When I go to the annual California Pack Trials, it is rare that a poinsettia makes me take the lens cover off my camera. The cultivar Visions of Grandeur is one that did. Its shades of rose pink, cream, and yellow were mesmerizing.

The phrase "visions of grandeur" can bring a snicker as quickly as its opposite, "delusions of grandeur."

We typically consider grandeur unachievable - until now. This relatively new poinsettia may have achieved that lofty aspiration.

To me, Visions of Grandeur is the prettiest poinsettia ever developed. Unless you think red is the only color for poinsettias, you may feel the same way.

It is elegant and fit for royalty and will make you want to do whatever it takes to get one. It's the one you would want to showcase on a grand piano.

Last season, I saw two other poinsettias I really liked: Tapestry and Ice Punch. Tapestry has the red bracts that are so popular, but the leaves cause the real commotion. They are variegated, but especially striking - green leaves set off with margins of yellow to cream.Ice Punch is different. When you see it, you will be forever hooked. Though its variegated red and white bracts are similar to Jingle Bells', the margins and veins of Ice Punch are cranberry red, and each bract looks as if it were boldly hand-painted with white. It's a real showstopper, unlike anything else on the market.

And speaking of the market, you may find it challenging. One well-known supplier lists almost 100 varieties available to growers, so the chance of your finding one of the three I mentioned is slim. Take comfort in knowing there are 97 other great selections.

Why not shop now to enjoy poinsettias for the whole season? Look for strong, stiff stems, good leaf and bract retention, and no signs of wilting, breaking, or drooping. Carefully inspect packaged poinsettias before purchasing them. Poinsettias left in sleeves over time become unhealthy.

Transport poinsettias carefully. Strong winds or short-term exposure to temperatures below 40 degrees can permanently damage the plants. Use plant sleeves or large shopping bags for added protection.

When possible, place the plant in the sunniest exposure in your home. A window that faces south, east, or west is better than one facing north. Don't let the bracts touch the cold windowpanes; freezing temperatures can cause damage.

The two problems most often encountered with poinsettias involve watering. Forgetting to water can be disastrous for a poinsettia. Examine the soil daily. When the surface is dry to the touch, water until it runs freely out the drainage hole in the container. The second problem: Decorative wraps can trap water and suffocate the roots. Be sure to pour out excess water.

Poinsettias are beautiful Christmas plants, so, in all areas of your home, use them boldly.

Norman Winter is a garden lecturer and author of "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South." His new book is "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden."