In The Yard column for Jan. 4, 2013

Most holiday poinsettias end up in the compost pile or garbage can, but with the same care you’d give a transplant you bought at the nursery poinsettias can live on in the garden.

“Don’t plant your poinsettia in your landscape just because you have one,” said LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill. “Remember, you did not buy it to be a permanent part of your landscape. Look around and decide if there is a spot where the poinsettia would look good and make a real contribution.”

Plant poinsettias in late March after danger of frost has passed. Keep them indoors protected from cold until then. Cut the plant back about half way just before planting. Don’t worry about the white sap that bleeds out. The bleeding will stop on its own.

Plant poinsettias in a sunny, well-drained place protected from north winds. Poinsettias planted on the south side of the house or a wall will benefit from the protection, Gill said.

“Be careful to locate the poinsettia where it will not receive any light at night from porch lights, security lights, flood lights or street lights. Poinsettias are only triggered to flower when the nights are long — that’s why they bloom in December.

“If light shines on them at night, they never get the long hours of darkness needed to trigger flowering,” Gill said.

When plants have been in the ground about a month, fertilize them with what you typically use to fertilize your landscape plants following label directions, the horticulturist said.

“Fertilize them through the summer following the label of the product you are using. Poinsettias are fairly drought tolerant. Still, to keep the plants growing vigorously and prevent stress, water plants thoroughly once a week during dry summer weather.”

“Poinsettias will survive in Zone 8 and even Zone 7b (North Louisiana and southern Arkansas) in a protected location (the roots can survive temperatures in the teens as long as they are mulched and the ground does not freeze),” Gill said.

“But, you would likely not see the beautiful flowering occur around Christmas that people in New Orleans, Lafayette or Lake Charles would see. Even here in Baton Rouge (Zone 8b), I have gardening friends who have poinsettias in the ground that bloom well many years. But, the farther north you go, the earlier the freezes and the less successful you will be.”

Ed Cullen

Advocate staff writer