Poinsettias are a well-known and traditional holiday plant that can add beauty to your home during the holidays as well as year-round. They’ve gotten a bad reputation for being poisonous, but they are not as toxic as was once thought. You can enjoy these plants year-round by keeping a few tips in mind.
The poinsettia plant is native to Mexico. For the holiday season, you will see them with red, white or a hybrid color, but they can actually be found in orange or pale green as well. While the colored part is thought to be a flower, that is not the case. They are the leaves. The flower is actually the yellow center.
The plant first began being associated with Christmas in the 16th century in Mexico. The legend is that there was a poor girl who was unable to buy a gift for Jesus’ birthday. Instead, she gathered weeds from the side of the road and placed them in front of the church altar. Red blossoms then sprouted from these weeds and became poinsettias.
Poinsettias were introduced into Christmas decorations in the 17th century by Franciscan friars. The star-shaped leaf pattern is thought to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, while the red represents the blood sacrifice.
How children are affected
Poinsettias are not as toxic as once thought. No deaths have been attributed to the ingestion of poinsettia leaves. A child would need to eat 500 leaves to get really sick. Children could get nauseated or throw up if they eat around five leaves, but they are not going to die. Most likely, a child won’t take more than a couple bites as poinsettia leaves don’t taste good.
According to Poison.org, “The plant does not have dangerous effects when eaten. In most cases, exposure to any parts of the poinsettia plant in children or pets has very little if any effect. If swallowed, it may cause mild irritation: nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.”
How pets are affected
It is also unlikely for a pet to die from eating poinsettia leaves. Similar to how it affects children, pets may also throw up. Any poisoning would be attributed more to the pesticides that may be on the plant when ingested.
According to the Pet Poison Helpline, “The milky white sap found in poinsettias contains chemicals called diterpenoid euphorbol esters and saponin-like detergents. While poinsettias are commonly “hyped” as poisonous plants, they rarely are, and the poisoning is greatly exaggerated.”
- Place it near a sunny window and keep your house between 65 and 75 degrees F during the day.
- Water the plant any time the soil feels dry.
- After Christmas, keep watering it until mid-spring before letting it dry out.
- At the beginning of summer, cut back the stems to a couple of inches and replant it in new soil. Water it and keep it warm.
- One month later, put it outside in a shady location and bring it back in midsummer.
- Then, give it a sunny place inside once again and water it regularly.
- Once it hits mid-autumn, put the plant in complete darkness from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. It will then re-flower for you and get ready for the next holiday season.
By following the tips above, you can properly care for your poinsettia and enjoy it for more than one holiday season! Check out the schedule of floral experience workshops at Dietz Floral Studio.