While We’re On The Subject of Misunderstood Plants….


Okay, this isn’t the most glorious looking poinsettia you’ve ever seen but what if I told you this is its third year blooming–and it’s blooming here in July?

So what does that say about these plants? First, that you don’t have to put them in dark closets or under a box to get them to bloom–you can see that this one is sitting on a file cabinet in my office.

Next, that they are so much more than the finicky plants that we buy at the holidays and then discard. They actually grow into shrubs in tropical countries like Mexico and central America (so, no putting them in closets or putting boxes over them there, clearly).

So that’s myth number one–that poinsettias need to be kept in artificial darkness to rebloom.

The next myth gets us toxicity–a subject I touched on with respect to children and pets on Monday. While it’s just never a good idea to eat any plant unless you’re sure of its consumability (there are a few truly toxic plants out there–I even own some!) poinsettias are not toxic. They may give you a stomach ache–but they won’t kill you.

And despite all sorts of articles all over the web from completely reputable sources (here ite all sorts of articles all over the web from completely repurable sources (here ite all sorts of articles all over the web from completely repurable sources (here is one from the Poison Control Center, for example) this myth persists.

In fact, I would have to say that it is second only to hydrangea questions for me. Again, if I had a nickel for every time someone said to me, “Oh, I can’t have a poinsettia, because I have a dog/cat/child,” I wouldn’t be posting about this, I would own a place on a warm sunny island where I would no longer worry about poinsettias or winter!

If fact, if you don’t want to believe the poison control center, perhaps you’d prefer what doctors at the Mayo Clinic have to say about poinsettias. Again, they can cause mild irritation, some stomach upset, a skin rash–but then again, so can any plant in the euphorbia family.

And as we know, lots of plants, such as the dreaded poison ivy, can do far worse to those susceptible to its oils.

So please, people, let us stop the craziness. And if you like these plants, please buy them and enjoy.

4 thoughts on “While We’re On The Subject of Misunderstood Plants….

  1. The Chatsworth Lady November 9, 2019 / 5:00 pm

    Thank you so much for the mythbusting! I had no idea that a poinsettia doesn’t need all that dark-closet-period folderol and fiddle-de-dee in order to rebloom. If I happen to see as especially pretty pink one this season I may decide to give it another try instead of regarding it an an oversized annual! 😉

    • tonytomeo November 18, 2019 / 9:43 pm

      Yes, thank you for the mythbusting. Poinsettias grow into lanky shrubs in Southern California. They are not pretty, but only because they do not get pruned down like they should. Pruning old canes down after bloom promotes generation of vigorous new canes that bloom the following year. They do not bloom for Christmas, but who really cares? Forcing them to bloom on time in the garden is simply impractical. Those grown as houseplants may not bloom reliably; but again, who cares? They are nice foliar plants even without bloom. Those that bloom probably do so randomly, whenever they feel like it, and the bracts last for quite a while, long after the bloom is gone.

  2. gardendaze November 9, 2019 / 6:41 pm

    Definitely try it! I have even managed to make these bloom for me at home. The trick is to find an under-used room. It’s not that you don’t ever go in there–you just want to minimize the times you turn on the lights. And the more times you turn on the light, the longer it will take to bloom–like my one blooming in my office. Obviously I can’t go home just to suit its schedule.

    Good luck!


  3. gardendaze November 19, 2019 / 5:44 am

    Our supplier of wreaths at work is so delighted to hear that I still have this plant. He daughter, who is a grower, only grew them for a couple of years. She says that there’s no money in them. People are using silk flowers at home. I just shudder at that thought.

    My house is too cold for these, which is why it’s in my office. So I don’t have poinsettias at home at Christmas. It would just never occur to me to use silk!


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