It’s a sad but inevitable discovery in the journey of plant parenthood: some of your indoor plants just aren’t safe if you have pets or small children. While beautiful to behold, many popular genera of houseplants are toxic, whether mildly or severely. Worse, still others can cause skin irritation with too much handling.
The good news is that with a bit of planning, you can find out which poisonous houseplants to avoid, assess risk to your pets and family, and still have a vibrant and gorgeously green indoor plant collection.
Here are 10 poisonous houseplants that, though we adore them, should be incorporated with caution if they’ll be accessible to your children or pets. But before we get started, a word of clarification: “toxic” is a relative term, and the severity of a reaction is going to have a lot to do with the degree of exposure (amount consumed), which plant species, and the particulars of your pet. Some poisonous houseplants product acute symptoms (like vomiting) that pass quickly. Others simply irritate the skin, whereas some can have more severe, life threatening effects if consumed in excess. This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive, and we definitely recommend doing further research (ASPCA has a great database for pet owners).
10 Poisonous Houseplants for Pet Owners and Parents to Avoid
- Philodendron (and Monstera)
Starting with one of the heaviest hitters, Philodendron is a large genus of tropical plant, very popular for use indoors due to its wide variety of growing habits, leaf shapes and colors. This genus of plants is mildly toxic to humans, and toxic to both dogs and cats. Symptoms of exposure include: Oral irritation, pain and swelling of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.
Members of this genus, related to the philodendron, often goes by the common name Arrow-head vine due to the shape of the leaves. While only mildly toxic, symptoms of exposure are similar to those listed above for Philodendrons.
- ZZ Plant
The Zamioculcas Zamifolia, aka ZZ Plant, is one of those “tough as nails” houseplants that can survive just about anywhere, even in extremely low light. Unfortunately, it also happens to make the list of poisonous houseplants, and all parts of the plant are considered toxic to humans and pets.
Another of our favorite plants for use in low light environments, Sansevieria (aka Snake Plant) is another toxic beauty, causing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested.
- Bird of Paradise
This tropical stunner, with large paddle-shaped leaves and bright, exotic flowers is a no-go for pets and children who are looking for a floral snack. Luckily, it’s mostly the flower and fruit that are toxic, and the nausea, vomiting, drowsiness caused are mild.
- Asparagus Fern
Though this plant is in the Asparagus genus (yes – like the vegetable!) it is by no means edible. A number of species go under the common name Asparagus Fern, but unfortunately the ones commonly used as indoor plants are poisonous, and exposure to the plant can cause skin irritation.
The Schefflera genus boasts some lovely specimens that make great floor trees for medium light. Make sure to keep the kids and pets away, though, as ingestion can cause major irritation in the mouth, excessive drooling, and vomiting.
Ah, Euphorbia. Members of this extremely varied genus (some plants look very similar to cacti, others are herbaceous and hardy outdoors!) contain a white sap that causes major skin irritation (itchy rash!) with even a little exposure. Ingestion causes similar irritation inside the body.
- Jade plant
This classic member of the Crassula genus is considered toxic to dogs, cats and humans alike, causing vomiting, depression, and incoordination if ingested.
It may seem strange that Aloe, praised and widely used for its medicinal, skin healing properties, would be listed here amongst poisonous houseplants. While the gel is considered edible, ingestion of other parts of the plant can cause vomiting, lethargy and diarrhea
Consider your Risk Factors
Though it might be worth omitting the above specimens from your indoor plant collection, it’s important to consider your risk factors. Do you have small children that might nibble on your floor plants? Does your cat like to play with and chew on foliage? Will your pup nibble on the trunk of that tree? Depending on your home, your critters, and which plants, you might be able to reduce your risk by implementing some good spatial planning.
Spatial Planning Tips:
- Use a plant hanger to hang poisonous houseplants out of reach of your pets and kids
- Consult our list of pet-safe indoor plants, and pull from these when considering your floor plants which will be most accessible to pets and kids.
- Make use of your furniture: bookshelves, cabinets — even the top of the fridge — make great homes for plants that your dog of kids can’t get to. Keep in mind, cats tend to reach even the most far off places.
- Educate! Let your kids know that it’s not safe to nibble on plants.
- Consider purchasing a mounted plant to make them even more inaccessible to pets ad children.
Have any other pet and kid-safety tips for plants to share? Questions about your collection? Share with us in the comments!