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IN THE GARDEN: Poinsettias can live for years, unless they drown or dehydrate

by Janet B. Carson December 25, 2021 at 1:58 a.m.
The actual flower of the poinsettia is tiny yellow knobs in the center of the colorful bracts that look like they should be the flower but aren’t. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)

Q: I receive numerous poinsettias from friends and family every year during the holidays. I read your questions from other readers about growing them for years and years, but I barely can keep mine living through December. They either rot or all the leaves turn yellow and fall off. What am I doing wrong? (Asking for next year, because only one still has any leaves left on it now! LOL)

A: My guess is you are either overwatering or underwatering, or not giving them enough light — or you may have water and light problems. Given proper conditions, poinsettias can last for years (although I only keep mine until the color fades, usually in April). They thrive in bright light or full sun indoors, with even moisture. Remove them from the foil pot wrapper and put them in a dish that can collect overflow water. This will allow the sunlight to reach the foliage and keep water from pooling in the foil container. The amount of water they need will vary based on how much light they get, the size of the plant and pot, and how warm you keep your house. My house tends to stay pretty cool, and I have great light coming in. I water about once a week or so. Maybe you should pick one up on sale after the holidays and test your luck.

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Q: We have had this corn plant for a number of years but did not know they would bloom. Thought you might be interested in seeing. Enjoy your column.

A: Almost all plants have the ability to bloom if grown in their native region, or given the right conditions. The foliage houseplants that surprise us the most are the corn plant Dracaena, Sansevieria (snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue) and jade plant. The blossoms are interesting and a fun addition, but if the plant is in a small, enclosed space, the fragrance can be a bit overwhelming. For some gardeners, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, while for others, once their plants start to bloom they do it again annually. Enjoy, and thanks for sharing.

Q: This is a plant that was given to me by my sister-in-law. It has grown almost double in size. Is there a safe way to prune this plant, and what can I do with the offshoot? Will it grow into a plant as well?

A: The plant looks like a Bromeliad pinguin. It is related to the pineapple plant and often called wild pineapple. The plant is quite spiny but can have interesting flowers in the center. Does your plant ever bloom? Bromeliads commonly send up pups or offshoots at the base of the plant, and these are used to make new plants. I would cut off all the leaves that are hanging down and discard them, leaving only the upright leaves. Wear strong, protective gloves, as this plant is not user friendly.

Q: I am growing a Meyer lemon for the first time ever. It actually has four good-size lemons on it, but I don't know when to harvest them. One has started to turn yellow on one side, but is still green on the other side. Can I go ahead and pick it? I am so excited to actually have one, but I don't want to ruin it.

A: Meyer lemons are considered to be a cross between a lemon and a member of the orange or tangerine family. The fruits are not quite as tart as a lemon, and they have very thin skin, which gives you even more fruit pulp. The fruit should be a solid yellow or yellowish-orange at maturity, so let it go a little longer. The nice thing about Meyer lemons is that they can bloom off and on all year, and they are self-fruitful, so one plant can produce fruit. Enjoy!

Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas' best known horticulture experts. Her blog is at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet. Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email


 Gallery: In the Garden — Dec. 25, 2021

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