Succulents are some of the most common houseplants available and are very easy to care for, making them popular plants among green thumb enthusiasts.
Still, there are concerns for allergy-suffering plant parents that should be considered. Namely, “Can you be allergic to succulents?” and “Are succulents toxic to humans or animals?”
In this article, we’ll be answering these questions, specifically regarding the most popular indoor succulent plants, as well as going over the different types of succulents that cause allergies and the best succulents for allergy sufferers.
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Can You Be Allergic to Succulents?
Yes, you can be allergic to succulents, but it is not as common as being allergic to most other plants.
For the most part, allergic reactions from plants are caused by the pollen they produce.
With succulents producing far less pollen than many other house plants and having sturdy, fleshy leaves, they are a great choice for those who have a pollen allergy and commonly experience allergy symptoms from other plants.
Succulents are some of the most non allergenic plant types available, making them excellent choices for those with common plant allergies.
With pollen allergies, some typical symptoms will include hay fever symptoms such as difficulty breathing, watery eyes, and a runny nose. These are usually fairly mild symptoms in most people.
Keep in mind, however, that there are a wide variety of different succulents, and it’s entirely possible that you can be allergic to a single specific compound found in any one of these plants.
It’s most likely that these reactions would only be caused by direct contact with the plant, though, as very little succulent pollen is released from these types of plants.
An allergic reaction from a succulent would most likely be skin irritation, the good news being that it’s unlikely a succulent would cause any respiratory issues.
While the likelihood of being allergic to any succulent in general is relatively low, consulting with a doctor or allergist may help give you peace of mind.
On top of rarely causing allergic reactions, succulents are known to produce more oxygen and help purify the air in whatever room they’re in. So, allergy sufferers, succulents are a great choice for you.
What Are the Symptoms of Succulent Allergies?
If you’re concerned that you’re allergic to the new succulent you got, there are several main symptoms you should be aware of.
Allergic rhinitis is most commonly caused by something like a pollen allergy and is similar to hay fever. It is highly unlikely a succulent that is not flowering will cause these symptoms.
However, some succulents do have long-lasting flowers, which may cause these symptoms to flare up if you do have a pollen allergy.
Some succulents with flowers are aloe plants, prickly pear, and echeveria. Although these are beautiful flowers, there is a chance they will cause mild allergic symptoms.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
This inflammation of the skin would likely be caused if you are allergic to specific parts of the plant you’ve been in contact with.
If this dermatitis continues, it may be best to remove the plant from your house and contact a doctor for further medical advice and testing.
What are the Symptoms of Consuming Succulents
Most symptoms associated with consuming poisonous succulents will be similar to those found when consuming any toxic substance, whether it’s been consumed by a human or a pet.
Upset Stomach / Abdominal Pain
Most succulents will cause mild stomach upset, but some are significantly more toxic than others.
Obviously, I don’t recommend eating any of your succulents, but if you have a child or pet that seems to have an upset stomach, consuming a succulent may be the reason.
Low Heart Rate / Irregular Heartbeats
These symptoms are commonly associated with consuming plants in the Kalanchoe genus of succulents because they contain high contents of cardiac glycosides, a substance known to slow the heartbeat.
While this may be difficult to determine in a pet or child, if they are displaying some of the other listed symptoms, checking their heartbeat may confirm that they have consumed one of your plants.
Many succulents will likely cause irritation in the mouth immediately when consumed. Especially with something like the toxic sap of a euphorbia, there will likely be an immediate reaction in your mouth.
Of course, if you’re consuming the spines of a cactus, expect some serious mouth irritation as well.
This is one of the most obvious signs that a pet or child has consumed a toxic succulent.
With succulents like the jade plant and string of pearls causing lethargy when consumed, if you suspect your pet or child has been eating your succulents, check to see if they have significantly lower energy than normal.
If you’re concerned that your pet has consumed toxic succulents, immediately contact your local veterinarian and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.
If you’re worried about your child, contact local poison control for further guidance, or take them to the emergency room.
Are Succulents Toxic to Pets or Humans?
While succulents are unlikely to cause allergic reactions, they may not be the best choice to have around if your furry friends enjoy snacking on your plants.
Unfortunately, despite being beautiful ornamental plants, many common succulents available are toxic to cats, dogs, and humans when ingested.
With this being said, as long as you are keeping your succulents out of reach from your pets and children, there shouldn’t be much risk.
I recommend keeping succulents in hard-to-reach areas to keep your pets, kids, and plants safe.
There are a few select types of plants that will not harm your pets if ingested, making them some of the best choices for pet owners and parents, and make great additions to DIY succulent kits and arrangements.
This list of my favorite non-toxic succulents is as follows.
