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The poinsettia is a plant that has tiny flowers surrounded by large, colored bracts (special leaves). The bracts are usually bright red, but may also be yellowish or white. The brillant red contrasts with the green leaves and make it a popular decoration during the Christmas season.

In tropical and subtropical regions, the poinsettia thrives outdoors. It may grow 2 to 15 feet tall. The poinsettia is a native of Mexico. It is a popular garden shrub in the Southern states and California. In cold climates it must be grown indoors.

As a potted plant, it grows from 1 to 4 feet tall. The leaves and stem can cause abdominal cramps if eaten, and the plant's sap can irritate the skin and eyes.


Poinsettias should be kept in a bright light humid environment. Keep the soil moist but not soggy.

After the colored bracts (the blooms are small yellow flowers in the center of the bracts) fall, cut the plant back by half. Place outdoors during the summer, on the east or north side of the house. Fertilize and water regularly to stimulate growth. Pinch regularly to maintain a short, stalky plant.

In September, bring the plant indoors, place in a southern window and continue to water and fertilize. Repot in large pot and loose houseplant soil if needed. Check for insects.

Beginning October 1, poinsettias should be kept in absolute darkness from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m., or there abouts. During the day, give the plant bright light and continue watering and fertilizing practices.

Plants can be covered with a cardboard box painted black on the inside, or placed in a closet or unlighted room. A street lamp or night lamp can disrupt the night schedule.

Plants should start turning color by November. Continue with regular practices. Watch humidity levels -- keep high. Avoid misting plants -- leaf spots will appear on leaves and bracts.

1998,1999 ~ Nancy Alison ~