Houseplants: Safe and Toxic Varieties

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Many homes contain houseplants or other natural materials to add beauty and interest to the décor. Not only are they attractive but many varieties of houseplants serve as indoor air cleaners as well. Lovely and functional as they may be, some houseplants may present a hazard especially if young children or pets share the household.

A toxic plant is one that contains a chemical substance which produces a harmful reaction in the body of humans or animals when taken in small or moderate amounts. A harmful reaction could include allergic reactions, dermatitis or skin irritation, of internal poisoning. Allergic reactions are not always classified as poisoning and will not be treated as such here. This is because there is a wide range of plants that can cause allergic reactions, and sensitivity to a plant varies among individuals. Also, individuals can react in different ways after contact with a toxic plant depending on their sensitivity level.

It is important that houseplant owners be aware of the potential problems that plants with toxic properties might cause.

  • Be aware of the identity of your houseplants and learn if they pose potential threats to children and pets.
  • If you cannot identify a houseplant, call your local Extension Center or the Home and Garden Education Center for assistance.
  • It is also important to realize that many plants need to be consumed in considerable quantities for poisoning to occur. Often toxic plants taste bitter or acrid and children and pets may not ingest large amounts.
  • Young children, especially, should be taught not to put unknown plants or plant parts in their mouths.
  • Any plant may cause a reaction in certain people.
  • If a plant is eaten, remove the rest from the mouth and rinse the mouth with water.
  • If a houseplant or natural decoration is ingested by children or pets and poisoning is suspected, call your family doctor, nearest emergency room or veterinarian immediately.
  • The number for the National Poison Center is (800) 222-1222. They can tell you if a plant is toxic and what symptoms might be expected with a particular toxin. You will need to provide them with the identity of the plant, however.

The following is a list of plants considered toxic.

Remember that plants may contain a variety of poisons. They may cause symptoms ranging from a mild stomach ache to serious heart and kidney problems.

Common Name  Latin Name       
Amaryllis  Hippeastrum spp.
Anthurium Anthurium spp.
Apricot kernels Prunus armeniaca
Azaleas   Rhododendron spp
Caladium Caladium bicolor
Calla Lily Calla palustrus
Chinese Evergreen  Aglaonema spp.
Colchicum  Colcicum autumnale
Daffodil Narcissus spp.
Dumb Cane  Dieffenbachia spp.
Elephant’s Ear Colocasia antiquorum
English Ivy Hedera helix
Fishtail Palm Caryota spp.
Holly Berries Ilex spp.
Hyacinth Hyacinthus orientalis
Jerusalem Cherry Solanum pseudocapsicum              
Lantana Lantana camara
Mistletoe  Phoradendron villosum
Mountain laurel
(holiday greens)
Kalmia spp.
Oleander   Nerium oleander
Philodendron Philodendron spp.
Ranunculus Ranunculus spp.
Rosary Pea Abrus precatorius
Schefflera  Schefflera actinophylla
Spathiphyllum Spathiphyllum spp.
Yew (holiday greens)         Taxus spp. 
ZZ Plant Zamioculcas zamifolia

Plants listed below are considered safe and not toxic.

Although eating or touching these plants is unlikely to cause illness, any plant might cause a reaction in certain sensitive individuals.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Common Name                Latin name
African daisy                Dimorphotheca aurantiaca
African Violet Saintpaulia ionantha
Aluminum Plant Pilea spp.
Baby's Tears Soleiria soleirolii
Bamboo, Golden Phyllostachys aurea
Bird of Paradise Strelitzia reginae
Bird's Nest Fern Asplenium nidus
Boston Fern Nephrolepis exaltata
Camellia Camellia sinensis
Cast Iron Plant Aspidistra elatior
Christmas Cactus Schlumbergera bridgesii
Coleus Coleus hybridus
Corn Plant Dracaena sp.
Donkey's tail Sedum morganianum
Dracaena Dracaena spp.
Echeveria Echeveria spp.
Figs; Weeping & Fiddleleaf** Ficus spp.
Geraniums Pelargonium spp.
Goldfish Plant Columnea spp.
Impatiens Impatiens wallerana
Jade Plant Crassula argentea
Japanese Aralia Fatsia japonica
Kalanchoe Kalanchoe spp.
Lipstick Plant Aeschynanthus spp.
Maidenhair Fern Adiantum spp.
Nerve Plant Fittonia spp.
Orchids Cattleya, Epidendrum, Oncidium, Paphiopedilum spp.
Norfolk Island Pine           Araucaria heterophylla
Palms                                        Palmae
(most non-toxic except
Fishtail Palm, Caryota spp. )
Peperomia Peperomia spp.
Piggyback plant** Tolmiea mensziesii
Poinsettia** Euphorbia pulcherrima
Prayer Plant Maranta leuconeura
Purple Passion Plant Gynura aurantiaca
Sensitive Plant Mimosa puddica
Surinam Cherry Eugenia uniflora
Swedish Ivy Plectranthus spp.
Wandering Jew Tradescantia spp.
Wax Plant Hoya carmosa
Zebra Plant Aphelandra squarrosa

**sap may be irritating.    



A Guide to House Plant Poisoning, Prevention and Treatment, University of Utah Health Sciences Center, Salt Lake City Utah, 2000.

Barkley, Shelley. Poisonous House Plants, Government of Alberta Canada, 2005.$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/webdoc1376

Revised by UConn Home and Garden Education Center 2016.