Skip to main content

Don’t gift these 5 plants to anyone who has allergies

Your sister just moved into a new place and you want to buy her a simple housewarming gift. Maybe you want to go with a flower arrangement, or better yet a houseplant, but she has allergies. No problem. Although there are numerous plants that trigger allergic responses, there are lots of choices that allergy sufferers can enjoy without discomfort. Learn which plants to avoid, and you can give plants without worry.

someone presenting a flower arrangement to someone else
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What causes plant allergies

Pollen is the main plant-based trigger of allergic responses. Pollen is produced by male flower parts, and it must find its way to female flower parts. Most plants have adapted to rely either partially or completely on air currents to carry vast quantities of pollen to female flower parts in order to ultimately create seeds. When allergy sufferers breathe pollen-laden air, it causes a host of symptoms including itchy or runny nose, nasal congestion, swollen or watery or itchy red eyes, sneezing, coughing, postnasal drip, and fatigue.

A few common house plants have compounds in their sap that may cause skin reactions on some individuals. The sap of Euphorbia and Ficus species are known to cause mild to severe rashes when those with sensitive skin come in contact. Avoid giving plants from these families and others with milky sap to anyone with sensitive skin or a known sensitivity to latex.

Fragrance can cause discomfort, although it is not categorized as an allergic reaction. Those with a “jasmine allergy” are likely experiencing a non-allergy reaction called irritant rhinitis. The strong smell causes chronic sneezing or a congested, runny nose. For this reason, it may be best to avoid plants with intense aromas.

bouquet of chrysanthemums and other flowers
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Plants that cause allergies

As a rule, if the recipient has a history of allergies, or if you are not sure, simply avoid giving them plants that cause allergies. Following is a list of the plants that are most likely to cause allergic reactions.


Chrysanthemums, daisies, asters and other members of the aster family produce loads of pollen that makes allergy sufferers miserable. These include florist, landscape, and wild species, and some of the most commonly experienced sensitivities. If you want to avoid giving allergens as a gift, stay away from this group.


Lilies are known for their intense aroma and serve as a symbol of purity, rebirth, and motherhood. But, the last thing mom wants for Mother’s Day is a case of the sniffles. Most lilies are heavy pollen producers, and they have an intense fragrance that could trigger irritant rhinitis. But, if it absolutely must be a lily or nothing at all, look for one of the newer pollen-free lily cultivars. 


Sunflowers bring happiness with their big, bright flowers, but they can also cause congestion for those who are allergic. The massive flowers steadily release more and more pollen over time as the bloom continues to mature. The best way for allergy sufferers to enjoy sunflowers is at a distance. 

African violets

African violets are not known for high pollen loads. They trigger sneezing, watery eyes, and runny noses in another way. The leaves are covered with tiny hairs that collect copious amounts of dust, which is one of the most common allergens. If you love them and want to avoid the negative effects, you could wipe down the leaves with a damp towel a few times each week. But there’s no need to give an added chore along with a gift. 

Weeping fig

Weeping fig is one of the most popular houseplants because it looks great and is easy to grow. It’s also one of the worst allergen offenders. It is a member of the Ficus genus, which those with latex sensitivity should avoid. Plus, these popular foliage plants capture lots of dust which, along with tiny particles of leaves, bark, and sap, combine to reduce air quality for allergy sufferers.

Several orange miniature roses in a large pot
Totokzww / Shutterstock

Choose allergy-free plants instead

When special occasions arise, it’s always better to choose allergy-friendly plants instead. You may wonder if roses are bad for allergies. In fact, roses are some of the more allergy-friendly flowers. Other flowers with a lower likelihood of inducing allergy include cacti, orchids, pollen-free lilies, and carnations. Foliage plants for allergy sufferers include Dracaena, Pothos, and Sansevieria. Green is always good when it comes time to give a gift. Be sure to avoid high-allergen plants and stay on the safe side.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Wolfe
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Mark Wolfe is a freelance writer who specializes in garden, landscaping, and home improvement. After two decades in the…
Plant of the week: Rattlesnake plant, a calathea that won’t bite you
rattlesnake plant leaves

For the most part, caring for plants is pretty much the same. They need light, water, and food, and most of them will be perfectly happy in the already existing conditions of your home. However, a vast section of plant species tends not to be so easy to care for, but their beautiful foliage is hard to resist! Of course, we're talking about calatheas. These striped, spotted, and elegant plants are heavily desired in the houseplant community, but they are also well known for their fussiness. While you might be able to ignore a ZZ plant for three months and it will be fine, a calathea will require a whole lot more attention and care. So before you go spending a lot of money on a rattlesnake plant, let's go over what this plant needs. 
What is the rattlesnake plant?
The rattlesnake plant, or Calathea lancifolia, is a beautiful plant native to the rainforests of Brazil. It gets its common name from the markings on its leaves, which resemble the markings on a rattlesnake's tail. The leaves are light green with darker green stripes and an eye-catching purple underside. In ideal conditions, they can grow up to 30 inches tall! 

