Poinsettias are a plant, of course, but most people treat them like a Christmas decoration. Usually, they’re red and green, the traditional Christmas colors, although the bracts – which look like colored leaves – can be pink, white or yellow or a mix of these colors in addition to the familiar red.

The first bit of advice: Get your poinsettias early and don’t give them to anyone as a Christmas present. Enjoy them in the days leading up to and through the holidays; they begin to lose their charm by Groundhog Day.

Poinsettias are native to Mexico. They were brought to the United States in 1825 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, this country’s first ambassador to Mexico. The Aztecs called them cuetlaxochitl and the botanical name is Euphorbia pulcherrima, but if you use either of those names, nobody will have any idea what you’re talking about. You can buy poinsettias anywhere: hardware stores, grocery stores or chain stores. But if you buy them from locally owned nurseries or flower shops, they are more likely to have been grown locally – often by the nursery selling them but sometimes by the Morrison Development Center’s Seedlings Program in Scarborough – and you will be helping the local economy (and in the latter case, people with disabilities, too).

If you plan to throw the poinsettia away at the end of the season, just water it when it gets slightly dry. After the New Year, if you want your poinsettias to produce colorful bracts for next year, cut them back so they have three leaves per stem, put them in a sunny window in a room where you never turn on the lights, take them outside when night temperatures won’t drop below 50 degrees, bring them inside when night temperature drop to 45 degrees and again keep them in a window in a room that receives no artificial light.

Considering the amount of work involved and the low cost of locally grown pointsettias, that’s too much work for me.

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