A few safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a beautiful balcony container garden: You must take care when lifting heavy plant containers or bags of potting soil, wear proper footwear outside, and be cautious of insects that may sting or bite you. But there are also safety considerations with the container plants themselves.
Some plants have skin irritants, poisonous saps, or sharp thorns that could potentially harm you, your children or your pets. If you have children or pets, it is even more important to research every plant you keep in your balcony container garden before purchasing them.
If you keep container plants that have skin irritants (poinsettia, croton), poisonous saps (philodendron, cala lily) or poisonous seeds (morning glory flowers), you will have to take extra steps to stay safe in your balcony container garden. Wear gloves or thoroughly wash your hands after working with these plants. Don’t let the plant touch an open wound, and do not rub your eyes after having touched them. Also be careful with plants that have sharp thorns, such as roses, palms and cacti. Any cut can get infected, so if you cut your skin, immediately wash the wound and disinfect it.
It’s obvious to us gardeners which plants are edible and which are not. But children and animals may touch or eat dangerous container plants. If you or a child or pet has eaten a poisonous plant, call poison control, and get to a doctor or veterinarian right away. The best thing to do is keep poisonous plants out of your balcony garden if you have children or pets, or keep them out of reach (for example, keeping a poisonous pothos plant in a hanging basket so no one can reach it). But chances are, your pets will most likely not eat any of these plants, and as long as children have been taught to not eat directly from the garden, you shouldn’t have to worry.
Here is a short list of some common container plants that can be poisonous to cats, dogs and humans. There is a large number of poisonous plants to different animals, and this list is by no means complete. Research each of your plants that are not on this list if you have young children or pets.
15 Poisonous Container Plants
|Common Name||Scientific Name||Poisonous Parts and Symptoms|
|Aloe vera||Aloe vera||Ingestion of yellow juice under the skin of stalk irritates large intestine. More dangerous to cats and dogs, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, change in color of urine.|
|Azalea||Rhododendron spp.||Ingestion of any part can be fatal. Produces nausea, vomiting, depression, difficulty breathing, coma.|
|Bush lily||Clivia miniata||Large quantities must be consumed before collapse, diarrhea, paralysis, vomiting. Bulbs are most poisonous part.|
|Caladium “Elephant ear”||Caladium spp.||Ingestion irritates mouth, throat and gastrointestinal tract|
|Calla lily||Zantedeschia spp.||Ingestion of any part results in burning sensation and swelling of lips, tongue and throat. Stomach pain and diarrhea.|
|Daffodil||Narcissus||Ingestion of bulbs causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. May be fatal.|
|English ivy||Hedera helix||Ingestion causes difficulty breathing, convulsions, vomiting, paralysis, coma|
|Foxglove||Digitalis spp.||Ingestion of leaves in amounts causes irregular heartbeat, digestive upset, mental confusion. May be fatal.|
|Geranium||Pelargonium spp.||Leaves cause minor skin irritation. Ingestion (by pets) can lead to vomiting.|
|Hydrangea||Hydrangea spp.||Dermatitis from handling plant. Ingestion of flower buds can lead to vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, trouble breathing, lethargy, coma|
|Morning glory||Ipomoea purpurea||Ingestion of seeds leads to hallucinations, dilated pupils, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, numbness in arms and legs, muscle tightness.|
|Poinsettia||Euphorbia pulcherrima||Dermatitis from handling the plant. Ingestion can cause nausea and vomiting.|
|Potato||Solanum tuberosum||Ingestion of potato sprouts and green skin of spoiled potato tubers causes nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, weakness. May be fatal.|
|Pothos||Epipremnum aureum||Ingestion of any part can cause burning and swelling of lips, mouth and throat, and diarrhea. Skin irritation from contact.|
|Tulip||Tulipa spp.||Ingestion of bulbs, stems and/or flowers leads to stomach pain, sweating, nausea, vomiting. Skin irritation, which may spread from initial area of contact.|