Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
December, 2005
Regional Report

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With such a diversity of flowering holiday plants, you can create a festive look from now well into the new year.

Keeping Kids and Pets Safe Around Holiday Plants

It's that time of year when blooming plants make the Christmas and holiday season festive, but there are some winter holiday plants and plant cuttings that could be dangerous to toddlers and curious pets. This can be particularly true as the youngsters, puppies, and kittens explore all the decorations of the season.

Several of the popular holiday plants, including mistletoe, holly berries, and some lilies, can be poisonous. Holly and mistletoe berries are dangerous if consumed, although you would think that the prickly leaves of holly are nature's way of keeping humans and pets away from the harmful berries. Just don't risk it; keep these plants and plant parts out of the reach of small children and pets.

Have you ever noticed that the real berries of mistletoe and holly are sometimes replaced with artificial, glossy plastic berries? This might seem safer, but not much better since the small berries pose a choking hazard. Again, keep out of the reach of youngsters and pets.

Don't forget that small pieces of evergreen or pine needles could pose a hazard if a young child puts them in their mouth. So it's a good idea to keep the floor beneath a real Christmas tree or evergreen boughs clean and needle-free if you have young children in your home.

One of the most popular holiday plants -- the poinsettia -- has a reputation for being poisonous. This widespread myth results, in part, from the fact that the plant is "toxic," according to the definition used by plant experts. The poinsettia is not deadly or poisonous, however.

The poinsettia is considered toxic because it can cause skin and mouth irritation. This may induce vomiting or local skin rashes. Under the guidelines of plant toxicity, plants that cause local irritation are classified as toxic, even though they may not kill anyone.

So enjoy the holiday season with the wide variety of decorative poinsettias, Christmas cacti, cyclamen, azaleas, orchids, and many more. If you have curious toddlers, or pets that like to nibble at plants, put the plants up high to prevent problems. And don't forget to secure the Christmas tree with twine or string, just in case the cat should take a notion to investigate the tree a little more closely!

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