Beyond the benefit of having houseplants to improve the quality of air in your home is the risk that some houseplants pose to children. Many common houseplants contain toxins that cause various adverse reactions if ingested. While we may select plants for their attractive foliage and flowers, we should include whether they are toxic or non-toxic to our characteristics list. According to Cincinnati's Children's Hospital Medical Center, we should all be able to identify poisonous plants in our homes and around our yards, and we must educate our children about toxic houseplants.
The entire flamingo lily plant is poisonous. Flamingo lily (Anthurium andraeanum) is also known as painter's palette and oil cloth flower. Calcium oxalate is the poisonous agent in this plant. Since its poison is so strong, it is difficult to even ingest this plant, but it will cause mouth and throat irritation.
The leaves and stalks of chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum spp.), or mums, contain the poisonous agent alantolactone. Contact with these parts may cause severe skin irritation.
The exotic, tropical appearance of this plant is hard to turn up as a houseplant candidate, but its leaves, bark, roots and latex are poisonous. The toxic agents in crotons are diterpene esters. Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) is toxic if eaten in large quantities, according to North Carolina State University. Minor skin irritation can also result with contact.
Despite its seasonal popularity, the leaves, stems and latex of this plant are poisonous. The toxic agent in poinsettia is diterpene esters that occur in a milk-like latex. Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), also known as flame leaf flower and lobster flower, may cause dermatitis, nausea and vomiting.
For generations, hydrangeas have been favored for the bold presentation of their large flower clusters, but their buds and leaves are poisonous. The poisonous agent in hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) is hydragin, which may cause dermatitis, abdominal pains, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing; in severe cases it may cause lethargy or coma.
One of the easiest house plants to maintain, several varieties of philodendrons (Philodendron spp.) are poisonous. Calcium oxalate is the poisonous agent in this plant. The leaves and juices of these house plants cause dermatitis with itching and swelling. Ingestion can cause swelling and burning of the mouth, tongue and throat.
All of the parts of the azalea plant have some toxicity. Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) are a favorite house plant that blooms pink, white, lavender or red flowers in the spring. Azaleas contain andromedotoxins, toxins that cause salivation, burning, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, slow heart rate, low blood pressure and vision impairment, according to the University of Pennsylvania.