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Want to keep your poinsettias around longer? You can
Holiday poinsettias will only bloom and look good for so long and then something needs to be done with them, according to a University of Illinois Extension horticulture specialist.

“Many people choose to keep a poinsettia and try to rebloom it for next year,” said Sharon Yiesla. “This can be done, but it does require some work. After the blooms fade, the plant can be handled in two ways.”

If you wish to keep it as a houseplant, cut the stems back about halfway to keep the plant from becoming leggy and to stimulate new growth, she recommends.

“Provide good sunlight and regular watering to keep the plant in good shape through winter, spring, and summer,” she said. “The plant can even be placed outside with other house plants in summer.”

If you prefer lower maintenance and don’t want to keep the poinsettia as a houseplant after blooming has ended, gradually reduce water until the leaves yellow and drop.

Store the dormant plant at 50 to 60 degrees F until spring, watering only enough to keep the roots from drying.

“In spring, move the plant to a warm room and provide water regularly,” she said. “At this time, cut stems back to about six inches and place in a sunny window.”

No matter which method is used, treatment in the fall is the same.

“Place the plant in a room when the temperatures are cooler, 60 to 65 degrees,” she said.“Most important to the reblooming process is light. Give the plant six to eight weeks of short days - eight to 10 hours of light, alternating with long nights - 14 to 16 hours of complete dark. Do not put the plant somewhere dark and leave it for six to eight weeks. This will just leave you with a dead plant.

“The cycle of short days and long nights needs to alternate for those six to eight weeks. The dark part of the cycle needs to be complete darkness - put the plant in a dark closet or in a box - and should be uninterrupted for 14 to 16 hours. Turning on the light during that time period will throw off the cycle, and you will have to start all over again.”

After the six-to-eight-week treatment period, Yiesla said, bring the plant into a cool room with bright, indirect light.

Published in the December 7, 2005 issue of Farm World.