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Safe and Poisonous Houseplants

Safe and Poisonous Houseplants

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Safe and Poisonous Houseplants

Many homes contain houseplants or other natural materials to add beauty and interest to the décor. Not only are they attractive but many varieties of houseplants serve as indoor air cleaners as well. Lovely and functional as they may be, some houseplants may present a hazard especially if young children or pets share the household.

A poisonous plant is one that contains a chemical substance which produces a harmful reaction in the body of humans or animals when taken in small or moderate amounts. A harmful reaction could include allergic reactions, dermatitis or skin irritation, of internal poisoning. Allergic reactions are not always classified as poisoning and will not be treated as such here. This is because there is a wide range of plants that can cause allergic reactions, and sensitivity to a particular plant varies among individuals. Also, individuals can react in different ways after contact with a poisonous plant depending on their sensitivity level.

It is important that houseplant owners be aware of the potential problems that plants with toxic properties might cause. Be aware of the identity of your houseplants and learn if they pose potential threats to children and pets. If you cannot identify a houseplant, call your local Extension Center or the Home and Garden Education Center for assistance. It is also important to realize that many plants need to be consumed in considerable quantities for poisoning to occur. Often poisonous plants taste bitter or acrid and children and pets may not ingest large amounts. Young children, especially, should be taught not to put unknown plants or plant parts in their mouths.

If a houseplant or natural decoration is ingested by children or pets and poisoning is suspected, call your family doctor, nearest emergency room or veterinarian immediately. The number for the National Poison Center is (800) 222-1222. They can tell you if a plant is poisonous and what symptoms might be expected with a particular toxin. You will need to provide them with the identity of the plant, however.

The following is a list of plants considered toxic. Remember that plants may contain a variety of poisons. They may cause symptoms ranging from a mild stomach ache to serious heart and kidney problems.

Common Name



Apricot kernels

Azaleas Caladium

Calla Lily

Chinese Evergreen Colchicum Daffodil

Dumb Cane

Elephant's Ear

English Ivy

Fishtail Palm

Holly Berries


Jerusalem Cherry



Mountain laurel (holiday greens)




Rosary Pea



Yew (holiday greens)

Plants listed below are considered safe and not poisonous. Although eating or touching these plants is unlikely to cause illness, any plant might cause a reaction in certain sensitive individuals.

African Daisy

African Violet

Aluminum Plant

Baby's tears

Bamboo, Golden

Bird of Paradise

Bird's Nest Fern

Boston Fern


Cast Iron Plant

Christmas cactus


Corn Plant

Donkey's Tail



Figs, Weeping and Fiddleleaf**


Goldfish Plant


Jade Plant

Japanese Aralia


Lipstick Plant

Maidenhair Fern

Nerve Plant


Norfolk Island Pine



Piggyback Plant **

Poinsettia **

Prayer Plant

Purple Passion Plant

Sensitive Plant

Spider Plant

Surinam cherry

Swedish Ivy

Wandering Jew **

Wax Plant

Zebra Plant

**Sap may be irritating.


Never eat any unknown plant and teach children the same.

Keep poisonous houseplants out of reach of children and pets.

Learn the names and potential toxicity of all houseplants.

Any plant may cause a reaction in certain people. If a plant is eaten, remove the rest from the mouth and rinse the mouth with water. Call your doctor or the emergency room immediately if you suspect a problem.


A Guide to House Plant Poisoning, Prevention and Treatment, University of Utah Health Sciences Center, Salt Lake City Utah, 2000.

Barkley, Shelley. Poisonous House Plants, Government of Alberta Canada, 2005.$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/webdoc1376

University of Cenneticut


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