Weekly Home Help with how to care for your poinsettia plant, how to decorate for a holiday dinner party, a home-selling tip and more.

Poinsettias represent 80 percent of all potted plant sales in the United States during the holiday season, said University of Illinois Extension educator Ron Wolford.


"There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias available today," Wolford said. "And they come in a myriad of colors like red, white, pink and burgundy. Keeping your poinsettias healthy during the holiday season can be a challenge considering the dry indoor environments in many homes."


Here are a few tips from Wolford to help you keep your poinsettia healthy.


-- Purchase a poinsettia with fully colored bracts (modified leaves) and tightly closed flower buds. The plant will start to decline after the flower buds have completely opened.


-- After you have purchased your poinsettia, make sure it is wrapped completely because exposure to cold temperatures below 50 degrees in just the short walk to your car can damage the bracts and leaves.


-- Place the poinsettia near a south-, west- or east-facing window. Six hours of indirect light is ideal. Placing the plant in direct light may cause the colorful bracts to fade.


-- Overwatering is the No. 1 poinsettia killer. Water the plant when the soil is dry to the touch. After watering, thoroughly empty any water in the pot's saucer. Be sure to punch holes in the decorative foil to allow water to drain through.


-- Keep your poinsettia away from warm or cold drafts, which can cause premature leaf drop.


-- Do not fertilize when the poinsettia is in bloom. Apply a houseplant fertilizer once a month after it blooms.


-- University of Illinois Extension


Decorating Tip: Festive chairs for parties


When hosting dinner this season, give dining room chairs a festive face-lift by adding ribbon and seasonal elements to their backs. Once the ribbon is tied into place, use hot glue to attach faux evergreen sprigs, berries, bells or pinecones. Then adorn your buffet table with a silver-beaded garland punctuated by pinecones and pieces of greenery.


-- Scripps Howard News Service


Tip of the week: Make a snowflake tabletop


Add whimsy to your winter tabletop with a snowflake-inspired table runner. Cut a variety of different-sized snowflakes out of stiff, white felt and use hot glue to stick the edges of them together.


-- Scripps Howard News Service


Home-Selling Tip: Don’t let cold weather stop you


With the cold weather rolling in, it can be easy to neglect the front yard, walkway or porch to your house. But for home buyers, the first impression is most important. Make sure all the dead leaves are cleared and, if applicable, the driveway and walkway should be cleared of snow, too. Consider placing two topiary trees on both sides of your front door to create a welcoming entrance. 


-- FrontDoor.com


Did You Know …


Average apartment rent is projected to rise 2.5 percent this year and another 3.5 percent in 2012. -- National Association of Realtors


Going Green: Ask for a green donation


Looking for a gift to give your favorite greenie? Don’t know what you want for yourself? Consider a donation to an organization that helps our environment, like American Rivers, The Nature Conservancy or The Sierra Club Foundation. Find a cause that means something personal to you or your recipient, whether it is local, national or global.


-- Earth911.com


Garden Guide: Choosing your Christmas trees


Christmas trees come in different varieties. Knowing the differences can make the selection process easier, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.


"Some of the most commonly sold varieties of Christmas trees are balsam fir, Fraser fir, Scotch pine and white pine," said Ron Wolford. "Each type has unique tree needle retention, color and fragrance."


GateHouse News Service