Caring for Poinsettias

Many homes, offices and churches are decorated with festive trees, lights, and popular holiday plants like the poinsettia. December 12 marked National Poinsettia Day, a day celebrating our country’s most popular holiday plant! This day recognizes Joel Robert Poinsett, the first US ambassador to Mexico who introduced poinsettias to our country in 1821.

In their native habitat in Mexico and Central America, poinsettias grow as shrubs and can even develop into small trees. Today, the poinsettia is prized as an indoor holiday potted plant with over 100 varieties grown in varying shades of red, burgundy, coral, pink, white and combinations of the above.

The brightly colored leaves of poinsettia are often mistaken for the flowers. These colorful leaves are called bracts and surround the small, inconspicuous, yellow flowers called cyathia. The cyathia are clustered in the center of the bracts and shed yellow pollen. Once the pollen is shed, the bracts begin to fade. When shopping for a poinsettia, choose plants that have closed flowers or those that are only slightly open and not shedding pollen.

Since poinsettias are native to warm, tropical habitats, they can be injured if exposed to low temperatures below 55°F. Despite a few warm days here and there, you will want to make sure to cover plants with a paper or plastic sheath when transporting them from the place of purchase to your car and from your car to your home or office. Exposure to low temperatures can result in damage to the bracts and leaves, and in some cases, death of the plant.

Indoor conditions during the winter are not ideal for poinsettias, but proper care will help plants perform well throughout the holiday season. Poinsettias are grown in greenhouses under conditions that mimic their native habitat – temperatures of 65-70°F with high relative humidity and bright light. Once inside the home, provide at least six hours of bright, natural daylight such as near a sunny window. Maintain air temperatures between 65 and 70° F and avoid places where plants are exposed to drafts, fluctuating air currents, and excess heat or dry air from appliances, fireplaces or ventilation ducts.

Poinsettias prefer evenly moist soils that are not too wet and not too dry.  Water plants thoroughly when the soil surface feels dry to the touch.  Make sure the water begins to drain out of the holes at the base of the pot. Discard any excess water, as poinsettias left sitting in water generally develop root rots.

Signs that your plants are stressed and not happy include yellow leaves as well as rolling and dropping of leaves and bracts. Wilted plants will also drop leaves prematurely.  If wilting does occur, water the plant thoroughly to moisten the soil, then re-water again after 10 minutes. Never allow the plant to stand in excess water.

Poinsettia plants can be maintained in the home throughout the year and encouraged to rebloom the following winter with some coaxing. It is often easier to discard plants once they have finished blooming and look forward to purchasing fresh, vibrantly colored plants next year.


Soil Testing

What is one of the most helpful resources to use when establishing or maintaining a garden bed, lawn, landscape, or cultivated field?  A soil test!  For relatively little cost, soil testing labs provide invaluable information for homeowners, gardeners, and farmers by pinpointing nutrient needs and providing fertilizer recommendations or corrective actions for sampled soils.

Why should you test soil?  There are four main reasons to test your soil: 1.) to guide plant selection  2.) to maintain proper soil fertility 3.) to diagnose plant problems and 4.) to follow industry-accepted management practices, such as those used for tree care or for agronomic crop production.

What does a soil test measure? A basic soil test provides information on soil properties including soil pH, cation exchange capacity (CEC), base saturation, lime requirement index, and levels of phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg). Additional tests can measure soil texture and the amount of copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), soluble salts, nitrates, and organic matter in the soil.

Why is soil pH important? Knowing your soil pH is a cost effective way to match a plant’s pH requirement with that of the soil in which you are planting. Soil tests provide a pH value from 1 to 10, though soil pH rarely measures below 3.5 or above 9. Soil is considered acidic when it measures less than 7.0 and alkaline when it measures more than 7.0.

Many plants grow in a wide range of soil pH levels, while others have more specific requirements. For example, numerous ornamental flowering plants, fruits, vegetables, and turfgrass species grow well when the soil pH ranges from 6.2 to 6.8. Other plants such as pin oaks, azaleas and blueberries require a more acidic soil (5.5 to 6.5) to thrive in our area. When grown in a higher pH soil, they tend to exhibit nutrient deficiency symptoms such as leaf yellowing and/or stunted growth.

When should soil be tested? With the growing and harvesting season winding up in NW Ohio, now is a perfectly good time to soil test. Soil testing can be done throughout the year as long as the soil is workable to collect a sample. Since soil test results are used in planning what needs to be done with a specific growing area, they should be taken with ample time to evaluate and act upon the recommendations. Fall is an excellent time to make lime applications to raise soil pH, while spring is best to apply sulfur to lower soil pH.

How often should should soil be tested? For most garden, landscape and agronomic purposes, soil testing every two to three years is adequate to maintain soil fertility. More frequent sampling may be required when diagnosing plant problems or for nutrient-hungry plantings.

Where can soil be tested and how do you interpret results? While Ohio State University no longer provides soil testing services, we do provide soil sampling kits from Penn State University for $10 at the Extension office. After you collect and mail your sample to the lab, recommendations on how to improve soil fertility based upon the desired plants or crops to be grown will soon follow. While many online resources can help explain soil test results, you may also bring or email soil reports to the extension office for further interpretation.




Hort Lunch and Learn and Hort Happy Hour

Are you a Master Gardener or someone who wants to learn more about hort topics?

Tough times call for changing things up a little and since we can’t meet you face to face and teach, we are doing like everyone else across the country – taking to the internet for communication and learning.  For the next few months, and into August if necessary, we are planning Hort Lunch and Learn and Hort Happy Hour for you.  These webinars will be recorded and stored on VMS so that if you can’t make the scheduled webinar, you will get a link for future viewing.

Hort Lunch and Learn will be held on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, March 26, 2020 through August 31, 2020 at noon – 1:00 p.m.

Hort Happy Hour will be held on Wednesdays, April 1 through August 31, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Join in for an hour of horticulture programming.  Bring your lunch and enjoy the time learning a horticulture topic.  Teachers will be OSU State Specialists, Educators, and staff as well as national Extension Master Gardener experts.  Each webinar will be a different topic.  Registration will be required for each webinar.  Information on how to join the Zoom (webinar) platform will be sent to you in the registration confirmation.  This walks you through the necessary steps to download zoom on your computer, laptop, cell phone, tablet, etc. and gives you the link to join in on the program.  Hope to see you Thursday!

Go here to register!