This week: is there a more Christ­massy plant than the poin­set­tia?

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - GREEN SPACES - Han­nah Stephen­son

THE shops are awash with poin­set­tias at this time of year in shades of red, pink and cream, the colour­ful bracts hav­ing taken an av­er­age of eight weeks to turn from green to red.

Gar­den cen­tres, su­per­mar­kets, home­ware shops and DIY stores all have them on dis­play, but you need to be care­ful how you choose your fes­tive poin­set­tia, says David Mitchell, plant buyer at Wye­vale Gar­den Cen­tres.

“When choos­ing a poin­set­tia, look for a strong-look­ing plant with bright-coloured bracts and deep green leaves all the way to the base of the pot,” he ad­vises.

“A UK-grown plant is by far the best. We grow them cooler and al­low them more space, mak­ing sure they are tougher for the cus­tomer. Check if the re­tailer is dis­play­ing them in a warm, draught-free place and never buy a poin­set­tia which is be­ing sold out­side or near to open doors.”

Once your plant’s back home, don’t place it on a porch or in a con­ser­va­tory, be­cause poin­set­tias don’t like draughts. You’re bet­ter off putting it in a warmer room like the liv­ing room, but not near a ra­di­a­tor.

“The worst place is a draughty win­dow sill es­pe­cially if you draw the cur­tains on them leav­ing them in the cold space,” says Mitchell. “Th­ese plants like good light, but are not so de­mand­ing for high light as many other house plants. The main point is to keep them warm, be­tween 15 to 20 de­grees, and away from draughts, avoid­ing sud­den tem­per­a­ture changes.”

Poin­set­tias should be wa­tered as the com­post be­gins to dry out. Don’t over-wa­ter them or the leaves will drop off and don’t leave them to dry out com­pletely or they may not re­cover.

After Christ­mas, al­low the poin­set­tia some time to rest and be­come almost dor­mant by re­duc­ing wa­ter­ing. When bracts be­gin to look old and tired in late win­ter or spring, don’t worry if the leaves droop or fall.

In June, prune the plant back to ap­prox­i­mately a third of its size. Re­pot, feed and wa­ter at this stage reg­u­larly to build a well-shaped plant. New growth will sprout, so stand it in good but not bright light, wa­ter reg­u­larly and ap­ply liq­uid fer­tiliser ev­ery two weeks through­out sum­mer.

From the end of Septem­ber, en­sure the plant has nat­u­ral day length rather than any ar­ti­fi­cial light. Poin­set­tias, which are cul­ti­vars of Eu­phor­bia pul­cher­rima, set bracts and flow­ers in re­sponse to short days. Most will need to have light ex­cluded to en­sure 14 hours of dark­ness out of 24 for eight weeks dur­ing the run-up to Christ­mas.

Once there are more hours of dark­ness than light, the plant will be­gin to change colour. If you be­gin the ini­ti­a­tion process at the end of Septem­ber, you should start to see a sub­tle colour change by midOc­to­ber and the full trans­for­ma­tion by the end of Novem­ber.

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