The poinsettia is the most popular and decorative plant for the Christmas season. The brightly colored "petals" are actually modified leaves called bracts.

We use a variety of decorative plants to dress up our homes during the holidays. Poinsettias, holiday cactuses and living Christmas trees, in particular, play an important part in decking the halls. How well you care for them once you get them home has a lot to do with how long they stay attractive.

After purchasing a holiday plant, be sure to protect it while bringing it home. Sudden exposure to low temperatures and wind will damage the plant. Also, make sure your plant doesn’t get crushed or tipped over on the way home. Poinsettias are particularly fragile, so handle them with care. It’s best to have them sleeved before you take them out of the store.

Dr. William Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County Office of Texas AgriLife Extension Service, The Texas A&M System. Visit his website at aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston.

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