Seasonal The Greenhouse

Growing Poinsettias

November 7, 2011

By Lori W-greenhouse manager

The change of seasons are most appreciated by a greenhouse grower because it means the start of a different crop to grow. “The poinsettias are here…!” Those are 4 words that bring much excitement and trepidation to the grower. Poinsettias are one of my favorite plants  to  grow.  Just to give you an idea of what it takes to produce that beautiful Christmas  plant,  I’ll give you a short itinerary of the growing process:

Mid August: Poinsettia plugs arrive. They areTiny Poinsettia shipped in a box from an out of state grower. The plants are only 1 ½ -3 inches tall  and are started as cuttings and rooted into a foam-like  material.  The plugs Poinsettiasare separated by color (red, white, and pink) and planted into 6 ½” pots. Some have 3 plants per pot and some have 4 . My favorite is the tricolor where we put one of each color in a pot.  They are watered in with a specially formulated poinsettia feed.

Poinsettias, as with all plants, are prone to certain diseases, fungal infections and  pests so we are meticulous about preventative treatments.  The plants get regular fungicide treatments and beneficial insects are used to scout out and eliminate the “bad” insects that can be a nuisance to poinsettias. This avoids having to spray pesticides. Some “bad”  insects  can just be annoying but others can cause physical damage to the tissue. Others can transmit diseases.

The  poinsettia grower is busy checking the watering daily,  applying fungicides monthlyPointsettia and beneficials weekly.  Poinsettias  also  require calcium to produce strong plants and bracts( the flower), very similar to humans, and like humans we can’t always get enough in our diet so we need to take supplements.  Poinsettias get their supplements by absorbing  calcium  through their leaves which is sprayed on the plants weekly.

Next in the itinerary, about 6 weeks after transplanting the plug, the plants get stripped of their side shoots.  It is normal for a poinsettia plant to send out side shoots out of each leaf node on the stem. In most cases the side shoots are left on to produce a multitude of flowers per plant. Our goal for some of our crop is to have 3 or 4 distinctly larger blooms in a pot. The  side shoots are stripped off so all the energy goes to the single flower. It’s a time consuming task being careful not to take leaves off or disturb the growing tip.

Pointsettia PlantsSpacing is also very important. As soon as the leaves from 2 plants touch, the rows are adjusted  to allow for good air circulation between the plants and for getting uniform light. Sometimes if there is a stretch of dark  rainy days, typical of fall weather , the poinsettias will get a growth spurt similar to “leggy” seedlings when there’s not enough light. To help slow down this growing process and keep them shorter and stocky, a chemical called a plant growth regulator(PGR)  is applied by the grower. This treatment may be applied up to 3 times to keep the plants compact.

The color of the bracts is controlled by the light and length of day. The grower really can’t control this natural process other than getting the plugs planted at the correct time.  By late November the top leaves, (bracts ) start changing color and will be in their full glory just in time for the Holiday Season.Red Pointsettia

So this Holiday Season when you pick out that perfect poinsettia as a gift  or purchase it for your  Holiday decorating, keep in mind the hours of attention and special care the growers here at Chester’s provided  to nurture that plant into a beautiful poinsettia.


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