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Avoid the Most Common Mistakes in Poinsettia Production

1. 2. 3. 4. Propagation From Planting to Pinch From Pinch to First Spacing From First Spacing Until Three to Four Weeks Before Market 5. The Last Three to Four Weeks of Finishing 6. Shipping

2995 Wilderness Pl., Suite 102 Boulder, CO 80301 Phone (303) 415-1466 Fax (303) 415-1605 Email:

Most Common Mistakes in Poinsettia Production

1. Propagation: Most important problems: Lack of shade, too much mist, too hot: The single most common, most important and costly mistake made during propagation is that the cuttings receive too much mist in the first eight to ten days. The main reason for this is that growers try to compensate wilting caused by too much light with applying more mist. The consequences of too much mist are: a. Losses due to Erwinia two to five days after sticking b. Losses due to Rhizoctonia five to ten days after sticking c. Botrytis infections of stem and leaves d. Bleaching of the foliage due to leaching of the nutrients It is extremely important to heavily shade the poinsettias during the first eight to ten days especially under hot and sunny conditions. This leads to lower temperatures and less need for mist. It is mandatory to have movable shade, so you can adjust to cloudy weather. Too much shade can also be a problem especially under humid and cloudy conditions. The ideal initial light levels should be at 700 900 foot candles. Once the cuttings develop a good callus and begin taking up some water, the shade should be slowly reduced, to adjust the cuttings to higher light conditions. Fine tune the mist hourly: Many times the mist is not fine enough and the adjustments of the misting cycle are not done sufficiently. The plants should be checked, and the mist adjusted if necessary, every hour. Poinsettias can flag a little between 12 to 3 PM., but should never be water logged. They should always be turgid and almost dry in the morning, except the first two mornings after sticking, when they can be moist. Avoid damage with rooting hormones: Very often the cuttings are dipped too deep into the rooting hormones, which can result in burning of the stem. Only the actual surface of the cut should be immersed into the hormone. Start fertilization program early: Many times the first leaves that develop on a rooted cutting are yellowish green, caused by lack of fertilizer. The first feeding can be done ten days after sticking with 100 ppm N. Once the roots begin to form 150 ppm N and then 200 ppm N should be applied once the cuttings are fully rooted. Stay away from phosphorus applied over the foliage as this can stunt the young leaves. Clean bad leaves off the plants everyday: Many cuttings are lost because of insufficient cleaning and consequential problems with Botrytis, Erwinia, and Rhizoctonia. Use the right fungicides as a preventative rather than as a cure: In addition to the daily cleaning of the bad leaves, most of the problems with Botrytis can be reduced by applying a combination of Daconil and Dithane (Decree also looks very promising) one day after sticking and six days later. Medallion and Terraclor work well against Rhizoctonia. Make sure cuttings dont stretch! Cuttings with stretched internodes of more than 1/4 to 1/3 of an

inch, will result in uneven plants that have some bracts develop below the canopy of the main bracts. Use growth regulators moderately when you see new growth. Reapply every five days as needed. 2. From planting to pinch: The number one problem during the whole crop cycle is poor quality media! Most problems are caused by poor quality or fine peat with insufficient structure. The main consequence is lack of oxygen in the root zone which results in less resistance to pathogens, weaker root development, restricted nutrient uptake, and lack of vigor. The same problem can occur by using poorly composted bark. Do not plant all varieties at the same time. Compact varieties, like the Silverstars, need two weeks more growth time than medium vigorous varieties. If earlier planting is not possible, they can be pinched at planting. Vigorous varieties can be pinched or planted and pinched one week later than medium vigorous varieties. Get water, fertilizer solution, and soil analysis two weeks before planting: Very often growers find out too late that there was a problem with the media to begin with, even though they got it from the same source. Problems with the water or the fertilizer are usually detected too late. Start feeding early. Very often poinsettias lack fertilizer in the first two to three weeks after planting. This results in stretchy, soft, under nourished (calcium-deficient) plants with the final result of stem breakage at the end of the crop. Start growth regulating early. As soon as the poinsettias begin to grow, start making weekly growth regulator applications to avoid soft tissue and stretchy first internodes. The branches with these stretchy internodes are usually the ones that snap off at the end of the crop. Provide sufficient light. After propagation, poinsettias are very often shaded too much for too long early on. This leads to thin cell walls and later to stem breakage. Ideal would be 2500 foot candles early and 4000 5000 foot candles later. If hot, only shade the first seven days after planting and one day before to seven days after pinching. If needed, mist the plants to reduce stress rather than apply too much shade.

