Poinsettias are a popular Christmas plant during the holidays. They are beautiful and come in a variety of stunning colors and sizes. Poinsettias are best identified for their bright red, white, or mixed colors and are a holiday staple in many U.S. homes every year.
Unfortunately, over the years, the poinsettia has gotten a bad rap of being poisonous. Here at City Floral Garden Center in Denver, CO, we often get this exact question of whether the poinsettia is toxic or not. While we aren’t veterinarians, we know that poinsettias are rarely poisonous, and the label of toxicity is exaggerated.
Dispelling the Myth
The myth of poinsettias being poisonous originates from the early 20th Century. As the story goes, the death of a toddler is attributed to eating the plant’s leaves. However, since that story, there have been no actual documented deaths due to poinsettias.
While poinsettias are not poisonous, we are not recommending you to make yourself a poinsettia salad. The milky white sap found in poinsettias contains a chemical called diterpenoid euphorbol esters and saponin-like detergents. This sap can be a skin irritant to some people and often create a rash on the skin. Eating poinsettia leaves can cause mild stomach irritation, such as nausea and vomiting. In most cases, exposure to any part of the poinsettia plant will have minimal effect on pets and children.
Poinsettias can be finicky plants to grow year-round and only “bloom” in the wintertime. With proper care, your holiday poinsettia can produce blooms well into January. During the holidays when they are in full color, it’s best to keep them in semi-cool, humid locations with bright indirect light. Watering a poinsettia is a balancing act for sure. You’ll want to make sure they are watered thoroughly in a container with proper drainage. If the roots sit in water, that will cause root rot.
If you want to continue with caring for your poinsettia, decrease watering to allow the soil to dry out more. Once in a cool place, it’s best to relocate it to a cool, dark area until spring when it will start a comeback for the holiday season!