Every Christmas I get at least one poinsettia. I love their vibrant color in the drab of winter. I do not have a green thumb, however, and by the end of the year, my poinsettia usually looks like six sticks stuck in a foil-wrapped pot of dirt.
Last year my son and his family gave me one from their church in Brentwood. Although its red leaves dropped off the plant kept putting out new leaves and was looking good! I removed the foil wrapper and kept it in a window and watered it all winter. It kept on growing! Then in the spring when they put the gardener’s calendar in the paper I read for about the 30th time how to keep a poinsettia through the summer.
The instructions were just to repot it and put it outside after danger of frost had passed. Keep it watered and it will flourish. By May I had quite a large poinsettia so I got a large pot and a bag of potting soil, repotted it and put it on a small table off my carport where it got the morning sun. It grew and grew and grew. You recall we had quite a lovely summer and fall with rain and decent weather until late in the year.
Then in the early fall the gardener’s calendar appeared with hints on fall chores and – what else? How to make your poinsettia bloom for Christmas. Assuming of course that it had survived the summer. Mine had so I thought seriously about taking on this new adventure. I do not have a large house and have no basement and was wondering where I could put the plant to comply with the instructions: i.e. eight hours of bright light daily followed by 16 hours of complete darkness.
My extra bathroom is small with no window so I decided to use it. I staggered back and forth with that excessively heavy plant for nearly a week. I had to prop open my back door, then lift it in both arms, hug it to my chest, and manage to get up two steps and across two rooms to the bath. The plant itself has grown so big I cannot reach around it.
At that point I decided that I was going to do one of two things: Fall and really hurt myself and be in traction for the holidays. Or drop the plant and be cleaning up dirt for a week. So I gave up and left it outside. One day about two weeks later I had an epiphany. I have a heat lamp in the ceiling of the bath. Why couldn’t I use it for the light then just close it up after eight hours. So I did.
Now that bath could not be used for anything but washing hands. The poinsettia occupied the toilet seat and every day I turned on the lights and the heat lamp. Occasionally I even put another lamp there on the sink. Once my son and his family visited and we had lines at the other bathroom since this one could not be used.
I had followed the instructions, fertilized it lightly and kept it watered. I put a note in the kitchen on the coffee pot reminding me to take care of my project – in the “birthing room.” I continued to notice new growth and one day when I turned on the lights I noticed some pink color in a number of the new leaves. Yes! I was thrilled. I continued the routine although I soon realized that I had not started early enough for full results
Now the poinsettia has been placed on a little wheeled plant cart (so I can move it without fear of a hernia) and moved out to a place of honor. Unbelievably I have about 20 “blooms” on my last year’s poinsettia!! They are not large, ranging from about 4 to 6 inches in diameter but they are definitely blooms, colored marbled and light to real dark pink. No pure red ones yet, but even the little yellow things in the middle of the blooms are there. I have been amazed and proud that I actually accomplished this.
I may try it again next year, but if this thing keeps growing I will have a poinsettia TREE! Or alternatively -- it could die.
Margaret Partee can be reached at Margaretfirstname.lastname@example.org.