, when you come home to a yard full of spectacular seasonal color, you’ll be glad you did. 

One caveat:  General consensus suggests you may need to “trick” your poinsettias into blooming if you have less than 14 hours of nightfall per day.  Mine achieved the red without any effort on my part, though I wonder if there wouldn’t be quite a bit more if I had covered the plant for a few extra hours each day, a month or so before Christmas.  

This one was fully "rooted" in water only

It’s something to consider, though you can be sure my neighbor doesn’t do this for their wild beauty!  Either way, have fun and enjoy the process.    When all else fails, that’s what’s it’s really about. 
Share the joy!
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