Are Holly Plants Poisonous?

Is it safe to decorate with branches from holly plants? I have 2 small children and 2 cats I am concerned about.

Hi Lois,

Red berries and green holly plant.
Holly Plant

The branches from a holly plant are fine to use for decorating as long as the red berries have been removed. The berries are very poisonous to people and animals and their bright color really attracts little children and pets. Be sure to  carefully remove ALL of the berries since swallowing even just a few berries can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and drowsiness. Since the leaves are so prickly to the touch, kids and pets tend to avoid them.

If you think your child or pet has decided to snack on any poisonous plant, not just a holly plant, quickly take any pieces you can see or feel out of his or her mouth. If who- ever ate the plant is choking or not breathing well, immediately call 911. Otherwise, call the Poison Control Center at the number below.

American Association of Poison Control Centers


This is a free service and can be reached from anywhere in the United States. Call with questions about poisoning or poison prevention twenty- four hours a day, seven days a week. It does not have to be an emergency.

IMPORTANT: Stay calm and have the following information ready:

Your child’s or pet’s age, weight, and symptoms
If you know it, the name of the plant, the part that was eaten, and the amount.
How long since the plant ended up where it didn’t belong.

Don’t try to get your child to throw up unless the poison control center or a healthcare professional suggests it. If you go to an emergency room or doctor’s office, take as much of the plant as possible; don’t forget bulbs, berries, and flowers. The faster you get help, the better the chances of a full and quick recovery and a happy ending.

Read more about common houseplants that are poisonous in  Don’t Feed Me To Your Cat! A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants.