Living With Allergies

The Best and Worst Houseplants for Allergies

Photo of a plant sitting on a table with a few decorative vases.
Photo by Ray Kang via Death to Stock

There’s nothing like a little greenery to brighten up your living space, but, if you have a plant allergy, it can come at a cost. There are a number of plants that can trigger allergy symptoms, and bringing the wrong one into your home can leave you sneezing, sniffling, or coughing.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up on your dreams of a foliage-filled home. While it’s true that many houseplants can aggravate your allergies, many others can help keep your symptoms in check, even proving beneficial. Read on to find out which plants to avoid and which ones are worth your green.

Worst Indoor Plants for Allergies

First, let’s talk about which houseplants to avoid. This might seem obvious, but if you have a pollen allergy, steer clear of bringing home plants that release pollen (so yes, steer clear of a lot of flowers). Here are some other offenders that are known for causing allergy symptoms:

African violets

Sure, these are pretty. But because the petals are fuzzy and collect dust super easily, these violets could trigger a dust allergy. If you’re only mildly allergic to dust (and really love these), you can always wipe down the leaves on a regular basis. However, if your symptoms are severe, it might be better to skip these altogether.

Bonsais

Certain kinds of these little trees—like juniper and cedar—can aggravate a birch allergy. If you really want to keep one in the house, make sure you wear gloves when pruning and shaping so you don’t irritate your skin.

Chamomile

Tea lover? You might be tempted to keep a chamomile plant in your home so you can make homemade tea. However, it’s a close relative of ragweed, a common allergy trigger.

Chrysanthemums

Speaking of ragweed, this is another flower to avoid if you experience seasonal allergies, since it’s also related to the common allergen.

Ferns

Don’t be fooled by their lack of flowers. Ferns release spores that can affect your allergies or asthma symptoms.

Orchids

These flowers may be beautiful, but they can leave you with an ugly rash if you have sensitive skin. They can even lead to anaphylactic shock in extreme cases.

If you’re not sure if you’re allergic to a certain houseplant, monitor how you feel when you’re around it. If you experience eye irritation, sneezing, a runny or stuffed up nose, or fatigue after exposure to a plant, it’s best to keep it out of your home.

Best Indoor Plants for Allergies

Now that you have an idea of which plants to avoid, let’s talk about plants that help allergies. You want to look for plants that have air-purifying qualities, because they can reduce airborne pollutants that trigger allergies. One thing the following plants all have in common is they help rid the air in your home of harmful gasses and allergens. With no further ado, here are some plants that essentially act as little green air purifiers:

Dracaena

This tropical, low-maintenance plant is known for removing both allergens and gasses like formaldehyde (a colorless, foul-smelling gas that can irritate the eyes and throat and cause nausea) and benzene (another gas that can cause fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and tremors).Both can also worsen allergies. A Dracaena can also absorb carbon monoxide and trap allergens in its leaves.

English Ivy

This plant is a great air purifier and can reduce airborne mold spores. If you have children and/or pets, it’s best to keep it somewhere high—like hanging in a window or sitting on a shelf—because it’s toxic to both humans and animals if ingested. Just watch out if you have sensitive skin, as it can cause a rash.

Golden Pothos

This plant also goes by Devil’s Ivy and is a top air purifier, known for reducing formaldehyde. It grows easily and is difficult to kill—just make sure to keep it away from any kids or pets, as it’s toxic when eaten.

Peace Lily

This plant is ideal if you have a pollen allergy but still want to keep flowers in your home. While most flowers have lightweight, fluffy pollen that moves through the air easily, the Peace Lily’s pollen is heavy and sticky. Like the Dracaena, Peace Lilies are low-maintenance and break down toxic gasses such as formaldehyde.

Palms

There are a number of palm plants that are great for allergies, including the Areca and Lady palms. The Areca Palm is not only fantastic when it comes to air purification, but it can help relieve nasal-based allergy symptoms by increasing humidity in the air. Just be sure to choose a female Palm, as male Palms produce pollen.

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Rubber Tree

Keeping multiple Rubber Trees in your home is a good idea for anyone with allergies and/or asthma, as they are particularly good at removing formaldehyde — which can trigger asthma attacks—from the air.

Snake Plant

This is another super easy-to-take-care-of plant, to the point that if you forget to water it for a while, it’ll be fine. It’s a great plant to keep in your bedroom, because it converts carbon dioxide to oxygen at night.

Spider Plant

If you have a dust allergy, the spider plant is for you, as it absorbs airborne allergens and molds. Like the golden pothos, this one is ideal for anyone who has trouble keeping plants alive, and it’s kid- and pet-friendly.

You can try adding as many of these plants to your home as you want, just make sure to do so one at a time so you can keep track of any effects they might have on you.

Now remember…

Make sure to avoid plants known for producing allergens. If you’re unsure, a salesperson at the plant shop can likely help you. And don’t worry if you do end up getting a plant that triggers your allergies—you can always give it to a friend.

Keep in mind that there is a chance you’ll have to keep your home greenery-free altogether. Remember: There’s no shame in buying fake plants! They’ll add the same amount of color to your home, and you’ll avoid the frustrations of finding the right balance of light and water. All you’ll have to watch out for is excess dust collecting on the leaves, but a quick sweep with a damp paper towel will fix that right up.

If you’re doing the above and are still experiencing symptoms, check out Picnic’s allergy treatment options to see if they might be a good fit for you.

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