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Proctor: Debunking myths about holiday plants

11:20 AM, Dec 6, 2012   |    comments
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Here's by annual attempt to debunk them:

  1. Poinsettias will kill your cat. NO. The poinsettia is the most-tested consumer plant on the market. According to numerous studies, such as those by Ohio State University, the poinsettia is not harmful to people or pets. As with any non-food plant, however, it may cause an upset stomach if it is ingested, but this doesn't spell instant death for your cat. If you have doubts, grow some oat grass on the windowsill. This is a healthy tonic that most cats and many dogs enjoy.
  2. The poinsettia makes a good houseplant. NO. Although the plant will survive and grow in a sunny window, your odds of getting it to bloom again are about as good as winning the lottery. The poinsettia sets flower buds in response to decreasing day length in fall. It must have complete darkness after sundown. Even a street lamp through a window will disrupt its flowering. I know exactly two people who've successfully re-bloomed a poinsettia. I'm not one of them.
  3. Adding sugar, bleach or other substances to the water for a Christmas tree will help preserve it. NO. Christmas tree farmers recommend plain water. Since the tree is already dead, it doesn't need an energy source, such as sugar, to help it grow. The main objective is to maintain hydration. Re-cut the base of the tree so that water flows freely from the stand and transpires through the needles. An anti-desiccant spray such as Wilt Pruf will also help prevent the needles from drying out.
  4. Buying an artificial tree saves a real one. NO. Trees are grown as a crop, planted by growers to be harvested. They are not cut from forests. While real trees are completely biodegradable, artificial ones end up in landfills. In addition, artificial trees are sold in cardboard boxes made from trees.
  5. Pine tree needles shouldn't be added to compost because they are too acidic. NO. Although the needles of pine, fir and spruce are acidic, this actually helps a bit in balancing out the heavily alkaline soil and water in our state.
  6. Christmas trees aggravate allergies. NO. Evergreens do not produce pollen in December.
  7. Reindeer can fly. YES. Everybody knows that.


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