The Progress-Index - - REAL ESTATE - As­so­ci­ated Press

Poin­set­tias have be­come the best­selling pot­ted plants in the United States, and are sec­ond in pop­u­lar­ity only to Christ­mas trees dur­ing the holiday sea­son. Un­for­tu­nately, they also are among the least un­der­stood.

They are not an­nu­als. Poin­set­tias don’t have to be tossed to the curb with the trees and tin­sel once the cel­e­brat­ing is over. They can be re­stored to pro­vide cheer for many more hol­i­days, al­though it takes some work to make them color up again.

“Poin­set­tias can be re­flow­ered for years,” said Thomas Ford, a com­mer­cial hor­ti­cul­ture in­struc­tor with Penn State Ex­ten­sion. “One for­mer client I worked with in Mary­land flow­ered his one poin­set­tia for over 10 years. It grew so large that he used his din­ing room as the dis­play area for it.”

Whether that kind of ded­i­ca­tion is worth it, though, is an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent thing.

“I would say that the av­er­age con­sumer does not see any merit in keep­ing it for sev­eral years,” Ford said. “Over­all, it is too time­con­sum­ing.”

Poin­set­tias were in­tro­duced into the United States from Mex­ico roughly 200 years ago. They are grown in sev­eral Cen­tral Amer­ica na­tions as peren­nial shrubs reach­ing 10 to 15 feet in height.

That doesn’t mean they can be prop­a­gated even in the hottest parts of the U.S., how­ever, said Peter War­ren, a hor­ti­cul­ture agent with Univer­sity of Ari­zona Co­op­er­a­tive Ex­ten­sion.

“Poin­set­tias can­not tol­er­ate frost or freez­ing tem­per­a­tures, so places in south­ern Ari­zona and other parts of the South that oc­ca­sion­ally ex­pe­ri­ence cooler tem­per­a­tures are not good places to grow them out­side,” War­ren said.

Poin­set­tia’s col­ored leaves, or bracts, have been hy­bridized over the years into more than 100 va­ri­eties, from the tra­di­tional red to pink, white, cream, bur­gundy and var­ie­gated.The plant’s flow­ers are small, yel­low­ish green and po­si­tioned deep within the bract clus­ters.

Here’s a gen­er­ally ac­cepted sea­sonal time line for re­col­or­ing poin­set­tias:

— Keep tem­per­a­tures be­tween 60 and 70 de­grees from De­cem­ber to Fe­bru­ary. Let the plants get as much sun­light as pos­si­ble. Wa­ter them reg­u­larly. — In March or April, as the bracts age and turn a muddy green, cut the stems back to about 8 inches high. “Around July 4th, cut branches back again about half their length to en­cour­age bushy plants,” War­ren said.

— From mid- to late Oc­to­ber, the plants must be kept in com­plete dark­ness for 14 con­tin­u­ous hours each night. “This can be done by mov­ing the plant to a dark room or plac­ing a box over it,” War­ren said. “Dur­ing this pe­riod, the plant re­quires six to eight hours of bright sun­light and night tem­per­a­tures be­tween 60 and 70 de­grees. This reg­i­men must con­tinue for eight to 10 weeks in or­der for the plant to de­velop col­or­ful bracts for the holiday sea­son.”

— The bracts should be de­vel­op­ing some color by mid-Novem­ber.

— In early De­cem­ber, bract col­oration should be al­most com­plete and the plant can be re­stored to ev­ery­day light. On­line:

For more about keep­ing poin­set­tias grow­ing for ex­tended pe­ri­ods, see this Univer­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion fact sheet: http://www.ex­ten­sion.umd.edu/sites/de­fault/files/_im­ages/pro­grams/hgic/Publi­ca­tions/HG30_Hol­i­day_Plan­t_Care_Poin­set­tia.pdf

You can con­tact Dean Fosdick at dean­fos­dick@net­scape.net

This Dec. 3, 2016 photo taken at a Lan­g­ley,Wash., gro­cery store, shows poin­set­tias. Poin­set­tias aren’t an­nu­als if grown in­doors.You can re­store them to pro­vide good cheer for yet an­other holiday sea­son.The main at­trac­tion of poin­set­tias, like these pic­tured here, is not their flow­ers, but their leaves.The ac­tual flow­ers are the small buds buried deep within the leaf clus­ter that bloom yel­low­ish green. (AP Photo/By Dean Fosdick)

This Dec. 3, 2016 photo taken at a Lan­g­ley, Wash., gro­cery store, shows poin­set­tias. Poin­set­tias come in many shapes and sizes but tra­di­tional red is still the most pop­u­lar.There are more than 100 va­ri­eties of poin­set­tias, and range from the tra­di­tional red — still the most pop­u­lar dur­ing the hol­i­days — to pink, ma­roon, white and var­ie­gated. (AP Photo/By Dean Fosdick)

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