Succulents are a popular houseplant choice because they are fun, unique, and easy to care for. But there is often the question of whether succulents are poisonous. This is an important thing to consider for anyone with pets or children!
Luckily most succulent varieties are completely not poisonous and safe for pets and humans. However, some succulents contain toxins that can be harmful if ingested. Plants like the Euphorbia family can cause skin irritation and be toxic if ingested.
It’s essential to research the specific type of succulent you own or plan to purchase to determine if it is safe in your home and around children and animals.
To be safe, it’s always a good idea to keep succulents out of reach of pets and children and to wash your hands after handling them. If you suspect your pet or child has ingested a toxic succulent, the best thing to do is to seek medical attention immediately.
In general, there are two varieties of succulents that are overarchingly poisonous. Let’s take a look at those considered toxic, as well as some other things to keep in mind when considering the toxicity of your succulents and the safety of your home.
Euphorbia plants are a part of a family called Euphorbiaceae. It is actually a very large group of plants that includes poinsettias, shrubs, and trees.
About 1,200 of the 2,000 plants within this group are succulents.
Euphorbia succulents are characterized by a milky sap or latex that is inside its leaves. This sap is poisonous to cats, dogs and humans and will cause irritation or inflammation to the skin if touched. It is very bad for the eyes as well and, in rare cases, has caused blindness. Generally, it just causes redness, blurring of vision, and discomfort. The reaction of the eyes to this sap is similar to that of conjunctivitis.
Euphorbia plants release this sap from broken or cut leaves. It’s considered a defense mechanism to keep the plant safe when it is grown in the wild. To be safe, gardeners should always wear eye protection and gloves when working with the plants to avoid accidental exposure. If you are planting them outside, be conscious of where cats or dogs will be or where young children will play. Keeping them out of the way will help avoid unintentional disruption and contact.
Euphorbia Effects on Skin and Eyes
If you accidentally get Euphorbia sap on your skin, wash it with warm, soapy water. In the event that the sap becomes congealed on your skin and water or soap does not effectively remove the sap, milk is also a helpful alternative. If you get it in your eyes, rinse them as soon as possible with lukewarm water.
Kalanchoe succulents are a much smaller group of succulents, with only around 150- 200 plants within the species. This succulent group contains something called cardiac glycosides. These glycosides can affect the heart and are toxic to animals. In rare cases, ingestion of Kalanchoe by animals can cause abnormal heart rhythm.
The body of the plant is toxic, but the flowers are even more so. Where Kalanchoe grow in the wild, they are very dangerous for livestock or small animals. Just around seven flowers of certain varieties can be lethal for a small calf! In the U.S., these plants are not often found in the wild, but they can present a potential hazard for house pets.
Although, typically, they will only cause salivation in your animals, gastrointestinal upset, or vomiting. They are less poisonous to humans. Although, they can cause discomfort if ingested.
Animals Safety With Kalanchoe
If your animal ingests a part of your kalanchoe plant, call your veterinarian immediately. They will be able to help you identify the next steps. You can also call the poison control center and talk with a specialist. This is the best course of action, as well, if a child ingests the succulent.
Aloe is toxic to dogs and cats.
Aloe vera is not generally considered poisonous and is safe for humans and pets to have around. In fact, the gel from the leaves of the aloe vera plant is often used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes due to its many health benefits.
However, it’s important to note that while aloe vera is not toxic, it can cause minor skin irritation in some people. If you have sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to test a small patch of skin before applying aloe vera gel to a larger area.
Additionally, while aloe vera is safe for humans, it’s not for dogs and cats. Also, if ingested by humans the plant can cause digestive upset, such as diarrhea or abdominal cramping. If you suspect that your pet or child has ingested a large amount of aloe vera, it’s best to contact your veterinarian or seek medical attention immediately.
Crassula Ovata (Jade Plant)
Crassula ovata, also known as Jade plant, is considered to be mildly toxic to dogs, cats, horses and humans. Its leaves contain a sap that can cause skin irritation or a mild upset stomach if ingested in large quantities.
Symptoms of jade plant toxicity in pets may include vomiting, depression, and incoordination. In severe cases, ingestion of large amounts of the plant may cause more serious symptoms such as lethargy, seizures, or even coma.
If you have pets or small children, it’s important to keep jade plants out of their reach and to monitor them closely if they come into contact with the plant. If you suspect that your pet or child has ingested jade plant and is showing any signs of illness, seek medical attention immediately.
Sansevieria trifasciata, also known as Snake plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, is mildly toxic to cats, dogs and humans. Its leaves contain a chemical called saponin, which can cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested in large quantities.
Symptoms of Snake plant toxicity in pets may include vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling. In humans, ingestion of the plant may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
While Snake plants are generally considered safe to have around, it’s important to keep them out of reach of pets and small children.
Children Safety With Succulents
If your child accidentally ingests a piece of succulent in your home, it is essential to determine what kind of succulent it is. (We recommend knowing the types of succulents in your home beforehand, if possible, to keep more poisonous ones out of reach of children or pets.) If your child has come in contact with the sap of a poisonous succulent, wash their skin with warm water and soap.
Call the poison control center, especially if you know that the plant they ingested is a Kalanchoe or a Euphorbia. Doing this will allow you to talk with a professional about the best next steps.
Poisonous Succulents in Your House
It is safe to have succulents in your home. Most succulents are considered non-toxic. However, it is always a good rule of thumb to know what type of succulents you are bringing home, especially if you have children or pets! As a general rule, keep plants out of the reach of children or pets who might accidentally ingest something or poke themselves on something sharp.
Other Succulent Safety
While not all succulents are technically poisonous, there are other safety considerations to be aware of. Many succulents are quite sharp, as well, and can be painful to pets or children if they poke themselves on them.
Succulents can, too, cause discomfort when eaten, even if they are not highly toxic. Many plants are this way, regardless of whether they have the poisonous label or not.
Below are just a few toxic succulents that are poisonous. You may want to stay away from them if you are trying to avoid having any toxic succulents in your home.
- Jade Plants
- Pencil Cactus
- Mother in Law’s Tongue
- String of Pearls
- Panda Plant
These are a couple of popular succulents considered highly toxic, but it is certainly not an exhaustive list!
Recognizing Toxic Succulents
If you have succulent plants but are unsure how to determine their toxicity, the internet has many resources.
For animals, the ASPCA has a comprehensive list of toxic and non-toxic plants.
For children or adults, the poison control center had an extensive list, as well, of poisonous and non-poisonous plants.
Recommendations for Non-Toxic Succulents
If you want to be extra careful about what succulents you have in your home and are only interested in purchasing non-toxic succulents, try choosing one of the below. All of these are non-toxic. You get the fun and low-maintenance benefits of a succulent, with a little extra peace of mind.
- Blue Echeveria
- Ponytail Palm
- Burro’s Tail
- Haworthia Retusa
- Mother of Pearl or “Ghost Plant”
- Hens and Chickens
- Hardy Baby Tears
- Dragon Fruit
- Mexican Rosettes
- Painted Lady
- Chinese Money Plant
- Bunny Ear Cactus
All in all, most succulents are not highly toxic. However, it is a good idea to know what type of succulents you have so that you know how to respond if they are accidentally ingested or come in contact with skin. In general, it is best to keep all plants out of reach of small children and animals, just to be safe. Even plants that are not highly toxic can cause nausea or discomfort if ingested.
For any questions or concerns about the toxicity of a plant or one of its elements, call the poison helpline at 1-(800) 222-1222. Specially trained nurses and pharmacists are available 24/7/365 to answer questions. The service is free and confidential.