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Poisonous Houseplants

Can you tell me which houseplants are poisonous?

Question: Can you tell me which houseplants are poisonous? My grandchildren and their dog will be staying with me for the month of February and I am concerned about my plant collection.

Amaryllis Candy Cane

Answer: Some houseplants are considered poisonous, though their effects range from mild skin irritation should the skin come in contact with sap, to severe stomach upset and even death should the plant be eaten. Generally, large quantities of poisonous plants need to be consumed to create a severe reaction.

If you have pets and young children in the home, it's a good idea to teach them to stay away from all the houseplants, and certainly never to eat them. Depending on the child's age or the pet's trainability, you may need to temporarily move plants to an out-of-reach location or a closed room. You might explain to the children that they may admire and touch the plants when you are with them; tending houseplants is actually a great way to get kids interested in nature and gardening. They just need to be supervised.

If a person or pet ingests part of a plant and seems to show ill effects, get them medical attention. Let the doctor or vet know what kind of plant was eaten and how much. You can also contact the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 for their advice. They will need to know the name of the plant.

Here are a few of the most common houseplants that are poisonous in some or all of their parts:

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum cvs. Shown: 'Candy Cane' amaryllis)
Calla lily
Chinese evergreens (Aglaonema spp.)
Dumb cane (Dieffenbachia spp.)
English ivy (Hedera helix)
Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum spp.)

For a more detailed list, plus a list of common houseplants that are NOT poisonous, see the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension's webpage "Safe and Poisonous Houseplants."

For common poisonous garden plants, see our article "Poisonous Plants Directory."

See an index of our other online houseplant articles.

Image: public domain.

Choose safe and fun plants for children with 101 Kid-Friendly Plants: Fun Plants and Family Garden Projects.

Get help with houseplant identification and houseplant care in The Houseplant Encyclopedia or Complete Houseplants: Featuring Over 240 Easy-Care Favorites.

Get illustrated houseplant how-to articles for less than $5 with our downloadable booklets: "Houseplants" and "Houseplants II."