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Avoid Poisonous Houseplants

Updated on May 31, 2008

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Avoid Poisonous Houseplants

Poisonous houseplants are a hazard to young children and pets, and even plants that aren't specifically considered toxic can cause skin irritations and spark allergic reactions in children and adults. When bringing anything foreign into your living space, it pays to know what you are dealing with.

Avoid Buying Poisonous Houseplants

Only buy houseplants you have identified as safe by matching their botanical name with a reference resource. Check that all the plants you buy are clearly marked or that the plant retailer can identify a plant for you by its botanical name. Write the name down, and keep it with the plant. If you can't find the information you need to identify a houseplant to your satisfaction, don't buy it.

Only Bring Home Houseplants you Know Are Safe

If you are receiving a houseplant from a friend, only accept plants that you can identify. A plant's botanical name will tell you the family of plants it belongs to, and that will give you information about how toxic it is. One plant can have many common names, and more than one plant can share a common name. Knowing the exact species of houseplant you are adopting and verifying that it's safe is the most reliable way to protect your family from poisonous houseplants.

Getting Help Identifying Poisonous Houseplants

If you are having trouble identifying a houseplant you already own, you can take either the whole plant or a leaf to a reliable nursery, or contact your local Cooperative Extension Office to get more information. It's tempting to just try to match your houseplant to a Web photo for identification, but getting the help of a professional to make an accurate identification is a good idea. Many plants look similar but have very different poisoning risks.

Plant Proof Your Home

Never let animals or young children eat or play with decorative plants, even those that are considered safe. Even safe houseplants can cause allergic reactions in some people. The risk isn't great, but it is something to consider. Place decorative houseplants out of reach, or segregate them in a room that is off limits unless there is adequate supervision.

Understanding the Risks of Poisonous Houseplants

Poisonous houseplants aren't all created equal, and there are varying degrees of toxicity in plants depending on their chemical makeup. Many dangerous plants cause such swift and negative reactions that when their leaves are chewed or torn blistering, swelling or intense pain will occur almost immediately. This is a good thing in disguise. Reactions to these plants are so unpleasant that usually very little of the plant, if any, is ingested. The risk still exists though, so err on the side of what is safest for your loved ones.


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