At this time of year poinsettias start to appear in garden centres and supermarkets. They’re inexpensive and their bright red bracts mean they make the perfect Christmas decoration for the house.

Most people treat them as annuals, but it is possible to keep them alive as a houseplant and make those leaves turn red again the following Christmas. So, if you fancy a challenge, here’s how to do it…

Festive houseplants

First things first, Poinsettias hate draughts. If they catch a chill, they’ll drop their leaves in an instant. So, when buying your plant ensure it’s a healthy looking one kept in warm conditions. This may sound extreme, but when taking the plant out from a warm shop to your car put a plastic bag over it to minimise the temperature difference shock.

Once home, keep it in a consistently warm, light room, out of bright light and the dreaded draughts. Don’t overwater, instead wait until the compost is dry before watering.

Rose-petal-salad-2

Poinsettias also like a humid environment so misting daily will help keep it healthy and happy.

Feed it monthly with a high potassium fertiliser. Then, in April trim the whole plant to about 10cm in height. Remember to wear gloves because poinsettias are Euphorbias, and their sap can irritate the skin. A poinsettia’s natural growth habit is quite straggly so this will keep it looking neat.

Warm welcome

Lavender-sprigs-in-lemon-drink

At this stage, move the houseplant to a room with a lower temperature of 13C. Then, in May pot it into a slightly larger container mixing a good handful of grit into the compost.

Keep the plant in a light, cool room during the summer months with lower temperatures of between 15-18C. Come September the plant reaches the critical stage to get its leaves to turn red again.

Basically, you must give it 8-10 weeks of constant uninterrupted darkness for 14 hours every day and a minimum temperature of 18C remembering also to keep it misted.

An airing cupboard could work well. Or failing that, place a thick, light-excluding paper bag over the plant.

If you follow this advice, you should have a red poinsettia for many Christmases to come. Good luck and Merry Christmas!

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