Saving the Poinsettia, My New Experiment

With January 5 passing, the Christmas season is officially over. With all the decorations gone, the house feels empty. I also have a sad little poinsettia in need of saving. Its leaves are falling off and it needs action if it is going to survive.

Methodology for Saving a Poinsettia

If God told me to chose a plant less suited to living at Christmas time in my home, I would struggle to to figure one out. To call it is a pain in the butt is beyond an understatement. It is a plant that just seems like it hates you.

This is a tropical plant living in the drought season of a temperate region. Heat and moisture are more a joke than a condition at the moment.

The basic goal of keeping this plant alive will require at least two things. A bigger pot and steps to prevent it from flowering.

Lets see what I am working with.

This is a sad plant. Its red leaves are falling out. There is leaf curl going on and the leaves are starting to deteriorate. It’s time for action.

Root bound poinsettias, drop their leaves. It is the most common cause of leaf drop in them. Most years you watch them die, it is because of this. I swapped this plant into a bigger pot when I brought it home in anticipation of keeping my baby poinsettia around for next Christmas.

Bringing it home, beyond root bound was the description I used for that poor, sad plant. Giving it a little tickle does wonders for that. Along with tickling, a repotting with a 50/50 mix of succulent mix and standard potting mix does the rest. Not 100% if this is the right idea but since the plant want moisture and drainage it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Because of this fact and the visual signs of leaf drop, I need to check the plant. These roots can grow fast.

Checking Roots

Grab the plant by the stem and give it a tug.

Dangling roots are not the worst sign. I do feel bad that the bottom soil stayed in the pot. With the side roots, you can see where it was but the root ends are free and clear. Because of all the dirt that fell out of the root section, we have some more time to remain in this pot. Root bound is not an issue.

The soil is good and moist without being swampy. As a result of passing the root bound test, it’s an environmental conditions issue. My plant used to live in the living room with some access to the aquarium lighting. Now, it is in the plant room. Several degrees of difference and significantly different lighting between the two spaces.

Again, this plant hates you and wants you to fail.

Stop Flowering

Most people don’t realize it, but the red leaves are not flowers. They are red leaves. Those little round things in the center are the flower buds. They are the death dealers of the poinsettia.

They don’t look like they are a real risk of flowering so we can quit worry about it. Even if they were intact, it does not change our plans.

The red, its got to go. That’s right. Cut all the red away and give it no mercy. Because this plant hates you, and poinsettia actually do hate you, they will try to poison you for keeping them alive.

Now don’t feel too bad, these red leaves will drop off eventually so you aren’t doing anything wrong.

Lets see where to cut.

The goal is simple. Cut away the red leaf parts. We want to cut away all the leaves with any tinge of red. Red is the stress condition of the plant. We want to remove the stress and put the plant back into its peaceful, pain in the butt nature. It thriving and hating you is the condition we are after.

We want to remove one leaf node below the last of the red.

Here you can see two leaves. One is definitely red. The other…

This leaf is going red.

Lets cut below that leaf node.

Now here is where it will try and kill you. There is going to be some milky liquid coming from the plant. You don’t want that on you and you sure as heck, don’t want to eat it.

That was fun, lets do it to the other branch only with more feeling and intensity.

We found the last red leaf.

We find the leaf node responsible.

Then give it a cut.

Snapped just at decapitation. I couldn’t get that shot again, if I tried.

Look at the milky stuff. Just leave it be.

Finishing Up Saving My Poinsettia

I’ll take him where he can stay nice and warm. Away from all the drafts with the highest humidity in the house. Six wonderful hours of indirect sunshine awaits him.

Hopefully, I cut far enough down to prevent issues. Part of me wanted to go one more leaf node just to make sure I got all the reddening process stopped but there was not that much plant to start.

Is its hate stronger than its desire to survive? Time will tell if I am successful at saving my poinsettia.

On a final note…

If you get the sap on you or decide to eat it as a salad, what will it do? Not much, I think it is actually a bigger risk to stain your clothes then to kill you dead.

However, being a child of the 80’s anti-poinsettia propaganda, this plant will kill you and your grandma! We do have to keep the dramatic effect in place after all or the narrative falls apart. 😛

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