Poinsettias—they’ll bloom beyond the holidays!
Let’s dispel the myth that too often causes many a beautiful Poinsettia to be trashed as soon as the holidays are over. They are not poisonous. A study fed a group of rats a lot of poinsettia leaves—must be an acquired taste—and nary a rat got sick. The current estimate is that a fifty-pound child would need to consume 500 of the flower bracts (POISINDEX® Information Service) to get sick which means you’ll need about 100-150 plants in the house! That out of the way, let me to suggest that your poinsettia would make a wonderful houseplant through the winter—last year mine was blooming nicely for Valentine’s Day—then a fine garden plant through the summer, and then a wonderful blooming plant for the 2015 holidays. So be bold and try your hand at growing a Poinsettia and fight against out throw away culture!
Here are some basic culture tips gleaned from the Internet and personal experience. If you’ve yet to purchase a plant, look for squat and well-branched specimens rather than tall leggy ones. Make sure the majority of the leaves (read: 99%) are deep green and turgid (meaning stiff, not limp) and that few leaves are yellowed and wilted. Also, keep the plant well-watered through the holidays, away from extremes of temperature (actually a bit on the cooler side is better).
Now, once the holidays are over, you can successfully keep your poinsettia in bloom following a few simple steps. 1) Keep the soil moist; never allow it to dry out, 2) give the plant six or more house of indirect, bright, natural light, 3) maintain day temperatures of 65 to 70 and at night 60 to 65 degrees, 4) apply a balanced house plant fertilizer every month as directed on the package, and maintain vigor by removing damaged or diseased leaves.
As noted above, the flower bracts may stay for a very long time—I once maintained the red bracts on a poinsettia until early June—but as they fade they should be removed, including a portion of the stem. You can do this cutting back all the way up until July depending on how big you want the plant next holiday season. Just be sure to always leave three to five leaves on each stem. Once weather is stable, repot to the next larger pot, use new soil mixed with peat and perlite (so it’s light and well-drained) and move the plant outdoors—I plunge mine into the soil in a bright southern exposure. Apply a slow release fertilizer to the soil surface. Pinch every six weeks up until late August for shape. Do not pinch any later than this and make certain you heed the following rules about darkness.
Poinsettias are short-day plants much like hardy mums. Both set buds and produce flowers as the autumn nights lengthen, blooming naturally during October-November (mums) or December for poinsettias. To flower and develop colored bracts, a poinsettia must receive as much sunshine as possible during the day but starting October 1st, it also needs at least fourteen hours of uninterrupted darkness each night at temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. Stray light of any kind (street lights, pool lights or lamps) could delay or entirely halt the reflowering process. Place the plant under a wastebasket or box that is totally dark. The dark treatment should last until color shows in the bracts (approximately Thanksgiving). Some modern cultivars may show color as much as two weeks before Thanksgiving. Continue fertilizing and watering to encourage good growth. If you follow these rules faithfully, you’ll be proud to say next December
“I grew this poinsettia!”
Q: I am quite stressed. I gave a Fenton hobnail basket in amber to a friend and have since been told by a neighbor that it is quite rare and valuable. It was about 12 inches in size and had a ruffled edge. -- Susan, Elizabeth, New Jersey
A: Chill out. I found your piece in “Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price List” by Terry and the late Ralph Kovel. According to the Kovels, your Fenton basket is worth about $4. Yes, that is not a misprint: $4.
Q: At a recent yard sale, I purchased several older perfume bottles. I don’t collect perfume bottles, but was attracted their unique designs. Since at least three are Art Deco, I believe my bottles probably are from the 1930s and ‘40s. How can I find out more about them? -- EmmaLou, Flagstaff, Arizona
A: One of the better organizations that you might find helpful is The International Perfume Bottle Association, www.perfumebottles.org. I also like “The Wonderful World of Collecting Perfume Bottles: Identification & Value Guide” by Jane Flanagan (Collector Books). Even though this reference was first published in 2006, it remains my go-to book for answers in this field of collecting. Collector Books’ contact is P.O. Box 3009, Paducah, KY 42002.
Q: I purchased a drinking cup showing the Cascade Fountains, an attraction of the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904. It is black and white with gold trim. I paid $75 for it. -- Steve, Cheyenne, Wyoming
A: You paid just about what it is worth. I found your cup referenced in “1904 St. Louis World’s Fair: Mementos and Memorabilia” by the late Robert L. Hendershott, who listed the tumbler’s value in the $50 to $100 range.
Q: I have three baseballs, all signed by major-league players from the 1940s and ‘50s. I would like to have them appraised. -- Steve, Alexander City, Alabama
A: Robert Edward Auctions, LLC, specializes in all areas of baseball collecting, including autographs, uniforms, World Series items and, yes, signed baseballs. I contacted the business, and it will provide you with a free appraisal of your baseballs. Contact is P.O. Box 7256, Watchung, NJ 17069; www.RobertEdwardAuctions.com; and 908-226-9900.
Write to Larry Cox in care of KFWS, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to email@example.com. Due to the large volume of mail he receives, Mr. Cox cannot personally answer all reader questions, nor do appraisals. Do not send any materials requiring return mail.
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