Houseplants provide a naturally beautiful décor option for the home. Bright happy Daffodils, flowering bountiful Peace Lilies and sweet Lily of the Valley add a pop of color and a splash of whimsy to a room. However, these same plants also can be dangerous when left in places that are accessible to children and pets.
While many houseplants are non-toxic and safe for both humans and furry friends, other plants and flowers are toxic and can cause reactions ranging from mild stomach upset to death. When integrating plants and flowers into home décor, education about plants and their toxicity is imperative for parents and pet owners.
The easiest solution means playing it safe by ensuring that all houseplants are non-toxic. This eases the stress within the household and allows for plants to be placed anywhere and everywhere---although dogs, cats and curious toddlers might pluck a leaf for tasting!
However, if limiting plant selection isn’t an option, parents of kids and pets must ensure that plants that pose a health hazard are safely out of reach. Hanging baskets can easily be perched from the ceiling to display favorite plants.
Unfortunately, even the highest point of the house can be accessed by a stealthy toddler, curious child or lithe cat, which can jump to almost any height. Childproofing and pet-proofing is vital for the safety of kids and pets.
For parents and pet owners who wish to eliminate the risk of poisonous plants in the home, here is a list of the plants that should be avoided as well as the dangers they pose to health:
Amaryllis: According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), ingesting parts of the Amaryllis can cause all types of issues including vomiting, diarrhea, stomach issues, anorexia and depression. The plant is also toxic to humans.
Daffodils: The popular spring/Easter flower is also poisonous to both children and pets. According to the National Capital Poison Center, Eating the bulb can cause skin irritation. Eating the petals or other parts of the plant can cause digestive irritation like vomiting, diarrhea and nausea.
Peace Lily: Used as an indoor plant, the Peace Lily causes digestive irritation in pets, mouth irritation and even swelling of the mouth and throat (which can disrupt breathing, according to the Pet Poison Hotline). In humans, the Peace Lily can cause irritation of the mouth.
Elephant Ear: Kids and pets love those huge ear-like leaves. Children love to pluck them for play and fanning, while pets like to chew them. Beware of the Elephant Ear! The entire plant is a hazard and can cause pain and swelling in the mouth and throat.
English Ivy: Commonly used as a decorative plant for its flowing vine of leaves, English Ivy is poisonous to cats and dogs. Eating the plant will cause typical digestive upset like vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach issues. Drooling is also common.
Mistletoe: Yes, the holidays are a long way off, but it’s always important to reiterate the toxicity and hazards of real Mistletoe. The Pet Poison Hotline warns that ingesting mistletoe can cause diarrhea, vomiting, hypotension, seizures and even death. For kids, mistletoe berries can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Be safe and use artificial mistletoe for decorative purposes!
If parents suspect that their child has ingested any part of a plant, they should call their local Poison Control hotline. Pet owners should contact their vet or the Pet Poison Hotline regarding any plant-related poisoning or related issues.
For more information about toxic plants and flowers, check out this comprehensive online guide.
Looking for a list of non-toxic plants? Mom.me listed the best houseplants for kids and pets. Love Elephant Ears? Try the safer version…the Zebra Plant. Ferns, African Violets and the Spider Plant also made the cut!
When flowers and greenery are used for home décor, parents and pet owners should research the safest choices for kids and pets. If you’re absolutely desperate to hold onto a plant that poses a health hazard, always store it out of reach of little hands and curious paws. However, no place is completely out of reach, so err on the side of caution when possible.
Hilary Smith is a freelance journalist based out of Chicago. Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary attended St. Stephen's Episcopal School and Northwestern University's school of journalism. Upon graduation, she turned her love of technology into a freelance writing career. After becoming a mother, she began focusing on writing about family and parenting in the digital age.