5 Dangerous Holiday Plants

If you deck the halls for holiday celebrations with fresh greenery and your favorite seasonal plants, use caution. Many evergreen plants and pretty holiday bloomers do more than set the stage for jolly memories. They also add an element of danger to family gatherings.

You can still decorate and design holiday scenes with live plants. Learn which plants pose the biggest threat to your family’s well-being, along with simple tips that make protecting your loved ones a snap.

Put Safety First

Many plants prove toxic if a person or pet chews and/or swallows leaves or berries. In most cases, the plant-eater endures a stomachache, vomiting and/or diarrhea. But some plants cause more toxic reactions, inducing convulsions or coma. To keep your family safe this holiday season:

  • Learn which plants pack the greatest toxicity. Keep these plants out of reach of children (and pets).
  • Know the names of every plant in your home. If you call poison control, you need to know what type of plant has been eaten.
  • Keep plants with berries out of reach of young children.
  • Gather dropped berries and leaves. Do this daily, even twice daily if needed.
  • Choose nontoxic plants for gift-giving, such as Christmas cactus or African violet.

Toxic Holiday Plants


Amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus

Eat the bulbs of these pretty bloomers, and you’ll wind up with a stomachache, heart arrhythmia or convulsion. Leaves contain a smaller portion of toxin. These plants are more often consumed by pets than people.

Brazilian pepper

Brazilian pepper

This shrub to small tree is an invasive nonnative plant that’s a problem in Florida, Alabama, Texas, California and Hawaii. Shiny evergreen leaves contrast with eye-catching red berries – a classic Christmas combination that entices some homeowners to use these plants in holiday décor. Some people develop rashes from touching or simply being near the plants; others experience mild to severe breathing reactions.

Holly berries


Spiny leaves aren’t likely to attract curious young children, but bright berries do. If a young child consumes one or two berries, he or she may develop a tummy ache. Eating a few more causes vomiting and diarrhea. Eating 20 berries causes death.

Jerusalem cherry

Jerusalem cherry

This plant bears fruit that resembles a cherry tomato and is extremely toxic to dogs, cats and some birds. In people, eating the fruit most frequently produces gastric distress or vomiting, but in some cases it may cause slowed pulse, hallucinations or seizures. All plant parts are toxic; unripe leaves and fruit are more so. Call poison control if this plant is ingested.



Every part of this plant contains toxin that can produce nausea, diarrhea, blurred vision, blood pressure issues and even death. Berries are probably most attractive to children. Consider covering your mistletoe with a bag or tulle that can catch berries before they fall to the floor. If a child eats one to two berries, harm will likely be minimal, but that amount could seriously hurt a small pet. Call poison control if this plant is ingested.


Poison Control Center

Look for the poison control center number inside the front cover of your phone book, or call 1-800-222-1222.

When you call to report a poisoning, you’ll need to know:

  • the name of the plant consumed
  • the part of the plant consumed (leaf, berry, etc.)
  • how much of the plant was consumed
  • approximate time the plant was consumed
  • the person’s age, weight and condition

Never induce vomiting unless you’re instructed to do so.