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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - October 28, 2005

From: TULSA, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Hours of darkness for non-native poinsettia to bloom
Answered by: Joe Marcus and Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a poinsettia from last Christmas still alive. I was told to get it so many hours of darkness. Do you know how many hours? When would be the best time to start displaying the plant again?

ANSWER:

The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is native to southern Mexico. They are "short-day" plants which means that flowering is in response to long nights. It varies among cultivars, but 16 hours of uninterrupted darkness per night for several weeks is sufficient to induce the flowering response in any poinsettia. Any light at all will delay or stop the flowering response. There are classic stories about automobile lights from nearby highways and even flashlights from night watchmen delaying flowering on greenhouse grown poinsettias. People commonly put their plants in a dark closet each night for a few weeks in the fall to induce flowering and the red bract development (they bring them out each day). It is a little late to get your plant to flower by Christmas, but you can still get it to turn red just the same. If you start now, it may be red in time for St. Valentines Day! You can read more about the care of poinsettias.
 

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