8 Worst Indoor Houseplants for People With Allergies

person on couch reaches for kleenex while having allergic reaction to plant

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Learn which indoor plants are capable of causing allergic reactions.

Houseplants are a small miracle. They bring a bit of nature inside and offer tremendous benefits for mind and body, from helping to relieve stress to purportedly cleaning pollutants from the air. All the while, looking lovely along the way.

Yet for all of the earnest good they do, some of them do not get along with everyone's immune systems. There are many plant allergens – and while we usually associate the flora of the great outdoors with causing allergic rhinitis or hay fever, our indoor friends can be guilty as well. While indoor plants will likely not cause as much grief for allergy sufferers as their outdoor kin, here are a few known to cause allergies for a variety of reasons.

1. Orchids

purple pink orchid sits near open window with cityscape outside

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

While they may look aloof and demure, for some people, orchids can cause skin reactions when directly touched; and in the worst cases, may lead to swollen eyes and mouth or even anaphylactic shock.

2. African violets

overhead shot of hands touching african violet plant fuzzy leaves

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

If dust is your kryptonite, beautiful African violets may vex you for their fuzzy, dust-magnet leaves.

3. Palms

palm houseplant in woven basket in neutral living room

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

In general, palms should be OK. But male palms can spew out the pollen, making them potentially troublesome for anyone sensitive to such. The easy fix? Make sure you get a female palm.

4. Ficus

overhead shot of ficus rubber tree on bed tray with coffee

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

The ever popular ficus was one of the plants found to most frequently cause reactions during a skin prick test for pollen allergens in a Belgian study, in which the authors concluded "in allergic rhinitis, indoor plants should be considered as potential allergens."

5. & 6. Yucca and ivy

hand waters long ivy plant in wooden chair against brick wall

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Yucca and ivy pollens were also among the plants found to cause reactions in the Belgian study mentioned above.

7. Bonsai trees

person in sweater carefully trims bonsai tree on table

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

When studying the case of a man who was having mysterious allergy symptoms, researchers found out he was allergic to birch – which didn't explain his symptoms during off-season and while indoors. Until they realized he had birch bonsai in his home. The researchers concluded, "We believe that this case is of interest because pollinosis caused by ornamental trees may be difficult to diagnose, and because they are kept in a different environment, their pollinosis period can be different from that of other trees."

8. Anything over watered

person in gray sweater faces camera cradling metal watering can

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

One of the worst things you can do to your houseplants is to give them too much water. It can lead to fungus and mold in the soil, which is bad for the plant, but also bad for those with asthma or sensitivity to either of the two.

Orchids

African Violets

View Article Sources
  1. Lohr, Virginia I. “What Are the Benefits of Plants Indoors and Why Do We Respond Positively to Them?” Acta Hortic, vol. 881, 2010, pp. 675-682., doi:10.17660/ActaHortic.2010.881.111

  2. Allergic Rhinitis.” American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology.

  3. Teoh, Eng Soon. Orchids as Aphrodisiac, Medicine Or Food. Springer International. 2019.

  4. African Violets.” University of Minnesota Extension.

  5. Zaid, Abdelouahhab, and De Wet, P.F. “Pollination and Bunch Management.” in A. Zaid and E.J. Arias-Jiménez (Editors), Date Palm Cultivation. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2002.

  6. Mahillon, Virginie, et al. “High Incidence of Sensitization to Ornamental Plants in Allergic Rhinitis.” Allergy, vol. 61, 2006, pp., 1138-1140., doi:10.1111/j.1398-9995.2006.01026.x

  7. Plebani, Mario, et al.  "Bonsai: A New Allergenic Source." Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, vol. 93, 1994, p. 561., doi:10.1016/0091-6749(94)90217-8

  8. Mold Allergy.” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.