What are the Different Types of Poisonous House Plants?

wiseGEEK Writer

Plants have a number of defenses that help them survive, and one of these is to produce toxins that make them distasteful to animals. Thus a number of house plants and garden plants can be mildly to severely poisonous. The risk of poisonous house plants is greatest to the smallest home dwellers, like children or pets, who may not be aware that they shouldn’t put leaves, flowers, or buds in their mouths and who have fewer reserves to fight toxins in their bodies. It’s a good idea to know the names of some of the plants that pose the greatest risk, and to choose plants that are either completely safe or possess lower toxic potential.

Some types of ivy can be poisonous when ingested by animals or young children.
Some types of ivy can be poisonous when ingested by animals or young children.

Poisonous house plants exist on a scale, instead of all being equally dangerous. Some plants make people sick, but don’t pose risk of fatality. A few of the most dangerous poisonous house plants should always be avoided in homes where pets or children live or visit. One of the most serious of these is mistletoe, which is used for decoration around the holidays, and which, if ingested, may result in heart failure.

Oleanders are beautiful but toxic, and can be dangerous in an indoor setting.
Oleanders are beautiful but toxic, and can be dangerous in an indoor setting.

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English ivy is another plant that many people have in homes, and it has the potential to cause seizures and comas, or more rarely, severe dermatitis. Oleander, a flowering plant, is usually grown outside. It’s not advised as an indoor plant because it is potentially one of the most toxic plants available, associated with fatality if ingestion of enough leaves or flowers occurs.

English ivy may cause seizures and comas.
English ivy may cause seizures and comas.

Though less potentially deadly, some other poisonous house plants that shouldn’t be in homes with kids or pets include any species of caladium, aloe vera, holly, ficus, philodendron, pothos, Jerusalem cherry, cardboard palms, philodendrons, and poinsettias. Though poinsettias are most likely to cause nausea and vomiting and less likely to be fatal, they still deserve classification as a poisonous plant.

Many ferns are considered non-toxic.
Many ferns are considered non-toxic.

Many people enjoy having a variety of flowering plants in their homes. Some of these make the list of poisonous house plants. In general, home gardeners should consider avoiding daffodils, azaleas or rhododendrons, hydrangea, amaryllis, and most lilies. Of these plants, oleander, daffodils, and amaryllis appear to pose the most problems.

It’s useful to focus on lists of plants that are deemed safe, though ingestion of soil laden with chemicals can cause illness. On the other hand, non-toxic plants that are securely placed could provide people with plenty of oxygen and lots of beautiful greenery or flowers to survey. Some plants to consider include the following: African violets, baby’s tears, impatiens, hibiscus, Boston fern, roses, snapdragons, Swedish ivy, piggyback plant, polka dot plant, maidenhair fern and many others.

Despite the fact these are rated non-toxic, people should still be cautious and treat any ingestion of plant material as problematic. They’re advised to contact poison control with the name of the plant to get advice. If a child or pet seems to be very ill, parents or pet owners should seek emergency help.

Hydrangea, which is poisonous.
Hydrangea, which is poisonous.

Discussion Comments


@heavanet- While I don't think that jade plants are as poisonous to animals as those mentioned in this article, I certainly don't think that they should be allowed to chew on them. I've heard that a pet that makes a habit of eating the leaves can develop health issues over time.


I have heard that succulent plants like jades are also potentially poisonous to animals. Does anyone know whether or not this is true?


The problem with having both house plants and pets is that dogs and cats are often attracted to them with the urge to chew them. This is natural, since animals often crave greens. Keeping safe plants around, like catnip, gives pets something safe to chew.

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