Quick tips for growing beautiful poinsettias

Poinsettias and Christmas go together.

You most likely have a Poinsettia that is an Ecke variety and a part of Encinitas history. There are Ecke variety poinsettias in every color and variation you can imagine. You want to see it bloom through the holidays and live to bloom again next year. Last month we gave you “Success with Poinsettia” advice. Today we continue with more Quick Tips and FAQs.

First give your poinsettia a name. Patty, Susie or Sammy. It’s your choice. They will respond much better to Patty, or Susie rather than “hey you.”

How often shall I water my poinsettia? Number one question. It depends on the size of the pot, plant and the temperature. The smaller the poinsettia pot, the more often you need to water. Give little 2½-inch pots a drink at least every other day.

Quick tip. A Turkey baster makes it easy. The other two most common sizes are the 4 inch and 6 inch multi-bloom poinsettia. Rule of thumb, water at least twice a week. Three times a week if your plants are outside or your house is very warm.

Crushed ice or the kitchen sink? How much? A handful of crushed ice for the 4 inch, a cupful for the 6 inch. At the sink, water well and let it drain. Always feel the soil before you water to make sure your plant needs a drink.

Free water meter available. Bigger plant in larger pots can store more water so you may not need to water as often. Use the free water meter that comes attached to your wrist — your fingers. I call this your 3-Finger Water Meter. Use your fingers to take a deep pinch of soil. Feel it. If it cool and moist, leave it alone. Warm and a little dry? Water now.

Beware of the other extreme. Don’t let your plant sit in water. This will destroy the roots and consequently the plants’ plumbing system. This is called slow drowning.

Why did my poinsettia drop its leaves? Number one mistake is letting your plant dry out to the point of really wilted leaves. It’s a busy time of year and you just forgot to water and now those leaves are all wilted and hanging down. Those leaves are already dead. It just takes a few days for them to drop off. Your plant isn’t dead; it just looks so bad you may wish it was dead. Some leaf drop is normal as your plant goes past the holidays.

When you see the leaves begin to droop, water it now. Late for work? Just grab a handful of ice cubes for the quick fix. Do a real watering later.

How can I make my poinsettia bloom again next year? The most important thing to do is to cut off the blooms by St. Patrick’s Day, even if your poinsettia is still blooming beautifully. A poinsettia that is still blooming in July is not going to come back in bloom for Christmas. Your poinsettia cannot grow normally until you cut off last year’s blooms. By March the weather is getting warmer and your plant will start to grow again.

Can I plant my poinsettia in the ground now? Not a good idea. The ground is still too cold and your poinsettia will likely die. Wait until April or even beginning of May to plant.

What are those little yellow things in the middle of the red bloom? Those are the true blooms, the pretty red flowers are really leaves that have turned into red bracts. One of nature’s little clever tricks.

Do I need to fertilize my poinsettia? While it is blooming you don’t need to feed it. After you cut off the blooms and see new growth then resume feeding.

There is much more to learn about this wonderful poinsettia flower.

The San Dieguito Heritage Museum has a new exhibit celebrating 100 years of the Paul Ecke family growing poinsettias. Be sure to stop in to the museum now through February for a look at the fascinating history of this amazing family. The museum, located at 450 Quail Gardens Dr., is open Thursday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

In honor of the Ecke 100-year anniversary, you can pick up a free Anniversary Poinsettia Guide at either the Heritage Museum or at Weidner’s Gardens, 695 Normandy Rd. Encinitas.

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