Wellness
10 plants and flowers you may want to avoid if you have pets and kids in the house
Not all of them are deadly, but it's good to know what the risks are so you can make more informed decisions.
Jessica
10.12.21

Do you have a green thumb and love to be surrounded by plants and flowers?

Or are you like me, somehow managing to kill an air plant, but still eager to have some greenery around every now and then?

Either way, for those of us with precious babies or fur babies in the house, we have to be careful. Very careful. The last thing we want is for our cats, dogs, or kiddos to come to harm from a simple houseplant or flower.

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These are a couple of common plants that are toxic to animals (and sometimes to people!).

Being poisoned from plants doesn’t just occur from actually eating the plants themselves. Children and animals may get sick from getting plant sap on their skin, drinking water from the draining tray, or putting potting soil in their mouths.

Any animals that show signs of poisoning should be taken to an emergency vet immediately. If a person has ingested a toxic plant or flower, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center. In the U.S., it can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222).

Here are 10 plants that could put your family and pets in danger.

1. Lilies

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These are my favorite, but every time I buy a mixed bouquet, I’m quick to separate the lilies out and put them in a vase my cat can’t reach behind a glass cabinet door.

Lilies are some of the most toxic plants you can have in your house, especially if you have a cat. Not every kind of lily is off-limits, but some of the most popular varieties, including Easter lilies (above) and calla lilies, can pose a real danger, from flower to stem. (And remember, these are common in bridal centerpieces or funeral arrangements that you may take home.)

In humans, ingestion causes vomiting, diarrhea, and distorted vision. In cats, it can lead to kidney and liver failure – and it can happen very quickly.

2. Oleander

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You may not know the name “oleander” off the top of your head but you’ve probably seen this ornamental bush with the pink flowers. Oleander is a popular choice for gardens. It’s also one of the most toxic houseplants to both animals and humans.

Ingesting even one leaf has been known to cause death. Ingesting the sap from the plant can also cause serious illness. Children are more vulnerable to the effects of this poison than adults.

In dogs and cats, oleander can cause heart arrhythmia, vomiting, and cold paws.

3. English ivy

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English ivy is known for climbing its way up the outside of buildings and that’s where it really belongs.

This lovely plant is toxic to people and animals – both the berries and the foliage. In humans, it usually takes a lot of the plant to cause severe symptoms, but bear in mind that children are more vulnerable because they’re small. Hanging English ivy plants are popular because they are listed in the famed NASA study that showed plants might have air-purifying benefits.

But English ivy can irritate the skin, including inside the mouth and throat for little fingers that end up in mouths. It can also cause a fever, convulsions, and rash.

In animals, it may lead to diarrhea or vomiting, weakness, trembling, difficulty breathing, or even paralysis and coma.

Don’t risk it.

4. Caladium

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Caladium is pretty but potentially poisonous to pets and humans.

Because this plant is hardy and low-maintenance, it’s no surprise it’s a popular choice for gardens.

But it’s not a good option if you have kids or animals. Caladium’s insoluble calcium oxalate crystals can cause pain in the mouth and throat, difficulty breathing, and even suffocation due to blocked airways. It can be fatal if enough is eaten and all parts of the plant are poisonous.

5. Pothos

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Pothos is super popular because it grows without much attention, so it’s a great choice for people who want a low-maintenance plant.

But the raphides and calcium oxalate in the plant cause vomiting, oral irritation, and difficulty swallowing in cats and dogs. These leaves can even cause skin irritation when touched, so keep the kiddies away from it by putting it up high if you decide to grow it in the house.

6. Philodendron

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Philodendron is another common houseplant that can be dangerous. While it looks beautiful and is easy to grow, it also produces calcium oxalate crystals. These are moderately toxic to humans and extremely dangerous for animals, especially cats.

Though humans usually only experience irritation and swelling in the mouth and intestines, children have been known to die from consuming philodendron. Dogs and cats are much more likely to suffer spasms and death.

Make sure you check the tag on your plant before you buy it – there are a few different types of philodendrons and they don’t look the same.

7. Arrowhead (Syngonium) Plant

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Also popular because it’s attractive and easy to grow, it’s yet another plant with calcium oxalate crystals.

In people, the arrowhead plant can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and irritation. One danger of the arrowhead is that it tends to shed large numbers of leaves, making it easier for a child or an animal to ingest them.

8. Dieffenbachia

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Dieffenbachia is another cousin of philodendron, and true to family form, it produces oxalate crystals. This means it causes similar, but thankfully, milder symptoms in both humans and animals.

Unlike its relatives, it’s unlikely to cause serious symptoms. That being said, it can produce severe pain in the mouth and swelling in the throat.

9. Mother-in-Law’s Tongue

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This plant earns its name from its unique, sharp leaves. Although it’s toxic to both humans and animals, it’s much less deadly than other plants.

In humans, ingestion can cause nausea and pain in the mouth. Skin contact may result in irritation.

In animals, it can prompt drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea, which can be a big problem for older pets or pets who are already sick.

10. Peace Lily

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The peace lily does not technically belong to the lily family, but true to its name, it’s toxic to animals and humans.

In humans, ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, swelling, and difficulty breathing. While peace lilies are toxic to both dogs and cats, felines are more likely to have a severe reaction. In some cases, ingestion can even lead to renal failure.

The pollen itself can be an irritant, and we know that can end up anywhere!

***

Ok, so you might be thinking that plant seems like a bad idea at this point, but there are plenty of plants you can keep safely. For starters, the popular Boston fern and spider plants are safe – and they’re pretty easy to care for!

Once again: any animals that show signs of poisoning should be taken to an emergency vet immediately. If a person has ingested a toxic plant or flower, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center. In the U.S., it can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222).

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By Jessica
hi@sbly.com
Jessica is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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