Beware of Poisonous Houseplants
Protect your family from pretty but potentially lethal plants.
Houseplants are a great addition to any home. They bring the outdoors in and create a peaceful, garden-like setting. Some plants are not only nice to look at, they offer a pleasant fragrance, too. Additionally, studies have shown that many plants help fight indoor pollution, remove harmful gasses from the air and increase oxygen levels.
While beautiful, some plants can be poisonous to people and pets. Here are some common houseplants and their poisonous effects:
- Daffodil — Daffodils (especially the bulb) are highly toxic to humans and pets. Eating any part can cause intense stomach problems, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea, high blood pressure, tremors and an irregular heartbeat. In some cases, ingestion of the bulb can even be fatal.
- Hyacinths — Hyacinths share the same symptoms with daffodils when ingested – primarily nausea that leads to vomiting and diarrhea. They can be fatal and are toxic for pets as well.
- Aloe Vera — Aloe is popular due to its ability to aid with burns, cuts and skin problems. While the gel inside the plant is soothing, the skin and other inner layers can irritate your skin on contact and your intestines if ingested. If you use the Aloe plant to treat a burn, make sure the plant's skin and subsequent yellow layer of latex are first cut away from the gel. The plant is mildly toxic to pets if ingested, but okay for external, topical uses.
- English Ivy — This is a vine grown indoors and outdoors. It is poisonous to humans, pets and livestock, when ingested. Symptoms include breathing difficulties, convulsions, vomiting and, in extreme cases, paralysis and coma.
- Hydrangea — Eating the flower buds of a hydrangea can cause stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhea, heavy breathing and lethargy, and can even lead to a coma. This plant can also be poisonous to pets, if ingested.
- Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane) — This is a popular house plant because of its low light requirements. It is highly toxic. In fact, native Amazonian people used juice from the plant to prepare poison arrows. If ingested, the plant can cause severe burning in the mouth and swelling of the tongue, which could obstruct breathing, if severe enough. In serious cases, the plant can be fatal for both humans and pets.
- Philodendrons — These are a favorite among house plants. However, they are poisonous to humans and pets. Ingesting them will result in painful burning and swelling of the lips, tongue and throat, and can also cause vomiting and diarrhea.
- Easter Lily — Cats have been known to suffer serious illness after eating Easter lilies. Eating small amounts of any part of the plant can lead to a cat's death from kidney failure, if the animal is not treated by a veterinarian within 18 hours. While the plant is not poisonous to children, youngsters can choke on pieces of it.
- Sago Palm — The Sago Palm is one of the oldest living plants on earth. One reason it has survived so long is because animals don't eat it. All parts of this plant, including the seeds and roots, are poisonous. Ingesting Sago Palm causes vomiting and diarrhea, and may lead to liver failure.
- Oleander — All parts of oleander, a popular indoor flowering shrub, are extremely poisonous and can be fatal if eaten. To be sure you don't accidentally ingest the sap, wear gloves and wash your hands when pruning and taking cuttings.
This isn’t a complete list, but you get the idea. While some plants are more toxic than others, most must be consumed in large quantities to cause any real damage. Often the bitter taste stops children or pets from ingesting too much of the plant. If you’re concerned about these or any other plants in your home, contact a local horticulturalist or poison control center.
If you suspect that a child or pet has been poisoned by eating or touching a houseplant, call your doctor or veterinarian, go to an emergency room or call the 24-hour National Capital Poison Center at 800-222-1222.