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How can I get my poinsettia to reflower?

If you are one of the determined, who has resolved to keep your poinsettia in good shape long past Christmas or even through the year and bring it into flower again next Christmas, you'll need to follow some fairly specific instructions.

First, keep your poinsettia in a bright, sunny but cool location. They need bright light to do well. Without it, the colorful bracts and green branches lose color and drop out quickly. In a good spot, they'll retain their color for several months even until summer when you can take the plant outside where it will thrive.

Poinsettias do best with night temperatures between 55 and 65 degrees F. and day temperatures between 65-75oF. If day temperatures go higher this is fine. They will not, however, tolerate temperatures too much below 55 degrees F for any length of time. Keep plants away from heat sources such as heating ducts, radiators, and fireplaces.

Keep the soil evenly moist but do not let plants sit in water. They will not tolerate over watering. If the plant came wrapped in foil, poke a few holes in the bottom of the foil to make sure the plant has good drainage. The soil can dry out quickly so check frequently. Poinsettias will not tolerate dry soil for long. If they get too dry leaves will begin to drop starting from the bottom on up.

After the holidays, for the winter months, place the plant in a cool location such as a basement window. Water only as needed to keep the stems from shriveling. It may drop some leaves.

In March or April, just before new growth appears, cut the stems back to 6-8 inches and bring the plant into a warm sunny location to encourage new growth. When growth appears, water regularly and begin fertilizing monthly with a fertilizer recommended for use on indoor flowering plants.

You can keep the plant indoors, or, if you prefer, the plant can go outside for the summer. Plants taken outside can be grown as container plants or you can bury the pot into the soil to reduce the need for very frequent watering.

Plants grown outdoors can become quite large. Therefore, if you wish to control the growth and produce a bushy plant with many holiday blooms, the tips of the new shoots should be pinched out until about mid-September. This will produce a compact plant with many small flowers as opposed to a tall leggy plant with only a few large flowers. Bring the plant back indoors before night temperatures dip into the forties.

To stimulate the plant into bloom for Christmas, you must give the plant complete darkness for 14 hours straight each night beginning the third week of September. You can use a basement, a closet, unused room or a box cover. Any amount of light during this period will retard flowering. During the day, place the plant in a bright but cool location. When the color begins to show in the bracts, stop the dark treatment and it will proceed to color up.