Recycle Trees and Save Poinsettias

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January does not have to be the end of your beautiful poinsettia or fresh-cut Christmas tree. To renew your poinsettia, prune the plant back to about eight inches in the spring, after the colorful bracts fade. The plant may appear bare after pruning, but new growth will start from the nodes present up and down the stem. Keep the plant near a sunny window and water it regularly during its growing period. Once night temperatures remain above 50°F, you can move the plant outdoors. Fertilize the growing plant lightly every two to three weeks until fall with a complete fertilizer, such as 10-10-10.

In early June, transplant the poinsettia into a larger container. Use a soil mix containing organic matter, such as compost, leaf mold, or peat moss. Pinch back the shoot tips to increase plant density. Don’t pinch back after September 1. Bring the plant indoors to a sunny location when night temperatures become cool, 55°F to 60°F.

Poinsettias are a short-day plant, which means they need a continuous, long dark period each night to form their colorful bracts. Starting the first week of October, the plant must be kept in total darkness for 14 continuous hours each night, for an eight- to ten-week period. Keep the plant in darkness by moving it to a closet or covering it with a large box. During this period, the plant must also receive six to eight hours of bright sunlight daily. Depending on the particular cultivar, the plant should bloom during November or December.

A fresh-cut tree can be recycled after the holidays. Fresh-cut trees are repurposed into wind and water barriers at the beach and in riverbeds to help fight soil erosion. Trees sunk in ponds provide refuge and feeding areas for fish. Many county municipalities will collect live trees at no extra charge to the customer. These trees will be chipped and ground into mulch, adding value, purpose, and beauty back to the environment. The mulch can be used in the garden or planting beds to help reduce weeds, modify soil temperature, and help retain soil moisture. Adding these trees to brush piles can also create natural wildlife habitats for many small animals and birds. If the tree has been flocked or sprayed with flame retardant, the residue on the tree may hinder its environmental use. Be sure to remove all decorations before offering the tree for recycling. Contact the Robeson County Solid Waste Department at 910-865-3348 or 1-800-682-2014 for more information on their recycling program.

For more information, please contact Mack Johnson, Extension Horticultural Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, by E-mail at, or visit our website at //

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