Monday, December 21, 2020

United States Most Popular "Flowering Plant"

Horticulture Hotline 12/21/20

  Bill Lamson-Scribner 


Little did Joel Poinsett know that when he brought the first Poinsettia back from Mexico that it would become the United States most popular “flowering plant”.  Joel Poinsett, a South Carolinian, was the first ambassador to Mexico. There is a Historic Marker for him in Otranto, SC (an area in North Charleston).  In 1825 he introduced the Poinsettia to the United States.  These plant sales top over 70 million each year.  The dollar value is much greater.  If you ever have a chance to visit a whole sale nursery while the Poinsettia crop is being grown, it is a site you will not forget! 


How can you force the Poinsettia to “bloom” before next Christmas? I have bloom and flowering in quotes, because Poinsettias are mainly grown because of its colorful bracts, not flowers.


After Christmas in the Lowcountry, you can put the plants outdoors as long as the weather is not going to get too cold. In the early days of “The Garden Clinic”, Lowcountry radio legend Dan Moon used to boast how he kicked his Poinsettia off his back porch by his A/C and how it grew into a monster Poinsettia. Poinsettias do not like to be in direct sunlight, so place them in a protected area. Some people like the garage. Filtered light is good.


To force the bracts to change color beginning in early October, keep the plant in total darkness for 14 hours straight.  After the 14 hours of darkness, the plant must receive 6-8 hours of bright sunlight daily for 8-10 weeks.  Depending on the variety of Poinsettia you should see the bracts change color.  The easiest way to accomplish this is to place the plant in a dark room with a grow light and a timer. This way you don’t have to adjust your schedule to care for the plant.  My little secret is to support the local nurseries and buy new plants each year!


Unfortunately, this cool, wet weather is bringing out the Large Patch in our turf.  Be sure to treat the areas before it goes into dormancy.  Now is also a good time to apply horticulture oil or Neem Oil for over-wintering insects. Neem oil will control certain fungi too. Winter weeds are visible now. Control them now while they are young and actively growing. Your results will be much better. 


Judging from our sales at Possum’s, fleas seem to still be an issue for our pets, and the rats, roaches and mice are seeking shelter from the rain and cold. I’m sure you don’t want any uninvited guest for the holidays!


Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.