10 Toxic Common Houseplants Harmful to Children and Pets
Quite possibly one of the most popular house plants, the lovely philodendron is easy to grow. While it is often the perfect complement to any room, it contains calcium oxalate crystals, which are toxic to humans and animals.
The philodendron may be vining or non-vining. It is very important to keep vining plants hung well out of reach of children or pets and to keep tendrils and leaves trimmed. Non-vining plants should be kept on high window sills or shelves.
Humans: In humans, even small children, ingesting philodendron usually has only mild side effects, including a dermatitis reaction and the swelling of the mouth and digestive tract. In rare cases or after ingesting large amounts, there have been fatalities in children.
Cats and Dogs: Philodendron has a much more serious effect on pets, with reports of spasms, seizures, pain, and swelling. It seems to be more toxic to cats.
Pothos Ivy, also called Devil’s Ivy, is recommended for its beautiful variegated leaves, forgiving nature, and air purification abilities. In fact, it is cited as one of the best plants for removing impurities from the air.
It is also easy to propagate from cuttings. Because of this, many people receive these as starter plants or housewarming gifts. They then go on to have several plants rooted from the parent plant.
Pothos is considered to be only mildly harmful in small quantities, but can produce uncomfortable and sometimes serious side effects in animals and people.
Humans: Burning of the mouth, skin irritation, swelling of lips, tongue, and throat, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Cats and Dogs: Drooling, choking, swelling of mouth and tongue, difficulty breathing, and stomach upset. Can lead to renal failure and/or death.
3. Arrowhead Plant
This plant is related to the philodendron and is also easy to care for. It is commonly mixed in dish gardens with other plants that require similar care. Many people receive arrowhead plants as gifts.
Young plants appear bushy with heart-shaped leaves. Older plants produce climbing stems and arrowhead-shaped leaves.
The leaves are constantly shedding and being regrown, so even if this plant is out of reach, it is a good idea to check often for fallen leaves.
Humans and animals: Irritated skin, stomach upset, vomiting.
4. Lily (and Plants called Lilies)
Few flowers are as beautiful as lilies. From the elegant curved bloom of the calla lily to the seasonal favorite, the Easter lily, these colorful plants are popular indoors and out.
Not all lilies are toxic, and some are more toxic to animals, especially cats, than to humans. If you are aren’t certain what type of lily you have, err on the side of caution and keep lilies either out of reach indoors, or planted away from play areas outdoors.
The more toxic varieties include:
- Calla Lily (which can be fatal to children)
- Easter Lily
- Rubrum Lily
- Tiger Lily
- Day Lily
- Asian Lily
Different lilies will produce different symptoms in pets or humans. Cats are more susceptible to lily poisoning than dogs.
Humans: Stomach upset, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, and skin irritation.
Cats: All parts of the plant are thought to be toxic. Symptoms will include vomiting, lethargy, and lack of appetite. Renal and liver failure could occur and, if not treated, lead to death.
5. Peace Lily
The peace lily, or Spathiphyllum, is not a member of the Liliaceae family, and therefore not a true lily. There are many varieties of peace lily, with the “Mauna Loa” lily being one of the most common indoor ornamentals.
It is an evergreen perennial from South America with glossy leaves and a unique white bloom that rises from a central stalk. They are shade-loving plants, which makes them ideal for apartments and rooms with little sunlight.
They are also excellent air purifiers. Like philodendrons and pothos, however, they can cause painful symptoms and sometimes death if ingested by humans or animals.
Humans: Burning and swelling of lips, mouth, and tongue, difficulty speaking or swallowing, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea.
Cats and dogs: Information regarding the toxicity of peace lilies is somewhat conflicting, but it is listed on all animal safety sites, including the ASPCA’s as toxic to dogs and cats. Symptoms are recorded as burning mouth, excessive salivation, diarrhea, dehydration, lack of appetite, and vomiting. Left untreated, peace-lily poisoning could lead to renal failure.
The Dieffenbachia is also called dumb cane. This plant is related to the philodendron and contains the same oxalate crystals. Dieffenbachia has thick stems and fleshy leaves that are usually solid green, with the occasional yellow or green markings.
Dumb cane is more likely to be ingested since the large plants are usually kept in pots on the floor or low pedestals. Unlike philodendron, dieffenbachia ingestion usually produces only mild to moderate symptoms in both humans and pets.
Humans and animals: Extreme pain in the mouth, salivation, burning sensation, and swelling and numbing of the throat.
Nerium oleander looks delicate and innocent, but is so toxic that even ingesting honey made from its nectar can produce symptoms.
Deaths in adult humans have been reported with as little as one leaf eaten, but the majority of deaths occur when very large amounts are ingested. Children are more susceptible and should be kept away from Oleander plants.
Humans: Arrhythmia, dizziness, and tremors.
Cats and Dogs: Arrhythmia, vomiting, and cold extremities.
Caladiums are another South American bulb plant with long-lasting foliage. They are popular as houseplants or for outside landscaping. They are also commonly known a elephant’s ears and angel’s Wings.
Caladiums provide a variety of colors, including red, pink, and white, which makes them an attractive addition to collections of greenery. They grow well in low light, and can sometimes be forced to produce interesting blooms similar to those of the calla lily.
All parts of the caldadium are considered toxic to humans and animals.
Humans: Symptoms after ingestion can include: painful burning and swelling of the mouth, tongue, lips and throat, difficulty breathing, speaking, and swallowing, and possible blocked airways that can lead to death.
Cats and dogs: Nausea, vomiting, staggering, head shaking, drooling, and difficulty breathing.
9. Snake Plant
The snake plant, has leathery, sword-like leaves that earned the plant its sharp name. The foliage is a mottled or variegated green with hints of white, yellow, and silver.
Humans: The toxicity level is low, producing short-lasting symptoms such as mouth pain, salivation, and some nausea. In rare instances, it can produce a dermatological reaction, but is mainly toxic only if ingested.
Cats and dogs: It can cause excessive salivation, pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
10. English Ivy
The English Ivy is a charming sight when it creeps over stone or brick walls or creates cool, lush carpeting beneath trees. Indoors, ivy is hung from baskets creating a romantic, cascading showpiece.
Ivy is used in holiday decor as wreaths and centerpieces. Ivy not only serves as beautiful and traditional decoration but also removes airborne fecal-matter particles from the air, making it a wonderful asset for homes with pets.
Humans: Ivy can cause severe skin irritation. Ingestion can cause burning in the mouth and throat, stupor, convulsions, fever, and rash. Usually symptoms are only severe if large amounts of the plant are eaten.
Cats and dogs: Diarrhea, hyperactivity, gasping breaths, weakness, tremors, staggering, and vomiting.
The purpose of this article is to alert home owners to potentially toxic plants, not to replace medical advice or treatment. For more specific and detailed information on different symptoms of plant poisoning in humans and pets, kindly contact your local general practitioner.