Care and feeding of Christmas poinsettias

Posted December 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Go ahead and enjoy poinsettias this winter and forget about the myth of them being poisonous according to Patrick Byers, a horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“While poinsettias are not good for you and have a horribly bitter taste, the poinsettia is not poisonous to humans or pets,” said Byers. “Most pets or children, if they ever tried a leaf, would spit it out and go no further.”

If a new puppy got overzealous and ate most of the leaves on a plant, it would probably get a stomach ache and throw it all back up, according to Byers, but the plant is not deadly.

Research conducted by Ohio State University found ingesting large amounts of any part of the plant to be non-toxic. The American Medical Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants states that ingestion of the poinsettia plant may produce vomiting but no toxic effects.

Selection and care

When selecting a poinsettia, be sure to avoid plants with bracts that are blackened or dry (cold inured).

“Check out the true flowers at the center of the bracts,” said Byers. “If they are fresh, the plant will be in display for a long time.”

A poinsettia will keep best in an area with ample sunlight and limited air temperature fluctuations. It is also important to keep poinsettias away from heater vents.

“Poinsettias will decline quickly when the roots are too wet. Only water when the soil surface is dry, and don’t let the pots stand in water,” said Byers.

It is possible to keep a poinsettia through the spring and summer so it will bloom again next fall but it is a challenge, according to Byers.

Most popular

The Christmas poinsettia is the most popular potted plant in America.

It is named in honor of Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851), who was the first United States ambassador to Mexico.

“He failed in his assignment to secure the purchase of Texas, but he did bring home colorful plants that Franciscan priests in the town of Taxco used in nativity processionals,” said Byers.

The red “petals” are actually bracts – the true flowers are found in the center of the bracts

For more information contact the Master Gardeners of Greene County hotline at (417) 881-8909.