Iowa Poison Control Center
24 Hours / 7 Days a Week 1.800.222.1222

Holiday Plants

If giving a holiday plant as a gift to a family with young children or pets, make them aware of the name of the plant and alert them as to whether the plant is toxic or not. Many of the calls the poison center receives involve plants. We can help with poison information and management if you know the name and/ or species of the plant. The Poison Center can not identify plants over the phone.

Note: Any plant, even non toxic plants can cause coughing or chocking, or stomach upset when swallowed.

Pines, Spruces, Balsam and Firs (Christmas trees and greens)

These coniferous trees are commonly found in homes at holiday time. They may be harmful, if ingested in very large amounts. Ingestion of small amounts may result in varying degrees of localized irritation and gastrointestinal upset and a primary concern would be aspiration or airway obstruction. Pinecones are not toxic, although contact dermatitis may result from handling.

Poinsettia Plants (Christmas flower)

Poinsettia plants were once thought to be very poisonous. Contrary to earlier beliefs, poinsettias are safe to have in the home during the holidays. Ingestions of a leaf or two have not resulted in significant symptoms. Poinsettia plants have a mild irritant, which can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The milky sap from the flower may cause skin irritation.

Holly, Mistletoe, Jerusalem Cherry and Bittersweet

These are all poisonous holiday plants and should not be located where children can reach them. Watch for dried berries that may have fallen to the floor.Photo of Holly with berries

Holly

The stiff green leaves and bright red berries are extremely attractive to children. Holly berries are significantly poisonous, ingestion of twenty berries can mean death to a child.

Mistletoe

The berries, leaves, and stem are all considered toxic. Contact the Poison Center if ingestion of any amount occurs.

Jerusalem Cherry

This plant contains bright orange to scarlet colored berries. The entire plant is toxic. Call the Poison Center if ingested in any amount.

Bittersweet

All parts of this plant are considered toxic. The unripe berries contain the highest concentration of Solanine, which cause heart rate below 60, sedation, and headaches.

Non-Toxic plants to give this holiday season:

  • African violets
  • Boston Fern
  • Christmas Cactus
  • Coleus
  • Jade
  • Snake plants
  • Spider plants
  • Wandering Jew
  • Wax plant
© 2017 IPCC. All Rights Reserved.