Helpful points about your new poinsettia

The beautiful poinsettia has special requirements.
The beautiful poinsettia has special requirements.

GARDENING: Readers' questions and a whole host of horticultural jobs from Brian Kidd

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Thank you very much for all your letters and cards. Our wonderful postman has been really busy.

Did someone special give you a poinsettia for Christmas? Wow, aren’t they beautiful, three colours to choose from but most people like the red ones best.

The beautiful red bracts are at their best right now and the unusual flower is very small and is at the centre of the bract.

Poinsettias are actually small evergreen trees where they originated in Mexico and they were introduced into greenhouses in England in 1834, but they have been hybridized. This means the breeders have selected strains which keep small and are easy to grow.

The best idea is to buy one from a garden centre where they know how to look after plants. It’s not a good idea to buy one from somewhere where the plants are out in the open in the cold weather.

Why? The plant may have pneumonia before you buy it. So how can we keep them going?

Too much water is the main cause of failure so keep them on the dry side. If in doubt, feel the compost on top of the pot. If it’s dry put some water in a saucer for 10 minutes and the root will absorb all the water it needs.

Give the plant plenty of light but not in a very sunny window. A window with morning sun is okay but even at this time of year a sunny window may be too hot. Try to keep the temperature at around 50F.

If the lower leaves become yellow, the plant has been over watered, this may not be your fault. Take off the yellow leaves and water the plant only when the compost feels dry.

Lots of people keep poinsettias for many years and they become very large. Around the middle of March, they can be pruned back.

All shoots are cut back to half their length. The cuts will bleed with white sap and you can use a tissue to stop this.

If you want to get the poinsettia to produce more wonderful red bracts it is important to remember to allow the plant to enjoy natural light from a window. It needs to be in a room where the light is never turned on.

If left in a warm greenhouse in a temperature of 50F minimum the plant will produce lovely red bracts around February.

How do they get them looking so good for Christmas? They are grown in greenhouses with extra light. The growers are really clever, they use lighting to turn two days into one. We won’t get on to that!