A Poinsettia Story in the Springtime?

I really enjoy gardening, and the large bay window of my home is filled with plants year-round. For the most part, this is a good thing, except that I have a really hard time throwing out living plants that I’ve nurtured, even when they get spindly, tip over, or grow too large to be inside. I often plant them outside, and let the frost take them in the fall. The same is true for Christmas poinsettias that I’ve bought or received as gifts. I water them all winter, and then in the spring I move them outside. I had two poinsettias in the house for Christmas over a year ago, one red and one white. I kept them in the bay window after they finished blooming, watered them until spring, and then planted them outside in the flower bed. Dsc_01232008-06-01

Last fall, one of them was still doing really well so I thought, what the heck, I’ll put it in a pot, bring it inside, and see if I can get it to bloom for Christmas. I’ve done that before by putting the plant in the guest bedroom and making sure that it gets no more than 10 to 12 hours of sunlight a day for about ten weeks. Even light from indoor bulbs can affect the bud set, so I move it into a closet if guests need to use the room. This time, however, I didn’t start limiting the light exposure to the plant until early November, and that wasn’t enough time for it to set flower buds. The flowers didn’t appear by Christmas, so I moved it back into the window with my other plants after the holidays.

We’ve been really busy the last few weeks, and I neglected to water the poinsettia before we left on a weekend trip. When we came back, all of the leaves were brown and shriveled and I was sure that it was a goner. I decided to water it anyway, just in case there was a little life left in the stems. A few days later,small green leaves started to appear on the tips of the stems. This weekend while watering the plants in the window, I picked up the poinsettia and took it outside to brush off all of the dead leaves. When I looked at it closely, I saw that the new leaves appearing at the top were not leaves at all, they were actually the flowers opening, and I could see that this poinsettia was the white one.

PoinsettiaI went through all kinds of theories about how this could have happened when I was making no attempt whatever to limit the light exposure to the plant. The spring equinox was about a month before the plant began to bloom, and during the time before the equinox, we would have had less than 12 hours of light every day. However the plant was in the living room the whole time, and the room lights would often have been on when it was dark outside. Besides that, I started some herb seeds in pots about a month ago, and have grow lights in a plant stand next to the window that are governed by a timer to be turned on for over twelve hours every day.

I’ve decided to just think of it as one of those little miracles that can happen when we keep watering, keep trying even when things may appear hopeless. Most of the deciduous trees outside are still bare, but the branches are beginning to look like the stems of this spunky little poinsettia. New green leaves are uncurling from the tips of the branches, and many of the trees and bushes have begun sprouting delicate, aromatic blossoms.

Happy spring!

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