Harmful House Plants

Overview

House plants can brighten up even the most sterile of urban environments. However, always do your homework before you bring a new plant into your home. Even common, popular house plants sometimes contain poison that can be harmful to you, your children or your pets.

Philodendrons

Durable and easy to care for, the green, leafy philodendron is one of the most popular of all house plants. It is native to tropical regions in South America and the West Indies. Philodendrons are known for their deep green, heart-shaped leaves, but there's a dark side to these leaves. The leaves contain a poison known as calcium oxalate. Pets and small children should be kept away from the plant, as ingesting the leaves can cause inflammation of membranes in the mouth and throat. Large amounts of the plant would have to be ingested to cause a severe reaction.

Elephant Ears

Often referred to by their more common name, elephant ears, caladium leaves are also dangerous if ingested. Elephant ears are popular house plants due to the color their wide, green and pink leaves provide year round. Like philodendrons, leaves of elephant ears contain the toxin calcium oxalate. However, the poison is found in larger amounts in this plant. Reactions are more severe; in addition to irritation of the mouth and throat, vomiting and diarrhea can occur.

English Ivy

Often planted in indoor hanging baskets, English ivy is a classic vine with small, deep green leaves. Engish ivy can actually be helpful in your home, as it improves air quality by removing certain pollutants. However, if you have children who are prone to allergies, English ivy can be more trouble than it is worth. The plant contains saponins, a substance that can some people are severely allergic to. For most people, eating a leaf or part of the plant will only cause a mild upset stomach, but for people who are allergic, reactions can be far more severe and may warrant a trip to the emergency room.

Hydrangea

Growing hydrangea plants inside in planters and large pots has become a tradition for many families during the winter months. With their colorful clusters of blooms, hydrangeas are a lovely addition to any home. Accidental ingestion of the leaves, roots or flower buds can cause serious health problems. The plant contains a cyanide-like poison, hydragin, that can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, labored breathing and diarrhea. If you or anyone else ingests parts of a hydrangea plant, contact your local poison control center immediately.

Easter Lily

Often kept in homes in the spring, the Easter lily is a lovely symbol of rebirth. It's richly green, stalk-like stems and sturdy, cone-shaped white flowers have become annual reminders of peace and the joys of spring. The plant is not harmful to humans, but homeowners with pets, be warned. Easter lilies are highly toxic to cats. Once ingested, cats will begin to vomit, lose their appetite and in a very short time, they may become lethargic.

References

  • Gardening From the Ground Up: Posionous House Plants
  • Blankees: Houseplants Purify Air But Can Also be Dangerous
Keywords: harmful house plants, dangerous house plants, toxins in house plants

About this Author

Lacey Roop's articles have been printed in various print magazines such as "UpCountry" where she was a feature writer for four years. She has written pieces for "Bluegrass Now" where her work graced the cover on two occasions. Lacey has a BA in English and has been writing professionally since 2003.

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