Danger Alert: Hazardous Houseplants

When you’re setting up your living space, houseplants are a natural consideration. After all, they add living greenery to your rooms, and many of them help clean indoor air. However, if you have pets and/or small children, they can be poisoned if they ingest certain houseplants. Cats love grass-like plants, and dogs may pull an entire plant out of its pot and chew it up. Small children tend to put leaves, berries, and flowers into their mouths.

Generally speaking, a rather large amount of a poisonous plant needs to be ingested for it to cause harm; but small animals and children under three are more vulnerable to smaller amounts of poisons.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to educate yourself as to which plants may pose a threat. Here is a list of some of the more toxic houseplants. If you have any of these, there may not necessarily be a need to throw them away or give them to neighbors without small children or pets. Just make sure the plants are out of the reach of your smaller household occupants. If that’s not possible, then you will probably want to get rid of them.

1. Elephant’s Ear (Colocasia antiquorum)

This pretty houseplant contains a toxin called calcium oxalate, which is a mouth and throat irritant. Depending on the amount ingested, elephant’s ear can result in significant swelling of the mouth and throat. Digestive upset from stomach pain to diarrhea are possible effects of ingestion, too.

2. Schefflera (Schefflera actinophylla)

This favorite of offices is also touted as an air cleaner. However, ingestion of schefflera can cause kidney failure in both animals and people. The resin that these plants sometimes secrete is also toxic, making it a potential hazard for crawling babies and dogs (that lick things up off the floor) in particular.

3. Oleander (Nerium oleander)

Not everyone grows this indoors; it’s most often seen outdoors in warm climates. But those who live in cooler climates do sometimes grow oleander in pots and move it indoors when the weather gets cold. Experts warn that ingesting oleander can be fatal to small children and pets.

4. Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum)

Easter lily should be of particular concern for cat owners. It can cause vomiting and lethargy when ingested by cats, and may even cause kidney failure.

5. Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia spp)

This aptly-named plant is said to cause a person to become mute if it’s chewed. This is probably due to the swelling and inflammation it causes in the throat, mouth, and digestive system.

This is only a partial list. Do your research and if you have these or any other toxic plants in your home, be sure they are safe from children and pets.

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