Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Health Care and Holiday Plants

During the Holiday Season, with decorations taking on a more prominent visual affect, it's important to realize how much plants and certain greenery take on such an important role. Also, you should know what to expect when you have live plants or even cut vegetation and floral arrangements to arrange and manage during these winter months. Christmas especially is a time when the plants you use for decoration can create a stunning scene when arranged correctly and properly handled during this Season.

Plants play a big role in our holiday celebrations, according to Marie Ianotti with the Gardening Guide on About.com. Whether you're giving holiday plants or using them as decorations, indoors and out, certain plants have become an intrinsic holiday traditions. Beautiful as they are in the store, holiday plants don't always make an easy transition into your home. Here are some tips for choosing holiday plants and caring for them through the holidays and afterward:

1.) Poinsettias--Poinsettias are everywhere at Christmastime. Red flowers would seem an obvious choice for Christmas, but now poinsettias come in pastel shades of cream and pink and you’ll even find them dyed, painted and done up in glitter and bows. Now poinsettias can be used to celebrate multiple holidays and look right at home in any decor.

2.) Christmas Cactus--Who would have thought a cactus would become a symbol of Christmas? Cactus make excellent houseplants, if you can resist the temptation to fuss over them. And unlike the poinsettia, the Christmas cactus just seems to know that Christmas is the perfect time to bloom and let it all hang out.

3.) Cyclamen--There are many cyclamen species that are grown in the garden, butCyclamen persicum, or the Florist Cyclamen, is often grown as a house plant and is popular around Thanksgiving and Christmas because that’s when it tends to be in bloom. Cyclamen make a wonderful holiday plant because they adapt well as houseplants, blooming again for next year’s holidays.

4.) Maybe you don’t think of Christmas trees as holiday plants, but when you stop to think about it, a live Christmas tree is just that. It can be a tree you intend to plant outdoors, after the holidays, or a potted evergreen you want to keep as a houseplant or display on the patio. Take care in choosing which type of live evergreen you want for your Christmas tree, because it’s only going to get bigger.

5.) Amaryllis--Much like Poinsettias, Amaryllis plants have been popular at Christmas time partly because they come in so many shades of red. Also like Poinsettia, Amaryllis don’t necessarily bloom at Christmastime, when left to their own devices. The Amaryllis is a huge bulb that’s actually very easy to grow and care for. The bulbs are widely available in December, so they make a great gift. They may not bloom until later in the spring, but unlike Poinsettia, they are eager repeat bloomers.

According to the West Virginia University Extension Center, flowering plants provide beauty and are a traditional gift item. Most of these decorative plants are harmless, but some may be hazardous or even dangerous to children and pets if part of the plant is eaten or handled. Even plants that are not toxic do present choking hazards in children. Holiday plants with berries present the most common poison hazard. These include mistletoe, holly, bittersweet, and Jerusalem cherry. For example, Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant. It manufactures its own food, but must obtain water and minerals from the host plant. American mistletoe, Phoradendron serotinum, grows in deciduous trees from New Jersey southward to Florida and Texas. Mistletoe sold during the holiday season is gathered in the wild. Most mistletoe is harvested in Oklahoma and Texas. Mistletoe has been used in the treatment of several ailments, including pleurisy, gout, epilepsy, rabies, and poisoning. However, its white berries, which appear in winter, are poisonous. For safety reasons, the live berries are often replaced with artificial, plastic berries.

To be on the safe side, keep holiday plants out of reach of children and pets. Remember to pick up and dispose of all leaves or berries that fall from your plant. Christmas trees are also a problem. The needles, even though they are not poisonous, are a choking hazard. Many plants contain toxic substances, and these substances cause a variety of symptoms from mild stomach ache, skin rash, swelling of the mouth and throat to involvement of the heart, kidneys, and other organs. The level of toxicity for a particular chemical substance is relative to the body mass, the amount ingested and/or the rate of ingestion. Some safety rules to follow in regard to plants include:

1. Never eat any part of an unknown plant.
2. Never chew on jewelry, etc., made from plant material or allow children to do so.
3. Never attempt to make your own "nature tea" unless you are positive of the plant you are using and the recipe.
4. Make sure the herbs you grow are edible and safe.
5. Never allow children to play around plants without supervision.
6. Store seeds, bulbs, tubers, etc., out of the reach of children.

In the event of poisoning or suspected poisoning, call the poison control center nearest you. More info on this topic can be found at this site: http://www.wvu.edu/~agexten/hortcult/flowers/holiplts.htm .

According to the University of Vermont Extension Department of Science, for more details on toxic plants of all types, including common houseplants, consult the second edition of the Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants by doctors Nelson, Shih, and Balick. From Springer Publishing, it is one of the most authoritative, up-to-date, and affordable such references for human poisoning by plants, and is used in many poison control centers.

If you suspect poisoning, seek immediate professional help. Unless told to do so by such doctors, do NOT make the person vomit. Call your local poison control center, often at your local hospital. Or, you can call the toll-free National Poison Control Center hotline (800-222-1222) and talk with poison control experts. This national service is available anytime, and can answer any questions on poisoning even if not from plants and even if not an emergency.

Several of your favorite holiday plants should be kept from children and pets, yet often they pose no serious danger in small amounts. There are many other and more toxic substances to children in homes to be mindful of, especially cosmetics and personal care products. More info about holiday plant toxicity can be found at this website: http://perrysperennials.info/articles/toxic.html .

You may also suffer from airborne allergies that make it difficult to have live plants or greenery in your home during the Holiday Season, such as suffering reactions to evergreens and other types of plants and flowers. If that is the case, then don’t feel bad about decorating with manufactured trees and plants, especially if you are willing to pay more for realistic, higher grade decorations. If you have problems during the Holidays with any type of real vegetation, seek medical advice as quickly as possible. You sure don’t want to spend this time of year in the hospital or emergency room. Be careful with your kids and pets, and protect everyone in your home at all times when there are real, live plants and flowers to be used during your festive occasions.

Until next time.

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