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Poinsettias can be used as houseplants after holidays

Posted: Sunday, December 26, 2010

The folks at Sanderlin Greenhouses in Appling began growing poinsettias from root cuttings back in August.


Now that the Christmas season is over, owner Judy Sanderlin said she can reasonably say that an estimated 5,000 poinsettias were sold at the business from Thanksgiving through this week.

This year's business is a marked improvement over last year, according to Sanderlin.

"It's been a little bit of an increase," she said earlier this week. "We still have a few left, but overall we've had a much better year than last year. Last year was terrible."

Although the plant is commonly thought of as a Christmas plant, Sanderlin said that with extra care it can become a beautiful houseplant. She said she is appy to share tips on how to keep the plant alive well beyond the holiday season.

"It will last all through the summer and can be a great green houseplant if you follow a few tips," said Sanderlin, who owns the 45-year-old business on Scotts Ferry Road. "When the days get long -- around late March or early April -- the red of the leaves starts to fade back to green. This is when you want to prune back the limbs to 4 or 5 inches."

Keeping the poinsettia healthy enough to get to the "houseplant" stage is key. The poinsettia requires a sunny spot so that the color will brighten, Sanderlin said. Bright morning sun is best.

If you received a poinsettia as a gift this year, be sure to remove the foil wrapper around the pot. It might be necessary to puncture a small hole or two in the bottom of the pot to ensure adequate drainage.

"If the plant sits in water, the roots will sour," she said. "Never let it dry out and never let it sit in water."

As with all plants, the amount of water needed depends primarily on the temperature of the room. As a general rule, though, Sanderlin suggests watering the plant every few days. Once its bright color begins to come out, it will need less water.

The Web site says it can be difficult to get a poinsettia to rebloom after the initial blooming. The site offers a few tips that, if followed closely, will force the plant to rebloom.

First, beginning in early October, the plant should be placed it in a dark closet from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily. Exposing the plant to the "even the slightest amount of artificial light during this period will inhibit flowering. After 40 days of this treatment, the plants can be kept in normally lighted rooms."

Water, fertilization and 60-70 degree nighttime temperatures will ensure that the plant flowers during December.

"After the plants begin to drop their leaves, withhold water to encourage dormancy and store in a cool location, between 50 and 60 degrees," the site recommends.

If efforts to get the plant to rebloom next December fail, one thing is sure: Sanderlin's, the largest provider of poinsettias in the area, will have plenty of new plants available.

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