Chinese Money Plant
One of the most unique-looking succulent plants with its oval leaves, Chinese money plants are completely non-toxic.
Unfortunately, these green plants (also known as Pileas) can be quite difficult to find in garden centers, so buying them online may be your best bet.
One of the most common succulents, echeveria, is completely non-toxic. They are a flowering plant that will occasionally produce absolutely beautiful flowers if they are cared for well.
There are also a wide variety of different echeverias, including elegans, wax agave, and lilacina, just to name a few.
It’s a common misconception for people to assume that ponytail palms are not even succulents because of their deceptive name and unusual shape.
However, this unique variety is, in fact, a succulent and is completely non-toxic to pets.
Fair warning… many pets will love to munch on them because of their grasslike texture.
Most commonly a hanging plant, burro’s tail is completely non-toxic. Like most other succulents, these thrive in direct sunlight and can grow absolutely massive under the right conditions.
Named for their unique shape, the name translates from Spanish to mean donkey’s tail.
Unfortunately, many common succulents are incredibly toxic to cats and dogs and should be kept well out of reach from your pets. These may not be a good choice if your pets tend to chew on your plants.
Euphorbias: The Most Toxic Succulents
Euphorbias, are a succulent native to South Africa and are commonly referred to as Spurges.
Despite being popular house plants, they are easily some of the most dangerous succulents to have in your home and are some of the worst plants for pet parents.
Some popular succulents included in this genus are the pencil cactus and crown of thorns, which are both highly toxic plants.
The reason they are so dangerous is the euphorbia sap found within their leaves. This milky sap can cause an adverse reaction, including intense skin inflammation and eye irritation.
These reactions can be so severe that they send people to the hospital. The reaction caused by this type of plant is similar to that of poison ivy.
If you have any euphorbias, you need to be incredibly careful not to break the leaves and get the dangerous white sap on your skin or in your eyes.
There are serious health issues that could occur as a result of skin contact, especially if you have sensitive skin.
It’s a good idea, as a general rule, to wear gloves and long sleeves when handling these incredibly poisonous plants.
While humans can eat the gel found inside aloe vera leaves, it is toxic to pets. The chemical saponin found in aloe is what’s responsible for this.
If you would like to eat aloe vera yourself, make sure you properly peel and clean it, as eating the whole plant will likely cause an upset stomach with potentially more harmful symptoms.
Jade plants are an incredibly popular house plant, also known as crassula ovata, and are commonly seen as a good luck plant.
However, they may not be so lucky if you are a pet owner, as they are toxic to animals. It’s unclear exactly what substance within jade plants makes it toxic to pets, but it is dangerous nonetheless.
Common symptoms in pets that consume jade plants are vomiting, lethargy, and depression.
Pencil Cactus are members of the euphorbia genus, which we’ll be covering more in-depth later on. These plants contain highly toxic white sap, commonly referred to as latex.
Plant owners should be careful when handling any euphorbias to avoid breaking the leaves and exposing the toxic sap.
Crown of Thorns
As another member of the euphorbia genus, like the pencil cactus, the sap of the crown of thorns is especially dangerous if consumed or brought into contact with the skin.
Luckily it is quite bitter and prickly, so it’s unlikely a pet will ever eat it. Crown of Thorns plants are toxic to both pets and humans.
Yet another euphorbia, the devil’s backbone (also commonly referred to as the zig-zag plant), is similarly toxic to the pencil cactus and crown of thorns due to its sap.
With any euphorbias, as with all the other plants on this list, I recommend keeping plants of this genus well out of reach from any pets or children.
Notable for their tiny hairs and unique appearance, the most popular species of kalanchoe plants are commonly referred to as the panda plant.
However, there are many kinds of kalanchoes, and every species in the genus is incredibly toxic to pets.
Consuming these plants can cause abnormal heart rhythm, vomiting, and may even be fatal in large amounts.
Snake plants (commonly referred to as a mother-in-law plant) are some of the most beginner-friendly, low-maintenance plants available.
These can go a long time without watering and thrive in dry climates.
However, be warned if you have pets as they also contain the toxic compound saponin, similar to aloe veras.
String of Pearls
String of pearls are often hanging plants, and this is a great way to keep toxic plants out of reach from your pets and kids.
However, they will potentially cause vomiting and lethargy if consumed.
It’s also shown that the sap found within the plant commonly causes irritation when direct contact is made with the skin, so be careful while handling these plants.
Barrel Cactus & Other Cacti
Another factor to consider is that many succulents have harmful spines on top of being toxic. Cactus spines mean pets and children could be harmed by simply coming into contact with these plants.
Take the barrel cactus, for example, which is a type of cactus that not only has toxic sap but incredibly sharp spines as well.
Long spines can easily get caught in anybody’s skin, so be careful.
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