Grow­ing pains

FES­TIVE FAVOURITE: It is eas­i­est to buy a new poin­set­tia each year rather than try­ing to keep one go­ing, says David Ov­erend

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Gardens -

F all the plants which ap­pear in De­cem­ber, the poin­set­tia has prob­a­bly come to sym­bol­ise Christ­mas – it’s the in­door equiv­a­lent of the holly. But with­out man’s help, Eu­phor­bia pulcher­rima would still be just an­other plant get­ting on with its life thou­sands of miles away from the UK. It’s only be­cause we have tin­kered with its make-up that it now reigns supreme as the most pop­u­lar liv­ing Christ­mas present.

In its home ter­ri­tory, it is still tall and leggy (you have to look up to it) but in Bri­tain it is now a com­pact, bright and easy-to-ac­com­mo­date pot plant.

But it’s not really a flow­er­ing plant – those great, red “flow­ers” are, in fact, noth­ing more than glo­ri­fied leaves.

But that doesn’t put off mil­lions of peo­ple who ev­ery year buy one in De­cem­ber – and then throw it away early in the new year. Be­cause while look­ing af­ter a poin­set­tia should be rel­a­tively straight­for­ward, many peo­ple end up with plants which would be hap­pier on the com­post heap.

All th­ese spe­cially-pro­duced eu­phor­bias want is a rea­son­able tem­per­a­ture (be­tween 55-60F), plenty of light (but not di­rect sun), water, an oc­ca­sional mist­ing of their leaves, and per­haps a lit­tle food when they are at their peak.

Over-water and the leaves will wilt; un­der-water and the leaves will wilt and turn dry; dry air will also turn leaves brown and en­cour­age red spi­der mites to take up res­i­dence; and leav­ing a plant

There’s not a lot of point in try­ing to keep a poin­set­tia from one year to the next.

be­hind the cur­tains on a cold night can also have a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect. Just re­mem­ber to bring it into the room when you shut out the dark­ness.

There’s not a lot of point in try­ing to keep a poin­set­tia from one year to the next, although that doesn’t seem to stop peo­ple from try­ing. If you want to know how to do it – and you want the chal­lenge and are pre­pared to spare the time – read on.

Af­ter leaves have fallen, cut back the stems to 4in. Let the com­post dry un­til May when you should start to water.

Then re­pot, feed and re­move some growth to leave five or so new stems. From the end of Septem­ber, cover the plant with black poly­thene from evening till morn­ing so that the plant has 14 hours of dark­ness each day for eight weeks.

Then, treat it nor­mally. It will be taller than be­fore be­cause, orig­i­nally, it will have been chem­i­cally treated to make it squat­ter and bushier.

It’s a lot eas­ier to buy a new plant ev­ery year.

IN­DOOR STAR: The “flow­ers” are at­trac­tive but are, in fact, noth­ing more than glo­ri­fied leaves.

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