FROM difficult child to sales success, poinsettia has become an indispensable part of Christmas.

Some 170 years ago, the first poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) flowered in Berlin. It made its name in Denmark in the 1960s after the nurseries had struggled to turn the difficult plant into a proper product, which was neither too tall nor too quick to shed its red bracts.

It has been a success for many years and Denmark alone produces some 11 million long-lived, high quality poinsettias every year.

Besides the traditional red version, the poinsettia is today available in many red shades as well as in cream, salmon, violet and Bordeaux versions.

The most recent product is the so-called tulip poinsettia that has erect bracts. And, of course, not least the charming minis. Today the great variety of poinsettias has made it a more versatile plant.

Take good care of the poinsettia from the moment you buy it. Ensure that it is wrapped up well to avoid cold shock.

When you come home, leave the plant wrapped up for an hour or so to allow it to acclimatise.

Give it as good light conditions as possible and never let it dry out completely, but don't water it too much for both extremities will make the plant shed its leaves. Forget all about feeding.

Even though the fine Christmas rose is the most coveted 'rose' of winter, it is a pleasure that doesn't cost you much as long as you treat it right.

When you buy the perennial Christmas roses (Helleborus niger), you should look for plants with flowers/buds as well as plenty of leaves.

They are sturdy and can be planted out in the garden where they will go on living, being an enduring pleasure growing taller year after year.

You can even bring them into your house and force them to flower.

The Christmas roses available from late November until March are one and half years old. They start out as microscopic seeds sown in trays.

Then they are transplanted, potted and nursed to the delight of us, the consumers, who just need to go to the florist to fill our homes with the most beautiful plants that stand up to everything and defy the laws of time when winter darkness is at its peak.

At home, place the plants in a cool spot for prolonged pleasure. But even if you place them in your living room, they will last long since the white leaves are maintained while assuming a refined, greyish tone.

Do not feed Christmas roses in pots indoors. And when you water them, consider the fact that the plants are not actually developing and therefore do not need much water.