In their natural habitat, the rattlesnake plant grows small yellow flowers but very rarely grows those indoors. 
Care tips for a rattlesnake plant
These are not beginner-friendly plants; they have high expectations from their caretakers and need specific heat, light, and humidity levels that can be hard to accommodate. And while other plants will give you warnings that they're unhappy and give you time to adjust and help them out, the rattlesnake plant will simply drop all its leaves. This can happen overnight without you even knowing something is wrong. 
It doesn't want to sit in water, but it likes its soil to stay moist. Do not let this plant dry out for long periods, or else it will drop leaves at an alarming rate. You can help yourself out by adding peat moss to its soil for added moisture retention. 
The rattlesnake plant grows in the under-canopy of the rainforest, so it prefers filtered and dappled lighting. This means it will be happiest about six feet from a bright window, but not on its windowsill. However, if you don't have another spot, a window could work as long as you put drapes or something sheer between the sunlight and the plant. 
During the spring and summer, the rattlesnake plant will benefit from monthly feedings with a balanced fertilizer. Or you can use a fertilizer designed for foliage-heavy plants to help boost the plant's leaf production and keep their existing leaves happy and healthy. 
Since it's used to those rainforest conditions, the rattlesnake plant will want to stay between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything lower than this for long periods will cause the plant to curl its leaves and likely die off. In addition to warm temperatures, the rattlesnake plant will need to avoid vents, dry air, cold air, lack of ventilation, and sudden changes in temperatures. These are all dangerous to the life of a rattlesnake plant. 
While you're keeping the space warm for this stripped calathea, you'll also want to keep the humidity high. Anything below 55 or even 60 percent humidity can cause this plant to start browning at the tips and dying. You can combat this by grouping it with other high humidity plants, placing the plant next to a humidifier, regularly misting the plant, or bringing it into the shower with you every day. If you have bright indirect light in a bathroom that's frequently used, that might be ideal for this rainforest baby. 
Even though this plant is high maintenance, it is not toxic to humans, cats, or dogs. So you can safely place this plant within reach of kids or pets and not worry about them taking a bite. However, after all the hoops you've jumped through to get this plant happy, you might not be so pleased about your cats' nibbling. 
Additional care
You might notice your rattlesnake plant move a lot throughout 24 hours. This is because the plant is following the sun and looking for the optimal light advantage. To avoid the plant growing in odd directions, it's important to rotate it regularly. 

Read more
2021 gift guide: The cutest plant accessories for your plant-loving friends
wrapping christmas gift

We know you have a lot of friends and family on your holiday gift-buying list this year. It can be both a fun and a stressful time. If you're not sure what to get those plant-loving friends of yours, you've come to the right place. Or maybe you're the plant-loving friend worried that your family might not know what you want. Either way, this guide will help you find the perfect plant accessory to brighten up the holiday season.
Animal figurines
Sometimes when caring for your plants, you might notice that your little pot looks like a miniature jungle. These little animal figurines will help turn your plant pot into a miniature jungle. Choose from various animals, including squirrels, gorillas, rabbits, deer, glowing aliens, frogs, giraffes, hedgehogs, and more. These tiny statues are adorable and will liven up your pot and plant with cute characters. Almost every option comes with a few figurines so you can set up a little scene in each pot and allow your plants to tell a story. We think they're so cute!

Sometimes our plant collections can get a bit out of hand, and keeping up with watering gets challenging. So gift your plant lover with time by giving them one of these unique self-waterers. These kitty waterers come in a pack of three for only about 22 dollars, and they come in an all-clear option or a brown-and-black striped option. They're an adorable way to relieve some of the watering stress you might be facing.

Read more
2021 gift guide: Gifts for the gardener who has everything
person giving gift

We all have that friend who's hard to buy for; they either have everything they need or won't ask for anything. If you don't have a friend like that, you're likely that friend. So here, we've created a list of gifts for the gardener in your life who has everything. These are unique, fun, and creative gifts that are sure to bring a smile to your favorite gardener's face, even if it's your own!

Plant shirts
There's nothing better than finding a fellow plant lover while out and about, but how can you spot them? Shirts are a great way to express your love of plants while also opening the door to unforgettable conversations with other plant lovers. We love this one on Etsy by the maker NextGenerationWear. It has a simplistic design with cute graphics of plants. Or you could go for the classic dictionary definition trend and get this shirt by the maker Trendon Shelf. It's funny, relatable, and sure to get a few comments from friends and family. Both shirts are less than 20 dollars and are perfect gifts. Just be sure you know the correct size before ordering. Reviews say the shirts fit as described and the feel of the shirt is comfortable.
Pollinator hotels
There are lots of ways to invite more pollinators to your yard. You can grow a pollinator garden, offer a water source for pollinators, or even raise your own bees. Another great way to invite a wider variety of pollinators is by providing them with habitats and homes on your property. These pollinator hotels, by the maker GardenOutsidetheBox, are excellent examples of that. Hang these on the trees around your yard, and you'll notice a wide range of bees making homes and sticking around. Not only will you be doing good for some lovely pollinators, but you'll also love the looks of these adorable tiny homes. The seller affectionally calls them "Air Bee&Bees," which we find very cute! Buy one or more for your friends, family, or yourself. These even make for excellent gifts for kids.
Plant-themed mugs
Many of us plant parents find it a soothing routine to wake up Saturday morning, make a cup of coffee, and check on all our plants. So why not provide your plant lover with an appropriate mug for plant care days with this "Plant Lady" mug by the maker ShelbySellsCo on Esty. It's shaped like a small terra cotta pot and the words "Plant Lady" are on the side in pretty white lettering.

Read more