Are Your Houseplants Safe?
by Lesley Dietschy
There is nothing more attractive and cheerful than a room
filled with healthy green houseplants. They offer aesthetics
to the interior of our homes, improve indoor air quality,
and often provide emotional satisfaction to the caregiver
in getting the plant to bloom or produce new growth. However,
did you know that plant exposures are some of the most
frequent poisonings reported to poison control centers?
There are more than 700 species of poisonous plants in
the United States and many of these can be found around
the home. According to the American Association of Poison
Control, poisonous plants are among the three most common
causes of accidental poisoning in children under 5 years
Some or all parts of a plant can be poisonous including
the roots, stems, berries or even the nectar and pollen.
There are several chemical compounds capable of poisoning
that can be found in a variety of plants. Chemicals concentrated
in the cells of roots, leaves, bark and seeds serve as
the plants defense against insects and animal attacks.
Some of these compounds can be toxic, especially if ingested
or touched by humans.
The word poisonous generates many kinds of
reactions and the majority of them are non life-threatening.
Among the key effects of poisonous plants are allergic
reactions (caused by spores, pollen, or naturally occurring
volatile compounds emitted into the air by plants), skin
rash or dermatitis (caused by direct or indirect contact
with allergenic or irritant compounds), and internal poisonings
or irritations (caused from ingesting plants or plant
There are many houseplants which are perfectly safe to
grow and others which appear harmless but are toxic and
dangerous. It is important to be as knowledgeable as possible
about the plants you have growing in your home. According
to the Washington Poison Center, the following houseplants
(listed by common name) are considered safe and non-toxic,
but still should not be ingested:
Birds Nest Fern
Cast Iron plant
Pink Polka-dot plant
Purple Velvet plant
The Washington Poison Center reports the following houseplants
(by common name) to have some level of toxicity and therefore
are considered to be toxic and/or poisonous. Also listed
are the parts of the plant that can be toxic and what
effects it has on humans if ingested.
Caladium: a showy plant with variegated, heart-shaped
leaves. The whole plant is injurious and causes irritation
to the lips, mouth, and throat if ingested. This plant
can also be dangerous for animals if ingested.
Calla Lily: a flowering plant with smooth-edged arrow-shaped
leaves which grow on long stalks. The leaves are toxic
and cause intense burning of the lips and mouth if ingested.
Contact dermatitis is also common.
Devils Ivy: a climbing vine with large heart-shaped
leaves that are usually streaked with yellow. The whole
plant is toxic and causes a burning sensation in the mouth
when eaten and dermatitis when touched.
Dumb Cane: tall, erect plants with large oblong leaves
splotched with ivory markings. The leaves are toxic and
chewing on the leaves produces immediate and intense pain
followed by swelling of the mouth.
Jerusalem Cherry: an ornamental houseplant that has bright
red berries about the size of cherries. The leaves and
berries are toxic and causes a burning sensation in the
mouth and throat, followed by gastric irritation and fever
Philodendron: climbing vines with aerial roots and heart-shaped
leaves. The leaves are toxic and cause painful burning
of the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat if ingested. Contact
dermatitis is also common and can be dangerous to animals
Children under the age of six are at the greatest risk
for accidental poisoning. They are curious by nature and
often investigate their surroundings by putting things
in their mouths. Obviously, the best prevention of plant
poisonings is to teach your child to avoid the plants
that are dangerous to touch and to resist the urge to
taste even the most tasty looking berries and sweet smelling
flowers. Below are five more suggestions to help you and
your family avoid possible plant poisonings:
1. Learn the names (common and scientific) of all plants
in your home, garden, and landscaping and know which ones
are poisonous. Make a list of these plants and keep it
handy in case of an accidental poisoning.
2. Put all poisonous houseplants out of the reach of children
3. Stored labeled bulbs and seeds out of the reach of
children and pets.
4. Do not use flowers or other plant materials for food
decorations or in cooking unless they are labeled edible.
5. Dont assume a plant is safe because birds or
other wildlife eat it.
No matter how careful we are, accidents can and do happen.
It is important to place the Poison Control Hotline phone
number (800-222-1222) near the telephone so you can reach
them quickly in the event of an accidental poisoning.
To better assist the poison experts, you will need the
common and/or scientific name of the plant in question.
If at any time you are in doubt about a particular houseplant,
take it to your local nursery or garden center for identification
and what possible toxic characteristics the plant may
have. Finally, the above lists name just a few of the
non-toxic and toxic plants that exist today. You should
consult the appropriate reference books or poisonous plant
guides for a complete list. To research non-toxic and
toxic plants on the internet, visit www.poison.org or
About the Author
Lesley Dietschy is the creator/editor of The Home Decor
Exchange, a popular home decor, garden decor, and home
improvement website. Please visit the website for quality
resources, articles, ideas, tips, decorating pictures,
free projects, and much more. The website also has a shopping
marketplace and a unique Gallery featuring Pine Needle
Baskets and Gourd Art. http://www.HomeDecorExchange.com
How To Use Hedges In
by Paul Curran
A hedge that is well kept and attractive can do much for
your grounds. Used in the front of the house and on the
sides of your lot, hedges are a barrier against traffic,
noise and all things unsightly; at the same time they
enhance the proportions and general appearance of your
house and lawns. And within the boundaries of your property,
hedges define paths and walks, demarcate various areas,
and help to screen service areas and vegetable gardens.