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Poinsettias need darkness to turn red

I won a poinsettia at my office Christmas party last year. I’ve dutifully watered it and kept it alive on my desk all year, but it shows no signs of blooming again. Is it a lost cause?

— Kristin, Medford

Your poinsettia needs a long period of darkness each night in order to turn the distinctive red color we associate with Christmas.

It’s probably getting too much light in your office.

Put the poinsettia in a closet or cover it with a box for 13 to 16 hours each night, according to plant experts from the Lowe’s chain of home improvement stores.

In the morning, put the plant in a place where it can receive eight hours of indirect sunlight.

Ideally, you should have started this light-restriction regime in early October to get the poinsettia to turn red in December. The process typically takes at least 40 days, according to Lowe’s.

Give the plant limited water during this time, gardening experts say.

Although most people think the red on a poinsettia is a flower, the color is actually created by the top leaves of the plant turning red.

Poinsettias are native to Mexico and Central America, where they can grow up to 16 feet tall. The plants were introduced to the United States by Joel Poinsett, a botanist and U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

In Mexico, the poinsettia’s name in Spanish is flor de nochebuena, which literally means “flower of the good night,” but also means flower of Christmas Eve.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.