Poisonous Houseplants for Kids

Having children makes parents aware of the numerous dangers in the home environment. Parents of toddlers know how curious children of that are group are, so they child-proof their homes by locking cabinets, blocking outlets and keeping dangerous objects out of reach. Sometimes a parent may not know that a typical houseplant is as harmful and toxic to a child as the poisonous household chemicals that they've put under lock and key.


Commonly known as dumb cane or leopard lily, the diffenbachia (Dieffenbachia spp.) houseplant is toxic to young children. Chewing the leaves of the plant causes an immediate oral irritation that includes swelling of the tongue and burning of the mouth and throat. In some cases, speech impediments occur and may last for several days. The juice of the diffenbachia is a painful eye irritant and contact with the juice causes swelling and pain to the eye. Always wash your hands after handling a diffenbachia plant. If your child exhibits symptoms of diffenbachia poisoning, contact your physician or seek immediate medical attention.


The ceriman plant (Monstera deliciosa), more commonly known as the Swiss-cheese houseplant, is a vibrant, large-leafed plant that is a popular choice for use in containers. The leaves of the Swiss cheese plant contain calcium oxalate, which, when fed to rats and mice, proves fatal. Ingesting just a small portion of the leaf causes immediate mouth irritation, blistering and the loss of voice. If you suspect that a child has eaten part of a Swiss cheese plant, speak with the family physician or seek immediate medical attention at a hospital emergency room.


The large, colorful leaves of the caladium (Caladium x hortulanum) houseplant, also known as elephant ear, are attractive to younger children. Unfortunately, the leaves of the caladium along with the stems, are dangerous to children. Ingestion of the caladium leaf causes severe irritation of the mucous membranes and swelling of the tongue, the palate and lips occurs. There is also a possibility of upper gastrointestinal irritation. If your child has eaten any part of the caladium plant, speak to your pediatrician or take your child to the emergency room for treatment.

Castor Bean

Commonly used as a houseplant, the castor bean (Ricinus communis) plant produces a bean-like pod that contains harmful, poisonous seeds. Children who accidentally eat a castor bean seed suffer from excessive perspiration, diarrhea, nausea and stomach pain. In cases of severe poisoning children experience fainting and convulsions and in the most dire instances, ingesting a castor bean seed is fatal. Seek immediate medical attention if you think your child has eaten the pod or seeds of a castor bean plant. Parents with small children should not keep castor bean plants in the home, if they choose to do so, keep plants out of the reach of children

Keywords: children toxic houseplants, child houseplant dangers, poisonous houseplants children

About this Author

Amy Deemer has been writing since 1992. Her articles on family life and pets have appeared in the family section of "The Herald Standard" newspaper. Deemer has an Associate of Arts degree in liberal studies from Westmoreland Community college.