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A member of the family Euphorbiaceae, poinsettia is an indoor plant that can also be grown outdoors in warm climates.
Click here for more information about the history of poinsettia and also its Christmas significance.
How, where and when to plant
If you already have a potted poinsettia, once the first blooming period is over, it should be transplanted. The pots in which they are sold are usually too small and should be replaced as soon as possible with larger ones.
Pour one day before re-potting, so that the soil dissolves better.
Hold the stem with two fingers gently, cover the remaining soil with the other hand and turn the potted plant over. Then, turn the pot from side to side until plant comes free easily. Free the root ball by gently tapping from the old earth and dead roots.
Put some soil in the new pot and place the poinsettia in the middle. Add more using a wooden spoon to press down the soil as you go. It is important not to leave any holes or voids.
After re-potting, your poinsettia will need plenty of rest to get used to the new soil. Place it in a warm, bright place, but not directly at the sun. Give just enough water so as not to dry out.
Fertilize 6-9 weeks after re-potting. The plant probably won’t need re-potting again for two to three years.
Indoors & out
While indoors may be best throughout most of New Zealand, poinsettias can be grown outdoors in our warmest, virtually frost-free regions.
While they can be grown from seeds, seeds are hard to come by so either start with a cutting or transplant a potted plant.
The first poinsettias, introduced to the USA from Mexico, were in the form of cuttings and thrived in glasshouse conditions.
However, poinsettia cuttings are somewhat vulnerable to disease and should be inspected carefully before being planted. They are prone to bacterial soft rot and infestation by fungus gnats and white flies.
Generally, the cutting of a poinsettia can be placed directly in soil. Careful attention to watering the soil daily is needed. The leaves of the poinsettia will also require regular misting.
Ideally, the poinsettia leaves and protruding stem should be covered with a film of moisture at all times. However, too much moisture can lead to easier spread of disease.
Some plant experts suggest that a poinsettia will grow best if dipped into a growth hormone prior to being inserted in soil. Most agree however, that fertilised soil is not initially necessary.
Once the cutting starts to root, fertilizer may be added to keep the plant growing strong. Poinsettias require nitrogen, primarily, since they tend to soak up any nitrogen provided in the soil.
Here are a few tips for transplanting a potted plant into the ground:
Keep the plant dry throughout the winter months, watering sparingly. Do not fertilise the plant at this time.
When the weather warms up to a steady 15 degrees Fahrenheit, cut off any faded leaves, leaving behind spiky stems.
Place the potted poinsettia outdoors so that it becomes used to the outdoor weather. Leave it outdoors in a pot for two to three weeks, as this allows it to acclimatise to both the light and the temperature.
Choose a location with full sun for most of the day but no light at all during the night. Avoid areas that are illuminated by street lights.
Dig a hole in the garden bed for the poinsettia that allows it to sit at the same level in the ground as it did in the pot.
Place the poinsettia into the ground and firm the soil around its base.
Apply a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch around the base of the poinsettia to help it retain water.
Fertilise monthly which contains 18 percent nitrogen, 16 percent phosphorus and 12 percent potassium. If in doubt ask your garden centre for advice.