Q. Can I still get my poinsettia to bloom in time for Christmas?
Jean from Canfield
A. You might be able to make it bloom by Christmas Day, but probably not any sooner. Poinsettias take eight to 10 weeks of care to re-bloom.
But getting it to re-bloom is not a difficult task.
Start by transplanting it at the beginning of summer into a pot 2 inches bigger. A slightly shaded spot with no hot afternoon sun is best. Bring the plant inside just after Labor Day. Never leave poinsettias outside when night temperatures drop to 45 degrees.
When transplanting or bringing inside, cut the lateral shoots (stems and leaves) down to 4-6 inches, leaving one to three leaves on each stem. Fertilize to encourage new, stronger stems and leaves which will become the colored bracts (and flowers).
At the end of September, it must be placed in complete darkness from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. Of course, you will start this process late, but you will still get blooms to lighten up the winter inside your home. Use a room where no lights are turned on after the sun sets, or use a dark closet. If using a room with no lights from 5 p.m to 8 a.m., the plant can be left where it was placed. If a closet is used, the plant should be placed in regular daylight at 8 a.m. each day. The temperature should remain 60-70 degrees. Night temperatures above 70 degrees can delay or prevent flowering. Water the soil when it feels dry to the touch.
Color should appear on the bracts in eight to 10 weeks. At this time place it in a sunny window or any other well lit area. Do not allow leaves or flower bracts to touch a cold window pane or place plants in front of radiators, air registers, fans or open windows or doors, for they do not tolerate warm or cold drafts. Continue to water when the soil feels dry to the touch. Fertilize every two weeks to keep it blooming. Follow these simple directions and your poinsettia should bloom for many Christmas seasons to come.
Barb Delisio is an OSU Extension master gardener volunteer in Mahoning County. Call the office hotline at 330-533-5538 from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays or Thursdays to submit your questions.