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Identifying a Poisonous Houseplant

Do you have a poisonous houseplant lurking in your living room? Chances are you do. You may be surprised to learn that several popular decorative houseplants are in fact toxic for young children.

The easiest way to identify a poisonous houseplant is to see a photo of it. Here are some houseplant pictures to aid you in your identification.

aloe vera houseplant Aloe Vera
Aloe barbadensis

Beware: juice

The yellow juice is helpful in healing burns and cuts as well as helping purge the bowels. However, the juice can also cause dermititis in children with more sensitive skin.

{photo by randomidea}

angel's trumpet houseplant Angel's Trumpet or Thorn Apple
Datura innoxia

Beware: everything

This poisonous houseplant may have beautiful flowers, but it has proven deadly if ingested to humans and pets. Symptoms of poisoning include spasmodic movement, coma, drowsiness, hallucination, and elevated temperature.

{photo by Charles and Clint}

angel's wings houseplant Angel's Wings
Caladium x hortulanum

Beware: everything

Ingestion of any part of this common houseplant can cause severe irritation to the mouth, throat, and digestive system.

azalea houseplant Azalea
Rhododendron species

Beware: everything

The azalea has a lower toxicity level than other plants, but is still dangerous if ingested. The flowers can fall on the ground, get picked up by little fingers, and then chewed on.

{photo by Joe Shlabotnik}

croton houseplant Croton
Codiaeum variegatum

Beware: bark, roots, juice, leaves

This plant has beautiful and unique leaves, making it a popular houseplant choice. The juice has been known to cause eczema after repeat exposure. Chewing will cause burning in the mouth.

{photo by Carl E Lewis}

mother of thousands houseplant Devil's Backbone or Mother-of-Thousands
Kalanchoe daigremontiana

Beware: leaves and stems

This plant produces multiple plantlets along the base, grown from the edges of fallen leaves. These plantlets contain a toxin that was deadly to chicks and mice. To remain safe, don't let your baby explore this plant with her fingers and mouth.

{photo by sarcozona}

dumbcane houseplant Dumbcane
Dieffenbachia species

Beware: everything

This is a very popular species of houseplant. The mouth and throat will immediately and painfully swell if the leaves are chewed. The juice also causes intense pain and swelling if accidently sprayed into the eyes.

{photo by bingregory}

english ivy houseplant

English Ivy
Hedera Helix

Beware: leaves

If ingested, the leaves will cause difficulty in breathing, convulsions, vomiting, paralysis and coma. In rare occasions, dermatitis can occur with slowly healing open blisters.

{photo by stuttermonkey}

Houseplant Photo Flamingo Lily Flamingo Lily or Painter's Palette
Anthurium andraeanum

Beware: everything

When a child attempts to chew this plant, he will quickly receive painful irritation in his mouth and throat. Look for blisters, difficulty in swallowing, and hoarseness as a sign of poisoning.

Houseplant Photo Heart Leaf Philodendron Heart Leaf Philodendron
Philodendron cordatum

Beware: leaves, juices

This is another extremely popular houseplant. Chewing the leaves creates burning and swelling of the mouth. There is at least one case of an infant dying as a result of eating the leaves of this plant. Any plant of the philodendron species should be kept out of reach by children.

hydrangea houseplant Hydrangea
Hydrangea macrophylla

Beware: leaves, flower buds

This popular poisonous houseplant is known for its beautiful large flowers. Eating the flower buds produces vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, labored breathing lethargy, and in some cases, a coma. Sensitive children may contract dermatitis from touching the leaves.

{photo by MShades}

jerusalem cherry houseplant Jerusalem Cherry
Solanum pseudocapsicum

Beware: berries, leaves

This houseplant is identified by its colorful berries. Children who eat moderate amounts of berries or leaves may experience abdominal pains, diarrhea, severe abdominal cramping, and vomiting.

{photo by wikipedia}

monstera houseplant Swiss-Cheese Plant or Split-Leaf Philodendron
Monstera deliciosa

Beware: leaves

If chewed, the leaves will cause loss of voice, blistering of the mouth, and hoarseness. Sensitive children who ingest the fruit may exhibit an allergic disorder that causes itchy patches of skin to swell with water.

{photo by ewen and donabel}

mums houseplant Mums
Chrysanthemum species

Beware: leaves and stalks

Sensitive children may contract dermatitis if they touch this plant frequently.

{photo by KaCey97007}

If your little one shows signs of ingesting one of the plants above, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-815-8855 immediately for instructions.

Regardless of whether your plants are poisonous, I strongly encourage limiting your baby's access to them. Unless, of course, you don't mind vacuuming spilled dirt over and over again as he explores his indoor jungle!

Keep your plants baby safe by:

  • installing gates on rooms with lots of plants
  • keeping vines high enough off the floor to avoid getting pulled on
  • not using small decorative stones as potted ground cover
  • avoiding fertilizer sticks or other feeding mechanisms that can be pulled out and sucked on

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This is not an exhaustive list of every poisonous houseplant. As a safe rule, I would contact the Center if your child ingests any plant, either outside or inside, that you are not sure is edible. In fact, program that number (1-800-815-8855) into your home and cell phone for quick access in an emergency.

If you discover you have a poisonous houseplant, take steps to keep it out if our baby's way. If you are really uncomfortable about having it in your home, you can give it away or ask a friend to "plant-sit" until your baby is old enough to avoid them.

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