Keep the night temperatures high. Many times night temperatures are too low early on, which results in slow root development and consequent weak and stretchy growth. The night temperatures should ideally be at 72-74 oF until three weeks after the pinch, as long you are not in the short days. After that, they should be slowly reduced to 68 oF.

3. From pinch to first spacing five to six weeks later. Pinch on seven to eight leaves to achieve five to six fully developed branches. Too many branches all too often result in stem breakage problems. As the outer branches search for light, they have to grow side ways and because of the wider angle tend to snap off easier. Also the more branches that are on the plant, the thinner they are at the bottom. Pinch higher if branching is poor. Certain varieties can be more prone to poor branching, especially if the stock plants were stressed. If the little buds are missing in the leaf axis, branches will not develop. Remove the top leaves at the time of pinch. This should be done for a variety of important reasons. For one, the top branches will develop slower which will result in a more even canopy. The increased light level for the developing lower branches will result in stronger stems with shorter internodes. Furthermore, the branches will grow more upright, as they dont have to grow to the side in search for the highest light level. Avoid early spacing. Pinching and spacing at the same time may be convenient, but it is the main reason for stem breakage. This is especially true on plants that are taller than 14 inches and varieties with a wide habit. Poor plant structure results if the poinsettias are spaced out too soon. With too early spacing, the developing branches tend to grow towards the highest light intensity (which is towards the side), and because of that, tend to develop horizontal shoots which are the most prone to snapping off. Provide high light conditions. As indicated above, high light conditions starting at seven days after pinching will result in thicker and stronger stems with shorter internodes, and consequently in less stem breakage.

2995 Wilderness Pl., Suite 102 Boulder, CO 80301 Phone (303) 415-1466 Fax (303) 415-1605 Email:

Avoid light intrusion and night temperatures above 70 oF. Most inconsistencies in flower induction are caused by pockets of warm air during the night time, which can be prevented by good air flow. Provide sufficient calcium. Calcium levels are usually too low, especially early on. Calcium should be at 150 ppm in the soil and 1.2 - 2 % in the leaves. Stem breakage is usually more of a problem with low levels of calcium. Perform complete soil analysis at least every two weeks. Most of the severe and very costly problems can be avoided, if the soil is checked on a regular basis. The cost and time of performing soil analysis, or letting a lab service handle it, should not be an issue. Check salts and pH weekly. The EC should be at 1.6 - 2.2 mS/cm and the pH at 5.8 to 6.0 using an SME procedure. Keep night temperature at 68 oF. Many times night temperatures are kept between 62 to 65 oF to save money. The consequences are weaker root systems, thinner branches, reduced growth, longer internodes, and more problems with Pythium, Botrytis, Powdery Mildew and Rhizoctonia. Seventy-two degrees in the first three weeks after pinching results in a stronger root system, stronger branches, and more even branching. This is especially the case if combined with a good fertilizer regimen, high light, and good growth regulation (and if possible, day temperatures of 68 to 70 oF). Growth regulate once a week. The majority of the growers apply growth regulators three weeks too late and not frequent enough. This often leads to stretched first internodes, irregular plants, and stem breakage. Weekly growth regulation at low rates starting ten days after planting will lead to a better habit and stronger stems as long as the plants are actively growing. Once the leaves get small and dark green, the growth regulating has to be reduced. The effect of growth regulators is optimum if night temperatures are high, the root system strong, and the feed level good. Florel at 350 ppm instead of other growth regulator treatments, one week before and one week after pinching, will lead to a more even habit.

Ammonium should be 30% of total nitrogen. If ammonium levels are low, the branches get thin and the leaf expansion will be insufficient. Use some kind of graphical tracking system. Too many crops end up being more than 1 inch too short or too tall. Weekly assessment of the height of the crop is the basis for exact growth regulation. Make lots of tests with insecticides. Apply normal and double rates to see how potential damage would look. Make the same test in the morning at noon and in the evening to see the effect of different climate conditions.

