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      Tips and tricks for a healthy poinsettia

      Tis the season for poinsettias. The plant has become a staple for holiday decorations everywhere.

      "Usually, the weekend before Thanksgiving we sell a few, people want them for family Thanksgiving dinners and all through December," said Jim Bremer, Manager at Earl May Nursery in Ottumwa. "Poinsettias, we sell a lot of poinsettias the week before Christmas and then even after Christmas, between Christmas and New Year's."

      Poinsettias are perfect for dinner tables, mantles or even news sets, like KTVO's, but the trick to a long lasting plant begins at the store. Be sure to pick a plant with dark green leaves, a vibrant color and no drooping leaves or stems. Then, moderation becomes the key when watering.

      "Poinsettias are a plant that needs to be wet - or moist," Bremer said. "You don't want to let them dry clear out, if they dry clear out, like with some houseplants you can let them get completely dry, then water them, poinsettias you want to keep them moist- not soaked, but moderately moist all the time. If they droop, if the leaves droop on them and they're dry, rarely will they come back up again."

      Bremer recommends patting the soil to be sure the poinsettia has just the right amount of water. With the right combination of water and sunlight, your poinsettia could very well last past the holidays.

      "If you put a poinsettia where its got plenty of sunlight - you don't want direct sun, but you want a well-lit room, they call it diffused sunlight, where the room is a sun-lit room, but not sun directly on the poinsettia - they'll last clear into spring sometimes," Bremer said.

      While red is the most popular choice, poinsettias come in over 100 different colors - including pink, salmon, cream and gold. Creative, Martha Stewart-types can even spray paint the leaves blue or with sparkles for a unique look.

      Bremer said while the summer's drought has greatly affected Christmas tree farms across the Heartland, poinsettia plants are as healthy and flourishing as always.