They are beautiful. They bring the ‘outdoors inside’. They also help to detoxify the indoor air of your home. They are houseplants. Houseplants are an integral part of everyday life. At Christmas most people have mistletoe hanging or poinsettia sitting on the floor. In Spring come roses and Fall are mums. Each season has a flower that is a favorite to many. Did you know that most of these flowers are poison houseplants? Some are favorites to the garden and other flourish only inside but all can be grown inside.
Poison houseplants are dangerous to both pets and children. Both will usually taste and eat dirt, berries, bark, leaves and sometimes, even roots. Your best defense is a great offense. Teaching dogs, cats and children to stop ‘tasting’ or digging in the dirt is next to impossible. You can’t be in all places at once.
Your next best thing is to get educated. Some of the most common poison houseplants are listed here. This isn’t an all inclusive list so be aware that even if your plant hasn’t made the list of the most wanted poison houseplants there still may be danger. Speak with a local nursery about the possibility that ingestion of specific parts of the plants you currently own may be hazardous to the health of your children and pets. And when you are considering a new purchase have those same questions answered.
The list of common household plants that may be poisonous are:
Bird of paradise
Another way to protect yourself and your children is to keep the number for the local poison control center, as well as your doctor, the emergency room and helpful neighbors posted conspicuously. If there is a potential emergency searching for the poison control center’s number for verification is going to take precious minutes.
Speak with your doctor and pediatrician about the use of ipecac, an over the counter emetic or medication that induces vomiting. The American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends that families have syrup of ipecac in their homes because use of this medication will delay treatment for potential poison ingestion that is much more effective. In fact they recommend that any syrup of ipecac be removed from the home.
There are plants that appear to have been used for medicinal purposes that also may have poison houseplant parts. Although the Aloe plant is often used to treat burns and irritations on the skin most people don’t know that the skin of the plant and the yellow juice will cause skin irritation. You can cut away the skin and juice before treating the area with the remaining gel. You should also test a small area of skin well before you need to use it for treatment.
Interestingly, houseplants that are most effective in reducing the indoor air pollution of your home are also on the list of poison houseplants. If you are using plants to keep your indoor air healthier by removing formaldehyde (present in most perfumed household products under a different name) or benzene (both carcinogenic) you must have one plant for every 100 square feet of living area. Plants that do well by removing toxins in the air are philodendrons, Spider plants, Aloe Vera, Mums, Dieffenbachia, Golden Pothos, Ficus, Gerbera Daisy, English ivy, and Mauna Loa.
Defend yourself, your pets and your children from accidental poison houseplants by educating yourself about the potential risks and hazards of the houseplants you already own or plan to own.
University of Connecticut: Safe and Poisonous Houseplants
ASPCA: Toxic and non-Toxic Plants
Better Homes and Gardens: Poisonous Plants in the Home
BabyCenter: Which Houseplants or outdoor plants whould we avoid having with a child on the loose
BayerAdvanced: Are your houseplants Poisonous
University of Wisconsin: Toxic House Plants
Merck Veterinary Manual: Houseplants and Ornementals