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Tips for holiday plant care

Keep poinsettia in a cool, bright area away from hot and cold drafts. (C) serezniy/123RF

Keep poinsettia in a cool, bright area away from hot and cold drafts. (C) serezniy/123RF

Tis the season of poinsettia, holly, mistletoe, snow and ice.

First up, poinsettia was introduced by John Poinsett, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, who had seen it growing along the roadsides during his post there. He sent a few plants to his buddy, John Bartram in Philadelphia, an early American horticulturist, who cultivated them and offered them for sale.

The most popular query about poinsettia is how to keep it all year and get it to color up for next year’s holiday. Trust me when I tell you it’s not easy, but Purdue University’s The Poinsettia guides you through the process, which requires a strict schedule of light and dark for weeks.

Plant Care Indoors

For now, remember that the poinsettia is easily damaged by cold temperature. Ask the retailer to put a paper or plastic sleeve over the plant, which will protect it from the store to the car and the car to your house.

Holly berries are toxic. (C) Andersphoto/dollarphotoclub.com

Holly berries are toxic. (C) Andersphoto/dollarphotoclub.com

Once home, place poinsettias in a cool, bright place away from cold and hot drafts, such as the front door, a heat register or the television. There’s not need to fertilizer the plant. The soil should be evenly moist, but not wet.

When the plant starts to drop its leaves and looks bad, compost it. And despite what people may think, eating poinsettia is not going to harm you unless you devour more than 500 leaves to reach a toxic level. The sap of poinsettia may cause a mild irritation to the pets’ mouths. Holly berries also are toxic. Eating 20 berries can be a killer to pets and kids.

Mistletoe is poisonous to pets and humans. (C) PicturePartners/iStockphoto.com

Mistletoe is poisonous to pets and humans. (C) PicturePartners/iStockphoto.com

All parts of mistletoe is toxic to pets and humans, so be sure to contact your veterinarian, physician or poison control center if you suspect your cat, dog or child may have eaten the plant. Vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulty are among the symptoms. Death to pets can occur within hours of ingesting mistletoe.

Plant Care Outdoors No one likes to walk on icy pavement, so we grab a deicer to make pathways passable. Deicers are most effective once the snow has been removed. Select a product that is rated safe for plants and pets.

Select a deicer that will not harm pets or plants. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Select a deicer that will not harm pets or plants. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Many deicers contain various forms of salt and chemicals, which damage or kill perennials, trees, shrubs and the lawn. The salts also can burn or blister paws. And, when dogs clean their feet, they may ingest the product’s chemicals. Be sure to wipe the dog’s feet after walking on treated surfaces.

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