Does anyone know how to grow a poinsettia to tree size (about 5 feet)? I've seen these in stores and they really don't cost that much. The problem is getting it home. They break so easily as it is, they will never survive being crammed into my tiny car. I don't know anyone who could lend me a truck or van. Do you need a certain kind of Poinsettia (fast growing?) for these?
Curious Cat from South Norfolk, VA
Frugalsunnie (see post in feedback forum) has provided you with some excellent information on growing Poinsettias, so I have very little to add. I will say, however, that my limited understanding of 'Poinsettia Tree Production' (which I have personally never tried) comes from a technical bulletin produced by the Paul Ecke Ranch, in Encinitas, California. They are undoubtedly one of the largest (if not THE largest) producers of poinsettias in the United States.
According to the bulletin, certain poinsettia cultivars are indeed much better adapted to producing high quality trees due to their tree - like characteristics - large bracts (leaves) and strong stems. Which ones exactly, I don't know. The ultimate height and shape of a poinsettia tree is also directly dependent on the amount of growing time before what industry growers call the 'first pinch' (a.k.a the first pruning). Apparently, poinsettia trees can be double or triple pinched depending on the final size and shape desired. As an example, producing a 4 - 5 foot poinsettia tree with a lollipop shape requires planting your root cuttings in April, pinching/pruning them for the first time in July, for a second time in August and again for a third time in September. None of this pinching/pruning has anything to do with color production. As Frugalsunnie mentioned, that requires additional attention to light cycles.
None of this information is meant to deter you from trying this on your own, but rather just some interesting information I ran across while visiting their web site: http://www.ecke.com/new1/.
I'm a two state Master Gardener with a bit of experience with the lovely Poinsettia, so I think I can give you some worthwhile feedback.
The Poinsettia is really a weed discovered in the 19th century by an American traveling in Central Mexico. He brought it back to America, and its popularity was immediate.
The plants available today have been hybridized and require a lot of work to keep them going beyond the first season you purchase them. You can try planting them outside after the holidays depending on your planting zone in a darker corner of your yard; I say darker because to flower (the actual flower is the little yellow 'bead', the gorgeous red is leaf) the plant requires up to 14 daily dark hours. Floridians and Lower Alabamians really do just toss the plant out the back door and forget about it:) It makes an interesting yard plant.
Because the plant is still a weed even though it has been hybridized (mainly to encourage all those lovely colour variations), the stem will turn to wood and basically become a trunk after a year or two in the ground. The foliage and flower sets will mainly grow at the top, giving the plant a tree look without your having to prune a thing.
You can achieve the same results in a container; you'll need a large enough container to support healthy roots-Poinsettia hates wet feet but likes to be evenly moist while given opportunity to dry between waterings; be prepared to 'pot-up' at least every couple years; it would be easier on your back to put your potted Poinsettia on rollers, then you can roll it into a closet on schedule so that it receives its needed dark hours for flowering-you'll need to figure out the time by watching the sun patterns in your area, and the hours of light the plant gets if you've chosen to make it a large house plant; roll it into the dark place so that your plant is worked into 14 hours of dark by late August or very early September. By Thanksgiving your plant will be beautiful, and ready to display.
You'll need to feed it a little something every and then, I used a Jobe's Grow Spikes package that listed Poinsettia.
Several good books-look for the most current because these plants really are hybridized, and new information comes out with each crop-are out there about Poinsettia culture, and include two warnings:
Patents are in place for any Poinsettia you've purchased and are fiercly protected-you can't sell cuttings or other plant parts if you've purchased the plant commercially from a nursery (the best source of quality plants), home imrovement stores (the second best source) or one of the 'Marts or grocery.
Over-wintering Poinsettia is a pain in the neck, and it is easier to simply toss the plant when it gets ugly (and Poinsettia does, trust me:) and purchase new the next holiday season. But everyone should try, it's great fun if you're prepared for the work.
I tried one time, collecting all of the ones my friends were throwing out after New Year's. I got the plants into one huge container on my Lower Alabama deck, and took very great care of the thing, even getting my then husband to construct a cover so the plants could get their dark hours.
It was the most beautiful thing I've seen in a long time, and a hard freeze killed it off overnight the week after Thanksgiving.
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