Be Careful With That Green Thumb

While it may not be the time where you think about gardening, it is getting to the point where many outdoor plants will finally make the move inside until spring and warm weather returns again. In my office area I am surrounded by all sorts of house plants and it makes me miss my jungle of a basement back home. There is one room in our basement that is filled with all sorts of house plants. However, upon closer look, if you were visiting my house you could see that 75% of the greenery in abundance is just from one single plant: the aloe plant. My mom has created quite a little forest of aloe. That plant, I’m almost positive, will live forever. We can be gone for weeks on vacation without watering and it will look the same as when we left it. And it grows at an exponential rate. My mom does more repotting of that plant than she does of watering it. But it seems to work. We’re stocked in case of a sunburn outbreak. Luckily, the aloe plant does much more good than harm (other than its hasty growth rate). As the weather finally starts to get cooler and you put your plants back inside, you will probably start looking at your house plants a lot closer. Some plants can be harmful. So, I thought it might be beneficial to provide some helpful tips about what to do with house plants that can be dangerous, and how to keep children safe around them.

  • Know that the leaves or sap from some plants can be poisonous to animals and humans
  • Poisonous plants have the potential to cause illness or a severe reaction
  • Know the names of your poisonous plants around the house
  • When there are babysitters or visitors in your house, make sure they are aware of where the poisonous plants are as well
  • Keep these plants out of reach, perhaps on a tall bookshelf, from children and pets as well
  • Some examples of poisonous plants are:
    – Mums: leaves and stalks are poisonous.
    – Common English Ivy: leaves are poisonous.
    – Dumbcane, Giant Dumbcane, Spotted Dumbcane: all parts
    are poisonous.
  • As we approach the upcoming holiday season remember that, although they are wonderful decorations, berries from mistletoe and all parts of poinsettias* are poisonous and should be placed out of reach as well.

This list is just a small sample of dangerous plants but a more comprehensive list can be found here. Plants can create a little paradise inside while the weather outside is everything but utopia. Just make sure that your greenhouse of house plants can be safely enjoyed and admired.

*NOTE: Please read comments below regarding poinsettias, as it has been brought to our attention that there are many misconceptions about poinsettia toxicity.

About the author: Emily Bruckmann is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a senior attending Indiana University who will graduate with a degree in public health this spring.

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