All about the Poinsettia Tree
The poinsettia is the most popular flowering plant at Christmastime, and in recent years there has been a choice between a normal bush-type poinsettia and a poinsettia tree. Most people just throw out their poinsettias when the holiday season is over. That’s because almost everyone has tried to keep their poinsettia alive as a year-round plant and has failed, in spite of numerous gardening experts and publications giving very specific instructions each year.
Just about all of the poinsettias available to us as consumers are hybrids and these plants require some extra loving care to get them to live beyond the holiday season. Because poinsettias are from Mexico and Central America, cold to them is around fifty degrees. Joel Poinsett was the very first person to bring the poinsettia to the United States. He was the first United States ambassador to Mexico.
Many people think that the red or other-colored leaves are the flowers of the poinsettia plant but they are not. They are just leaves which look like flowers. The flowers are small, yellow clusters at the center of each of those leaves (known as bracts). In order to turn a poinsettia plant into a poinsettia tree, it is necessary to remove the bottom 2-3 leaves and continually pinch off new growth.
Keep in mind before you start, the poinsettia is in the euphorbia family. This means that if you suffer from latex allergies, touching a poinsettia is probably going to cause these allergies to act up. So, if this applies to you, always wear gloves, and talk to your doctor about how working with poinsettias might cause an allergic reaction, and what to do about it.
A poinsettia tree is trained to grow so that the bottom is a two-foot stem that looks like a trunk, and the top, the leaves and flowers of the poinsettia, look like tree foliage. In order to grow a poinsettia tree for the holiday season, it is not necessary to go through all of the steps that would be necessary to keep a poinsettia living throughout a year so that it can be forced to bloom at the right time. You have to plant your poinsettia cuttings at the right time, which means getting them transferred into their first pot by May. Then you should check out light requirements online because there are several possibilities for wattages and amounts of time.
You will want to start to root the cuttings six to eight weeks before that. Once the cuttings have roots, transfer them to a six-inch pot. Many growers stake the plant right at the beginning so that they are assured of having a straight trunk or stem. You will continue to use a stake when you transfer the poinsettia tree to its next pot, which is where it will be happily growing by the time the holidays arrive. The plant should be around ten inches high and go into a 12-inch pot as soon as the roots are starting to get bound around one another in the plant’s first pot. Stake it very loosely.
Do not start removing leaves from the plant until September arrives. Then, the first pruning should take place when the lowest shoots on the sides are around two inches long. Remove the lower shoots, leaving at least ten on the top of the plant. You should also pinch off the top for the first time during the first week or two of October. Do a second pinching one month later in November. On this one you can pinch back to leave two or three nodes on the bottom branches and three to four on the higher branches.
When you follow these instructions, you should have a poinsettia tree around three to four feet high by the holidays. Poinsettias are very hard to grow, so if it doesn’t work out exactly as planned the first time, don’t give up. Try again next year.