Q: My Christmas poinsettias usually look good well into the New Year. Will they bloom next year if I plant them in the garden? — Jan Hendrickson, Pismo Beach
A: Old-fashioned California gardens often featured poinsettias, flowers that exemplified frost-free winters here. However, as people wanted more potted poinsettias for holidays, varieties were developed with large blooms and unusual colors. You may not have the perfect place to grow one outdoors, but they can bloom next year if left in their pots indoors, if you have the necessary time and space.
During the holiday season place your plants in a bright light but out of direct sunlight and away from drafts. Do not subject them to extremes of temperature. They are happiest in daytime temperatures of around 70 degrees and nights not much lower than 60 degrees. Water them when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch and then water enough so excess water runs out the bottom of the pot.
If you want to try for rebloom, keep plants in a warm protected spot, (indoors or out) with four to six hours of sunlight daily, turning them occasionally for even growth. Keep your plant in good health throughout the year. Cut back the plant in early spring and remove from pot, shaking off much of the old soil and repot in fresh potting soil. Pinching off the tips in the spring and summer will help form a nice bushy shape by fall.
Use a general water-soluble fertilizer created specifically for flowering plants once every two weeks, following the rates recommended on the label. Around Oct. 1, begin placing the pots in a cool, totally dark spot for 14 hours every night, such as a closet or garage without windows. During the day put them in a bright window indoors. Water them and feed with high-bloom liquid fertilizer. When bracts begin to show color you can enjoy your poinsettias in regular household conditions, without fertilizing and you’ll no longer need to move them at night. If you want to grow poinsettias outdoors in an area free of hard frosts, garden varieties can be ordered from nurseries and catalogs. They also grow easily from cuttings. To try transplanting a holiday potted variety into the garden, wait until early spring to plant it in sunlight in a mix of garden and potting soil. In March-April cut the plant back to about 8 inches, give it moderate summer water and hope for success. For more information on growing poinsettias visit Ohio State University online at http://ohioline.osu.edu and for information with pest and disease issues, visit http://ucipm.ucdavis.edu.