Let us move away from toxic houseplants

Some time back, in Kerala, Euphorbia plants started becoming very popular. Every house had it; different variants with large flowers, small flowers, white flowers, red flowers… you name it. And then news spread that the plants are toxic. And they started disappearing from gardens as quickly as they had come in.

It’s all true. They are toxic! And it is not just them. Most plants that exude a white latex-like liquid when you break the stem or leaves like Plumerias, Dwarf umbrella plants, Allamanda etc. have some amount of toxicity. They might not kill you, but they can cause adverse reactions when they are ingested, or even when they touch your skin. They are harmful to small children and pets.

So why do we have these toxic plants in our gardens?

  1. They are easy to cultivate and maintain.
  2. They are grown all over the world, with many variants giving you option in colors, patterns and height of plant.
  3. They are the ones most commonly seen in nurseries.
  4. Most of us don’t know that they are toxic.
  5. Nobody has ever mentioned toxicity as one of the factors to look for, while choosing houseplants.

In addition to these earlier mentioned ones with latex-like white liquid, there are other toxic plants too. Dieffenbachia, another common house plant is called Dumbcane because the calcium oxalate crystals in their leaves can cause inflammation of oral tissues, making you incapable of talking if it touches your mouth. The same goes for Aglaonema or Chinese evergreens.

List of common garden plants that are toxic

  1. Frangipani – Plumeria Rubra – White latex-like sap that exuded from stem and leaves can cause irritation and allergies
  2. Fiddle-leaf Plumeria – Plumeria Pudica – White latex-like sap in stem and leaves
  3. Golden trumpet – Allamanda Cathartica – Toxic white sap in stem and leaves
  4. Nerium Oleander – White sap in stem and leaves
  5. Curtain fig – Ficus Macrocarpa – White sap in stem and leaves
  6. Ficus Benjamina – Ficus – White sap in stem and leaves
  7. Crown of thorns – Euphorbia Milii – White sap in stem
  8. Garden crotons – Codiaeum Variegatum – White sap in stem and leaves
  9. Dumb cane – Dieffenbachia – Calcium oxalate crystals in leaves
  10. Chinese evergreens – Aglaonema – Calcium oxalate crystals in leaves
  11. Money plant – Epipremnum aureum – Calcium oxalate crystals in leaves
  12. Anthuriums – Calcium oxalate crystals in leaves
  13. Golden dewdrop – Duranta Erecta – Yellow berries are poisonous

I know that this list would be scary for you, since many of the common plants in your gardens or balconies are toxic. But the intention of this article is not to scare you, but to make you aware of how many toxic plants we have around us.

While researching for my catalog, I was surprised at how many of our garden plants have toxicity and can harm our children and pets by mistake.

So what should we do?

If you go through the list of plants more carefully, you will notice that most of these plants are new additions to the Indian gardens. Remember the days of long ago, when most houses had Hibiscus, Jasmine, Roses or Tulsi plants. Going back to those days, to whatever extent possible, would be good for our health, our gardens and our pets. Here are some plants that are not only non-toxic; they are beneficial, edible and has some medicinal uses too.

1. Tulsi – Ocimum Sanctum

It’s not too difficult to grow Tulsi plants, though it’s not very easy either. They are prone to diseases and might need some care. But once you have a good tulsi plant, it can help with cough, cold, fever and chest ailments.

2. Jasmine – Jasminum

They are fuss-free, low-maintenance plants that can spread a good cheer and good fragrance in your garden. You could also make jasmine tea from the flowers.

Indian Borage – Coleus Amboinicus

Ajwain has many medicinal qualities in healing fever, cough and nasal congestion. They are very easy to grow and easier to propagate.

4. Aloe Vera

The medicinal uses of Aloe Vera are limitless, used in skincare, haircare, treating wounds and cuts, stomach ailments and even diabetes. Aloe Vera can grown almost anywhere, indoors or outdoors.

5. Papaya – Carica Papaya

If you have a reasonably big garden, Papaya is a must-have. They grow and fruit very quickly, giving you raw or ripe papayas, both rich in Vitamin C.

6. Lipstick tree – Bixa Orellana

Though we have all seen this tree in our childhood, did we know that the red dye on the seeds is edible? it’s very widely used all over the world to dye ice creams, butter, meats and even lipsticks. It’s time we brought back this lovely tree into our gardens.

7. Butterfly palm – Dypsis Lutescens

These tenacious, beautiful palm plants can be grown indoors or outdoors with no worries about toxicity.

8. Firecracker flowers – Crossandra Infundibuliformis

Firecracker flowers are used to make garlands along with jasmine flowers. They are beautiful, flowering almost throughout the year, and non-toxic.

9. Roses – Rosa

They might also be a little difficult to grow, and the thorns may bother you. But most roses are edible and used for rose water, rose tea and more.

10. Curry leaves – Murraya Koenigii

A must-have in every garden, they are staple in Indian cooking. All parts of the plant are edible and beneficial.

That’s my list of non-toxic, beneficial plants that we could start moving towards. Let’s move away from those cookie-cutter ornamental plants we get from the nurseries and move towards our roots. Remember those plants from your gardens long ago, and bring them back into our gardens.

Happy non-toxic gardening to you, dear reader! I hope you will send me pictures of your lovely garden. I can be reached through the contact form on this website, or through the page, GreenCoverInitiative on Facebook.

Nothing gives me more joy than pictures of plants well-tended to!