Poisonous House Plants

How to Know if a House Plant is Poisonous
...or Just Plain Irritating

Poisonous house plants should be handled with caution. Some can cause illness if eaten, and others can cause skin irritation.

Children are unlikely to eat house plants, but some brightly colored fruit may seem tempting. Call your physician immediately if your child has eaten any plant and shows signs of illness.

Cats, especially, and some dogs may play with or chew on plants. The toxic sap in poisonous house plants tastes extremely bitter and can cause a burning sensation in the mouth, so a pet is unlikely to play with them long. If your pet has eaten any of these plants and shows signs of illness such as vomiting, drooling, tremors, or any other abnormal behavior, contact your veterinarian immediately.

It's a good idea to keep your hands away from your eyes and mouth while pruning or repotting these poisonous house plants, and to wash your hands thoroughly afterward. If your skin is sensitive, I recommend wearing gloves while handling them.

Here's a round-up of the usual suspects:

  • Angel's Trumpet (Datura candida): all parts are extremely poisonous

  • Anthurium (Anthurium species): leaves cause severe burning in mouth and skin irritation

  • Arrowhead Plant (Syngonium podophyllum): sap is toxic and can cause skin irritation

  • Asparagus Fern (Asparagus densiflorus): poisonous berries

  • Calla Lily (Zantedeschia species): all parts are poisonous, especially rhizomes

  • Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium): leaves are poisonous if eaten and cause skin irritation

  • Croton (Codiaeum): poisonous sap

  • Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii): sap causes irritation in mouth and eyes

  • Cyclamen (Cyclamen species): tuberous rhizomes (roots) contain the toxin cyclamine

  • Daffodil (Narcissus): poisonous sap

  • Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia): sap causes painful swelling of mouth and throat, as well as vocal loss if eaten

  • English Ivy (Hedera helix): leaves are poisonous if eaten; sap can cause skin rash

  • False Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum capsicastrum): poisonous berries

  • Glory Lily (Gloriosa superba): all parts are extremely poisonous

  • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis): all parts are extremely poisonous

  • Oleander (Nerium oleander): all parts are extremely poisonous

  • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum): sap causes severe burning in mouth and skin irritation

  • Philodendron (Philodendron species): can cause skin irritation

  • Poison Primrose (Primula obconica): all parts can irritate sensitive skin

  • Pothos or Devil's Ivy (Epipremnum aureum): non-lethal, but causes burning sensation in mouth

  • Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta): all parts are poisonous; the seeds contain the highest amount of toxin

  • Schefflera (Schefflera species): can cause burning in mouth; skin irritation

  • Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa): leaves cause severe burning in mouth if eaten

  • ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia): all parts are poisonous

Another plant you're probably wondering about...

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is not toxic, but I wouldn't recommend eating it either (it can irritate your stomach). Poinsettia got a bad reputation because it belongs to the Euphorbia family known for its poisonous plants. So this holiday favorite has been unfairly blamed for the bad habits of its family members.



Safety Tip

Always consider house plants poisonous to eat.

It's a good idea to keep house plants out of reach of children and pets if there is a chance that they may eat or play with plants.