Now that the holidays are upon us in the UK, you’re probably itching to learn how to turn a poinsettia red. Nothing screams “happy holidays” more than seeing pink, white, cream, apricot, variegated, and red poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) on the shelves. However, if you want to stick to the classic-themed Christmas décor, you’d go for the red ones.
What You May Not Know About Poinsettias
If you think that poinsettias are mere houseplants or annuals, think again. These deciduous shrubs can grow up to 12 feet tall and can thrive well outdoors in the UK areas identified as USDA plant hardiness zones 9 to 11. The only downside to this type of plant is that they lose their blooms after about 4 to 6 weeks.
If you’re not aware, the colours you see in poinsettias are not in the flowers. The plant’s flowers are those tiny yellow structures seen in the middle, but the ones that turn red are the modified leaves that are also called bracts. The colours of the bracts change as they respond to the plant forming flowers.
When the leaf bracts turn red, they attract insect pollinators to the plant’s tiny yellow flowers that one can find in the middle. These pollinators include flies, moths, beetles, ants, honey bees, bumblebees, solitary bees, wasps, and butterflies. Shortly after the flowers are gone, the red-coloured bracts and the green leaves eventually fall off as well.
5 Tips on How to Keep Your Poinsettias Alive and Healthy from Year to Year
Perhaps you want to keep your poinsettias alive and healthy year after year so that you can get them ready for next year’s holiday season. Here’s how you can make this happen:
Tip #1: Keep it in bright light
Make sure that the plant gets enough bright light, not direct sunlight, daily. Do this for at least 8 hours per day.
Tip #2: Keep them in areas where the temperature doesn’t go lower than 50˚F
Next, you need to place the plant in a warm room or a mini polytunnel where the temperature remains constant between 60˚F to 70˚F and never gets below 50˚F.
Tip #3: The soil should be dried out between waterings
In between waterings, be sure to let the soil dry out. However, avoid waiting so long if you don’t want the leaves to start wilting.
Tip #4: Feed it with water-soluble plant food at the right time
Your poinsettias need to be fed with water-soluble plant food once a month. However, avoid doing this during the months where the plants are in full bloom.
Tip #5: Don’t forget to prune them
As mentioned earlier, the plant’s flowers and leaves will eventually fall off after a few months. After this happens, it’s essential to prune your plant.
When you’re pruning, all you have to do is cut the plant’s stems to about 6 inches while you maintain your plant care routine. Wait until new leaves emerge next winter.
4 Tips on How to Turn a Poinsettia Red
Gardening enthusiasts in the UK must learn how to force their precious poinsettias to rebloom and their leaf bracts to return to their red colour year after year. If you’re interested in getting yours to turn red again while keeping it healthy for a long time, check out these must-have tips:
Tip #1: Place it in total darkness for 14 hours every day
Forcing your poinsettia’s leaf bracts to turn red starts with you placing the plant in complete darkness for about 14 hours daily, starting eight weeks before you intend to use them as a part of your Christmas decorations.
It’s important to note that placing a small night light in the same room as your poinsettias when one puts them in total darkness will disrupt the process of turning the bracts red again. The same thing happens if you have a window open and your poinsettias experience the street light that’s shining through it.
For this reason, it’s best to place the plants in a closet each evening. Just make sure that no one opens the closet at any point during the night.
Tip #2: Increase the level of humidity
If there’s one thing you need to know about poinsettias, it’s the fact that they require extra humidity during the stage when you’re trying to turn them red again. To increase the level of humidity that they experience, you may place a bowl of water inside the dark closet where you put your plants every night.
Tip #3: Expose it to bright light during the day
After placing your poinsettias in complete darkness each evening, make sure that you expose them to bright light during the day. If you have a mushroom log, you may keep your poinsettias in the same spot.
Tip #4: Maintain the same routine until the plant achieves its red colour
It’s essential to remain consistent with your nighttime darkness routine for more than four weeks or until the plant reaches the rich red colour that you’ve always wanted to achieve.
Grow Your Plants in a Hobby Greenhouse!
If you want to take your UK gardening experience to the next level, consider growing your plant babies in a hobby greenhouse. Aside from giving them an optimal environment to thrive in, a hobby polytunnel also provides a layer of protection against harsh weather conditions and destructive pests and animals. What’s more, a hobby polytunnel also enables you to extend your plants’ growing seasons.
Now that you know how to turn a poinsettia red for this year’s Christmas decorations, you may keep them alive and healthy in your very own hobby greenhouse! Set one up today!