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Ventura County News Roundup

Countywide : Poinsettia Blooms Color Holidays

December 25, 1991|JOANNA M. MILLER and SCOTT GRAVES

When the sun was too bright, he sheltered them. When the nights were too cool, he gave them heat and light.

But now the fates of Jack Neckar's half a million poinsettia plants lie in the hands of the consumers whose holiday tables they grace.

Customers don't have to throw out the blooms when the holiday season ends, nurserymen say. Robert Contreras, shipping manager at Milgro Nurseries in Oxnard, said poinsettias grow equally well inside and outside.

"If people plant their poinsettias outside after they flower, they will grow the same as they would have inside," he said. "The only difference is that they may not be as brilliant as the ones grown under controlled greenhouse conditions."

Milgro is the largest of 10 nurseries that produce poinsettias in Ventura County, accounting for about $3 million in annual sales, the county agricultural commissioner estimates. Although the poinsettia is an annual plant that is sold only during November and December, it brings in more revenue statewide than any other potted plant, leaving the traditional mums a distant second, nurserymen say.

"It's our most lucrative plant," said Neckar, the general manager at Milgro.

Most buyers don't try to replant them, preferring to simply purchase a new plant for the next season.

"They are bred as a kind of disposable item," said Lori Nagel, a consultant with Western Farm Service of Oxnard. "The intent is for people to buy poinsettias instead of flowers during the holidays."

How to Keep a Poinsettia Alive 1. Water your plant when the soil is dry to the touch. Water it thoroughly, but don't let water sit in the tray. Then leave it alone for a week.

2. To keep the color bright, maintain a temperature range of 60 to 72 degrees in high humidity.

3. Avoid cold drafts or wind.

4. After its bracts--the bright-colored leaves--have faded, cut the plant back all the way down to its branches, the point where the first group of bracts sprout.

5. Keep in good light and lightly fertilize every three to four weeks.

6. During warm days of late spring and summer, set the plant outside, in indirect light and then in direct light.

7. When the roots are established and the plant is healthy, plant it outdoors in the warm soil of summer. If you want to keep the plant potted, cut its branches back twice during the summer.

8. At the beginning of September, bring the potted plant back indoors, still providing it at least six hours of direct light a day.

9. At the beginning of October, give the plant good natural light for 10 hours each day, but make sure it is in the dark for 14 hours a day to force the green bracts to turn into their brilliant colors.

10. Or omit steps 1 to 9 and buy a new, beautiful and healthy poinsettia at your local grocer or nursery for about $3 to $25, depending on the size.

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