, Newburyport, MA

December 12, 2012

Tim's Tips: 'Tis the season for the poinsettia

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — The plant that is associated with the holiday season is the poinsettia. There are all kinds of misconceptions associated with the poinsettia and why it won’t grow in some homes. Let me address a few of those concerns.

Every year, I have customers who tell me that they would like to have a poinsettia in their home but since they have a child they don’t, as poinsettias are fatal if the child eats some of the leaves.

The story about a child dying after eating poinsettia leaves is an old wives’ tale that has been circulating for years. There are no documented cases of this happening. If having a child is keeping you from buying a poinsettia, rest your fears and get a plant.

People are also afraid that a pet will be harmed if they ingest the poinsettia leaves. I have asked numerous veterinarians through the years, and all of them have felt that the animal will throw up the leaves if they nibble at them. Having pets in the house should not keep you from setting out a poinsettia.

Now, let’s talk about the care of poinsettias. The plant is native to the tropical climates of Mexico. It prefers temperatures in the 60s. Poinsettias need bright light in order to be happy. If you are wondering if the plant is getting enough light in a certain spot in your home, try this test. Place the plant where you would like it and hold your hand about a foot above it. Move your hand back and forth above the plant. If your hand is casting a distinct shadow on the poinsettia, then the light is bright enough to keep it happy.

Poinsettias don’t like to be in drafty areas. This will cause leaf drop.

Watering a poinsettia can also be confusing. The plant should be allowed to dry a bit, and when it is watered, pour a sufficient amount so that it will drain out the bottom of the pot.

If the plant is in a foil wrap, remove the wrapping when you water. If you don’t, the water will pool in the foil. A poinsettia that sits in water will die. Always drain any water from the foil, saucer or basket into which the plant will sit.

That’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.


Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.