NOT long to go now, are you all set for Christmas? For me, one of the most essential things to have around the house is a poinsettia, probably the essential Christmas plant, some might say.

You see them everywhere, and for me, they have become as much a part of the traditional Christmas as the festive food and the tree.

Many supermarkets buy in poinsettias with flowers, placing them by the store’s front door in the hope customers will be tempted on the way in or out. Be very wary.

You should never buy a poinsettia which has sat next to a set of automatic doors that open every 30 seconds, because it will have been damaged by draughts it never had to experience in its country of origin, Mexico.

Another good idea, once you’ve carefully chosen and bought your poinsettia, is to make sure you wrap it up in paper for the journey home, to protect it from draughts and temperatures below 12°C. This will protect it from damage that is initially invisible, but can lead to premature loss of leaves once you get it home in the following few days.

Poinsettias need warmth and light. They can be kept close to a radiator but it must be kept away from draughts (that means no fireplaces, open doorways, open windows or breezy hallways). Try to place them in a sheltered spot but obviously one where you can appreciate its beauty.

Their brightly coloured bracts are often mistakenly thought to be flowers, which are in fact the small insignificant yellow buds in the centre. Keep the compost just moist and place in a brightly lit room to ensure the brightest bract colour.

I have one I’ve managed to keep from last year, it has really grown and amazingly, due to being kept in the dark for up to 14 hours a day for the last few weeks.

An interesting alternative to this festive favourite is one I have just bought myself. I spotted it on a social media post and decided I had to have one this year. It is a Poinsettia “Christmas Mouse” which keeps the traditional red and green colour with charming rounded leaves. This robust variety has round bracts instead of pointed ones. Its unusual, soft-looking shape of its leaves reminds you of the ears of a mouse. I believe its name was inspired by the Christmas poem “The Christmas Mouse” by German storyteller James Krüss. It will be a challenge to see I can keep it as well as last year’s purchase. Fingers crossed.

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