Plants to avoid if you have pets or small children

Many ordinary plants can be deadly if swallowed and should be avoided if you have small children or pets that might chew them.

Family plants

Plants are known to ease anxiety, inspire creativity, boost our immune systems, and generally make us happier. As humans, we have an instinct to connect with nature.

But some plants are not as friendly as they appear. They can cause severe allergic reactions, particularly in children and pets, and some can even be fatal if swallowed.


Oleander (Nerium oleander) is a beautiful shrub known for its striking flowers. Although commonly grown as a hedge and ornamental shrub, all parts of the plant are deadly and contain lethal cardiac glycosides known as oleandrin and neriine.

According to, oleander can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, erratic pulse, seizures, coma, and death if eaten. In addition, contact with the leaves and sap can irritate the skin. Fortunately, fatalities from oleander poisoning are rare, as the plant is very bitter, so people and animals are not often tempted to eat too much of it. However, oleander toxins are so potent that people have become ill after eating honey made by bees that visited the flowers.

In South Africa, oleanders are on the list of invasive plants that need to be eradicated, so if you have them in your garden, it’s a good idea to replace them with indigenous, family-friendly shrubs.

Aloe vera is beneficial to humans but is dangerous for cats and dogs, causing vomiting, diarrhoea, anorexia, depression, skin irritation and a host of other problems.

With their pretty bell-like blossoms and deep green foliage, Foxgloves add vibrant colour to the garden, and children and pets are often attracted to them. But unfortunately, almost all parts of the plant contain high amounts of digitalin, digitonin, and digitoxin, which can cause heart failure if ingested.

Wisteria is not toxic to humans, but this climbing flowering plant produces pods and seeds that are toxic to pets like dogs, cats, and horses. Some of the signs of poisoning include vomiting, dehydration, and diarrhoea. If you suspect your pet has Wisteria poisoning, immediately take it to the vet.

Lilies are considered highly toxic to cats, especially because they tend to nibble on the leaves and flowers. The different lily species have different levels of toxicity. Some cause irritation to the tongue, mouth, and other parts of the digestive system, whereas others can cause kidney failure. If your cat has been eating lilies, take it to the vet without delay.

Ivy makes an attractive groundcover, but its leaves are toxic for pets, particularly dogs who sometimes chew the leaves. As a result, you might notice vomiting, diarrhoea and signs of abdominal pain.

Daffodils are prized for their bright yellow blossoms, but they contain a toxin called lycorine, which is concentrated in the bulbs. So if your pets love to dig, you should grow daffodils in spots they can’t get at. Ingestion could cause diarrhoea, vomiting, and nausea, and severe cases of poisoning can result in convulsions, tremors, and cardiac arrhythmia.

Chrysanthemums are a popular food in some cultures, but if your pets eat them, they can cause severe diarrhoea, vomiting, loss of coordination and skin rashes. Fortunately, they don’t cause fatalities.

Tulips are poisonous to dogs, cats and children if ingested. Chewing tulips causes irritation of the mouth and oesophagus, and symptoms include drooling, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Eating tulips can also increase heart rate and cause changes in the respiratory system.

Strelitzias are toxic to cats, dogs and horses but not fatal. However, ingesting the flower seeds can cause heavy breathing and stomach pain.

Azaleas are highly poisonous to pets. Ingesting even tiny amounts can lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, and even coma and death, especially if you don’t get to the vet soon enough.

Rhubarb is a popular ingredient in puddings and pies. But the leaves contain toxins, including oxalic acid, which could lead to kidney failure.


Cyclamen roots are toxic if eaten, causing intense vomiting and discomfort. Some veterinarians have reported deaths after pets have eaten cyclamens.

Dieffenbachia – also known as Dumb Cane – is a popular houseplant because of its striking, white-speckled leaves. It’s also easy to maintain and propagate. However, it has needle-like calcium oxalate crystals, a toxin that shuts down the airways. If your child or a pet eats the plant, it could cause their tongue and mouth to swell up. Even brushing against the plant causes mild skin irritation, so if you have kids or pets, keep your dumb cane out of their reach. Always wash your own hands after touching this plant.

Begonias are poisonous to dogs and cats, causing vomiting and burning of the mouth. In addition, the leaves and flowers are severely toxic, and the roots even more so.

Rubber plants are toxic to cats, who tend to chew on the leaves. Symptoms of poisoning include drooling, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, depression, and skin irritation.

This list of toxic plants might seem daunting if you are a keen gardener. Fortunately, there are many more family-friendly plants to choose from to ensure your home is a safe haven for your children and pets.