The favorite holiday houseplant ranges from white to fiery red. Take good care of yours to make it last longer than your Christmas decorations.

Poinsettias make wonderful hostess gifts and stunning additions to holiday décor. They look really beautiful in tiered displays, mixing sizes or colors, or with a tall candle or other elegant Christmas decoration. The plant is a native of Mexico, where it blooms in the mountains in December and once delighted missionaries who traveled to the region and began including them in seasonal ceremonies.

Now, the poinsettia is a Christmas staple, and contrary to popular belief, it’s not poisonous to humans or pets. The saps can irritate skin of humans and domestic pets, and if your curious puppy eats the leaves, it will upset your stomach, but no more than if your puppy eats other items he shouldn’t! Try our tips for choosing and caring for these gorgeous holiday houseplants.

Choose wisely

Caring for your poinsettia begins with selecting a healthy, robust plant. The bracts give poinsettias their color, but the plants have small flowers that emerge from berries in the center. Look for a poinsettia that has only a few open flowers, which means it is not as old. If all of the berries are open, the plant is not as fresh and will not last as long.

It also helps to check for pollen on the flowers. Choose the poinsettia with the least amount of pollen. Look to see if the leaves under the bracts are dark green, dense and plentiful. If they’re beginning to wilt, avoid the plant. And, of course, check to make sure there are no insects or signs of disease on the plant.

Begin good care immediately

Take good care of your poinsettia from the minute you leave the store. Don’t leave the plant in the car while you shop, either shut inside a heating interior or in too cold an environment. If your poinsettia is subjected to a sudden drop in temperature (below 50 degrees), it will wilt and drop some of its lovely bracts. But don’t worry if the plant drops a few leaves or bracts; it has to adapt to the trip and new home.

You can ask the store to place a bag around your plant for the drive, but be sure to remove the bag as soon as you can when you get home. It’s also a good idea to remove the foil that usually decorates the container. Or at least unwrap the foil, add a tray under the pot, then re-wrap the container or decorate it some other way.

Choose the perfect spot

Poinsettias are particular about temperature and light, at least to last their longest. They like moderate temperatures of about 68 degrees during the day, and a few degrees cooler at night to keep their color. Drafts from heaters, windows, or ovens can cause some damage.

Poinsettias need at least six hours of bright light a day, but not direct sunlight. So it’s best to place them in a sunny room, but just out of the range of the window, so the plant doesn’t touch the cold glass or get too many direct winter rays.

Water the plant, but avoid wet feet

Poinsettias need regular watering and moist soil on top, but the plants should never be left in standing water. That’s the reason to remove the pretty foil from the plants. You also can simply punch a hole or two through the foil wrapping to allow water to drain out, and either water your plant in the kitchen sink or place something under it to catch water and keep it from soaking back up into the pot.

If your plant begins to wilt, don’t assume the cause is too little water. Check to make sure your plant is not moist underneath or heavy. It may need to dry out!

If you want to make your plant last and try to get it to bloom again the next year, it takes some care, but it can be done. Follow this advice from the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service for year-round care of your poinsettia.