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It's one of the mainstays of Christmas but it hasn't been around quite as long as Santa Claus. The poinsettia was introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Robert Poinsett, first U. S. ambassador to Mexico who obtained plants from the wilds of southern Mexico.

They are pretty hardy plants and they are great for a quick gift and no matter where you are, you can always find them at the hardware store, the grocery, drug store and, of course, the florist.

December 12th is National Poinsettia Day and so that might be a prime day to purchase one, better even than Black Friday.

How do you pick a perfect poinsettia?

Even though the flowers are red you want to look for green, a dark green to be exact. Look at the leaves because fallen or damaged leaves indicate poor handling or fertilization, lack of water or a root disease problem. Choose bracts (modified leaves) that are completely colored.

You want your flowers to be in proportion to the plant and pot size. The plant should be 2 1/2 times taller than the diameter of the container.

Sometimes when you go to the store the plants have paper or plastic around them. Ditch those. Those plants will not thrive or do well. Plants that are placed close together aren't a good option for you. Crowding isn't healthful.

Root rot

The soil is a good indicator of root rot. Check the soil. If it’s wet and the plant is wilted, this could be an indication it's got a problem with its roots.

Check the poinsettia’s maturity. The true flowers are located at the base of the colored bracts, or leaves. Look for them, if the flowers are green or red-tipped and fresh looking the bloom will "hold" longer than if yellow pollen is covering the flowers.

Once you bring it home, don't over-water it -- that can also lead to root damage.
Examine the soil daily, and when the surface is dry to the touch, water the soil until it runs freely out the drainage hole in the container. No more than that, though.

Let the sun in. If you obtain a poinsettia for your home, place it near a sunny window where it will have the most available sunlight. If it's cold outside, don't let the plant touch a window pane.

Keep the temp comfortable. It should be 65 to 70 degrees during the daylight hours. If possible, move it to a cooler place at night. Don't put it anywhere colder than 60 F.

Contrary to what you may have heard, poinsettias are not toxic to humans. Research that was done at Ohio State University and some other institutions, has shown the old wives' tale that poinsettias are poisonous is false. They are mildly toxic to cats and dogs but symptoms are nearly always mild and don't require medical treatment.

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