4. From the first spacing until three to four weeks before the end of the crop. For the ideal V-shape, space, when the plants start to grow into each other. Many poinsettias are spaced too early. To achieve the ideal habit, the poinsettias should be kept pot tight and growth regulated at the same time up to five to six weeks after pinching. If possible, space twice before the final spacing. Provide high light conditions. Too much shade often leads to stretchy, uneven plants with small, open bracts. The ideal range of light levels is from 4000 to 5000 foot candles. Spray calcium chloride. Lots of growers battle bract edge burn and many consumers still have to live with it, although weekly applications of calcium chloride can strongly reduce the severity of the problem. Keep night temperatures at 68 oF. Night temperatures of 62 to 65 oF will result in more fungus problems and stretchy growth. Provide good airflow and heat distribution Most inconsistencies of the bract color are caused by uneven heat distribution combined with uneven moisture level throughout the crop. Ammonium should be 15% of total nitrogen. Very often ammonium is cut out too early in October, which results in small bracts. On the other hand, ammonium levels kept at 30 % or more throughout October can result in too soft growth and bract edge burn. Change the way you growth regulate. Check your graphical tracking system twice a week. Cycocel at 750 ppm can be used at all times. Grow with negative DIF (no lower than 60 oF for

2995 Wilderness Pl., Suite 102 Boulder, CO 80301 Phone (303) 415-1466 Fax (303) 415-1605 Email:

two hours after first light and 65 oF during the day) instead of chemical growth regulation. Wait with a Bonzi drench (rates see below) until three weeks before shipping in the north and four weeks before shipping in the south. Do not regulate the growth by keeping the plants dry; the roots will suffer and the bract size will be reduced. Spray against powdery mildew. Powdery mildew problems are on the rise. The infection is usually detected too late and the cure difficult. A preventative spray program of Strike, Systhane, Terraguard, or others in the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of October is recommended.

5. The last three to four weeks of finishing before shipping Shade three to four weeks before finishing if hot and bright. Bracts tend to get droopy, the dark leaf pink varieties can get muddy, and the dark leaf white varieties can get creamy under hot and sunny conditions, which happens quite a lot in the southern states. You can stop the growth now. Bonzi drenches at - 1 ppm can be done one to four weeks before shipping in the south and at - ppm one to three weeks before shipping in the north. The crop will not grow more than an inch and the bracts will not be significantly smaller. As additional benefits, the bracts will be tighter and less droopy, the cyathia will stay longer, and the color will be more intense and will fade less. Avoid producing soft growth. Bracts that are grown too warm and with high humidity are lush and are more prone to shipping related problems. Reduce salts and fertilizer continuously. Many problems, like root loss and bract edge burn at both the grower and consumer level can be

avoided by simply leaching out the salts and by reducing the feed down to 80 ppm N. Fertilization should not be completely discontinued as this can result in yellowing of the foliage with possible leaf drop. Leach heavily with clean water two times before shipping. Add Subdue the last time. As many poinsettias completely dry out at the consumer and retail level (or drown if there are no drain holes and saucers), they can rebound easier if there is almost no salts in the soil. By applying Subdue, the customers will be more successful with their poinsettias. Keep the air dry, circulating, and watch the roots. Many poinsettias get ruined in the last weeks of the crop. As the weather conditions are usually deteriorating, the plants at the same time get more crowded and also more sensitive towards Botrytis, Pythium, and Rhizoctonia. Keeping the humidity below 75 %, by heating and venting if necessary, and the air moving is extremely important. Night temperatures of 66 oF are ideal. A drench with fungicides against Pythium and Rhizoctonia is usually necessary.

6. Shipping Avoid the poinsettias being sleeved for longer than two days . Botrytis, leaf yellowing , leaf drop, and claims increase exponentially with every hour. Ship at temperatures of 58 62 degrees. Temperatures below 56 oF can result in bract damage.

2995 Wilderness Pl., Suite 102 Boulder, CO 80301 Phone (303) 415-1466 Fax (303) 415-1605 Email: