Grown Here at Home: VWCC horticulture expert explains poinsettias not so deadly after all

Published: Dec. 23, 2019 at 9:40 AM EST
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It's the Christmas season and poinsettias abound. There's an assumption that poinsettias are poisonous, but Clark BeCraft, horticulture program coordinator at Virginia Western Community College, says that's a myth. This rumor came in the 1900s after a child was found dead next to a poinsettia plant and people figured the plant caused the death. However, research shows that wasn't the case.

"A 50-pound child would have to eat 500 poinsettia leaves in order for them to adversely affect them," Clark explained.

The bottom line is a child or pet eating a poinsettia leaf won't likely cause them to die. If anything, it probably won't make them feel too well. However, there is one main concern.

"They have a milky sap, which does have latex in them, and some people are allergic to latex, so you could have an adverse skin reaction to that," Clark said.

Poinsettias originate from Mexico and there are over 100 varieties. They're a hybridized plant.

"When you look at hybridizing you're crossing different varieties to reach or gain different colors out of the leaves or the bracts. A lot of people think this is the flower. The flower is this yellow portion in the center of the plant," said Clark.

Poinsettias are an indoor plant and will last throughout the Christmas season as long as you treat them right.

"One of the important things people forget is a lot of times you have this foil wrap around the base, and once you get it home you want to take and punch holes in the bottom of that or take that foil off so that it drains," Clark explained.

Do all these things, and your poinsettia should stay nice and pretty for six to eight weeks, and sometimes even longer.

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