These species, as pretty as they are, should be grown with a little extra caution. If you're aware of their toxicity, you can make sure to handle them more carefully.

By Deb Wiley
Updated September 17, 2020
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There are dozens of gorgeous houseplants that you can grow, but a few happen to contain chemicals that can have unpleasant or even deadly effects. Poisonous houseplants can cause skin irritations, stomach upsets, and burning of the mouth and throat. Some plants are more toxic than others, and the good news is that most would need to be swallowed in large quantities to cause any real damage. But still, if you have curious children and pets who may want to chew or crush plants, either avoid growing these varieties or take special care to put them in a safe place where they can't be reached.

If you suspect that a child or pet has been poisoned by eating or touching a houseplant, call your doctor or veterinarian, go to an emergency room, or call the 24-hour National Capital Poison Center at 800-222-1222.

Credit: Adam Albright


Planning on forcing bulbs indoors? Many spring bulbs, including hyacinths and daffodils forced for indoor blooms, are toxic if eaten by humans or pets. Eating the bulbs (which can be mistaken for shallots or onions) can cause intense stomach problems, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and even death. Make sure you keep daffodils up on a counter or shelf where they won't be disturbed or try growing them in a terrarium.

Growing Conditions: indirect light with consistently moist soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Buy It: 'Tahiti' daffodil bulbs ($14, Burpee)

Credit: Jacob Fox


Dieffenbachia selections grow in low-light conditions and add a tropical vibe to decor. It's earned one of its common names, dumb cane, because of the symptoms that occur when it's eaten. The sap causes the tongue to burn and swell, enough to block off air to the throat. It can be fatal to both humans and pets if ingested in large amounts. There are tons of stylish plant stands available in stores that will help you keep this plant off the ground if you've got crawling babies and small dogs around.

Growing Conditions: Bright, indirect light to low light and allow soil to dry out to an inch below the surface between waterings

Size: Up to 5 feet tall

Buy It: Costa Farms dieffenbachia plant ($40, The Home Depot)

Credit: Dean Schoeppner


This flower's scent is unmistakable and the pure white blooms are eye-catching. Although they're beautiful, cats have been known to suffer serious illness after eating Easter lilies. Eating small amounts of any part of the plant can lead to a cat's death from kidney failure if not treated by a veterinarian within 18 hours. The plant is not poisonous to children.

Growing Conditions: Bright, indirect light and water when the soil is dry to the touch

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Buy It: Easter lily bulbs ($10, Caribbean Garden Seed)

Credit: Jacob Fox


These plants are the perfect go-to vine to have draping from a bookshelf or indoor container garden. Large quantities of English ivy must be ingested to cause serious problems, but all parts of English ivy can cause symptoms that include skin irritation, burning throat (after eating the berries), fever, and rash. Because ivy tends to trail, set it somewhere high off the ground, out of reach of children and pets.

Growing Conditions: Bright to medium light and keep the soil consistently moist

Size: Vines can reach up to 6 feet indoors

Buy It: Variegated English ivy ($8, Etsy)

Credit: Blaine Moats


popular low-light houseplant, the peace lily is toxic only if large quantities of the leaves are eaten. Enjoy the dark green leaves and white flowers from afar, like atop a bookshelf, if you have pets or young children. As it ages, a peace lily's green foliage deepens in color.

Growing Conditions: Bright, indirect light to low light and allow the soil to dry out between waterings

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Buy It: Costa Farms peace lily ($22, The Home Depot)

Credit: Dean Schoeppner


No other group of plants is as widely used indoors as philodendrons, but they are poisonous to humans and pets. Eating them can cause burning and swelling of lips, tongue, and throat, plus vomiting and diarrhea. Like ivy, philodendrons have a trailing habit, so keep them far from the floor.

Growing Conditions: Bright to medium light and consistently moist soil

Size: Vines can reach up to 8 feet long

Buy It: Heartleaf philodendron ($35, Bloomscape)

Credit: Dean Schoeppner


A close relative of philodendron, pothos is just as easy to grow, but unfortunately causes the same symptoms of philodendron if ingested. Can't stay away from this heart-leaved beauty? Try the easy-care vining plant in a hanging basket to keep it up out of reach.

Growing Conditions: Bright to low light, and allow the soil to dry out between waterings

Size: Vines can reach up to 8 feet

Buy It: Golden pothos ($51, The Sill)

Credit: Peter Krumhardt


Make your home feel like a tropical oasis with this miniature palm. One of the oldest living plants on earth, sago palm may have survived so long because animals don't eat it. All parts of the plants, including the seeds and roots, are poisonous. Ingesting sago palm causes vomiting and diarrhea, and may lead to liver failure.

Growing Conditions: Bright to medium light, and allow the soil to dry out between waterings

Size: Up to 5 feet tall

Buy It: Sago palm ($26, Etsy)

Credit: Kindra Clineff


The drought-tolerant ZZ plant makes a wonderful addition to low-light situations in homes and offices, but all parts of this plant are poisonous. Keep it away from children and pets, and wash your hands or wear gloves if you need to handle it. This plant tolerates neglect, so you won't need to come in contact with it much.

Growing Conditions: Bright to low light, and allow the soil to dry out between waterings

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Buy It: ZZ plant ($44, The Sill)

Comments (2)

September 30, 2020
I am a cat owner who bought the peace lily from a nursery who said it was not poisonous - I came home to a cat that was having a seizure, vomiting, wild. I called the University of Pennsylvania Vet School and they sent me to a vet. who was able to save the cat.The plant is toxic. I had another cat that got into a plant at my mother's - the plant just makes them sick to their stomach and that cat did survive. At this point I do not keep any plant around - just is not worth the agony of feeling helpless with a sick pet. I also am an R.N. and I listen to the vets and the Poison Control Hotline. I came very close to losing the first cat and I will tell you it was something you remember and you don't chance it again.
February 1, 2019
As an RN I have found that all plants that are considered poisonous to animals and humans are not consumed in the amount that would do harm. Poor old Poinsetta gets such a bad rap at Christmas---POISON POISON--yep, it is going to give you 1 hellava bellyache if you eat a cup or 3 of the leaves--but kill you ??? Nah.