The poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, is the top-selling flowering potted plant in the United States. The brightly colored parts of the plants, called bracts, are actually modified leaves. The true flowers are the yellow bead-like structures in the center of the plant. With all the different colors besides just red, hybridizers continue to develop more colorful, stronger cultivars that have more long-lasting bracts. When purchasing a plant, look for these characteristics.

• Brightly colored bracts and unopened or partially opened yellow flowers in the center.

• Dark green foliage covering the stem down to the soil line of the plant.

• Leaves and bracts showing no drooping or wilting.

• Leaves that are not faded, discolored, or torn.

• Good form and in proportion to the container. A good rule is for the plant to be 2.5 times taller than the diameter of the container.

Examine the plant closely, especially the undersides of the leaves, to be sure there is no evidence of insect pests. Place the plant in a bright location with indirect light and away from drafts or home heaters. Be sure there are drainage holes in the container (or punch holes in any decorative paper) for proper drainage. If properly cared for, these plants can last many weeks or up to several months. For more gardening tips, visit our website at www.cceoneida.com.

Rosanne Loparco, Master Gardener Volunteer, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County. Look for more gardening tips in the Observer-Dispatch or online at www.cceoneida.com.