10 Poisonous Plants that Could Be Growing in Your Garden

Everyone knows the benefits of plants and gardening, but if you’ve ever had a brush with poison oak/ivy/sumac and dealt with the oozing rashes and welts that last for weeks, you know it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

Before you put the kids in their Sunday best and let them frolic through the garden and roll around the flower beds and eat everything that looks like berries so you can capture the wholesome romp on IG/Snapchat/vlog, be mindful of these plants and shrubs that are poisonous to humans (and pets):

“Don’t Touch!”

That warning may work for older kids and adults, but pets’ and children’s curiosity often undermine stern warnings. For example, the enticing bright red berries of the purple nightshade may look like a tasty snack for a toddler, but it’s poisonous and can be fatal. If you’re not sure what a plant is, try downloading FlowerChecker or My Garden Answers to identify potentially harmful plants.

We’ve provided a list of some of the more common plants and shrubs you’ll find in gardens across America:

Rhododendron Shrubs

Springtime brings the showy flowers of this popular woodsy shrub. All parts of the plants are toxic when ingested. Eating or chewing the leaves can cause immediate mouth irritations like burning, numbness, and tingling. Within two to three hours after ingesting, nausea, vomiting, confusion, sweating, and slowing of the heart rate ensues.


This delicate flower is so pretty with its dainty white flowers, but just one taste can cause hot flashes, hallucinations, headaches, irritability, clammy skin, and red blotches. Death or coma can result when the heart slows down.


These plants look like big, colorful snowballs – they’re very showy and are popular for cottage gardens. Unfortunately, they contain a chemical called glycoside amygdalin, which can break down, producing cyanide. One would have to swallow enormous quantities of a hydrangea, but if that occurs, it has a similar result as popping a cyanide pill. The results are shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, a rapid pulse, along with a dip in blood pressure that can cause convulsions and death.

Poet’s Narcissus

If you’ve ever had a narcissus bouquet in your home, you know how strong the scent is. While it’s a pleasant scent for some, it can bring on a nasty headache, especially if a person is sensitive to it. A headache is a minor health issue compared to what could happen if a person ate a bulb – severe nausea, fainting, convulsions, paralysis, and eventual death. Even if you don’t have pets or children to worry about, don’t plant these without properly covering yourself if you have open wounds. The bulb secretions can produce numbness and heart paralysis.


You may see this while you’re taking a walk in the woods or in your neighbor’s garden. The tiny bell-shaped flowers are extremely poisonous. It doesn’t take long after ingesting to experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Larger amounts consumed will result in a lowered heart rate or a rapid and irregular heart rhythm.


These enticing tall blue flowers beckon to be touched, but don’t do it. Just touching the flower can cause skin irritation. Eating the plant, especially new growth with seeds, is especially toxic –nausea, vomiting, a burning in the mouth, muscle tremors and seizures set in. It’s crucial to get treatment right away before it becomes fatal.


This evergreen is tempting to plant because of its heavy fragrance, but don’t let the heavenly scent fool you. A single leaf contains enough toxins to be fatal for young children. Ingesting produces blurred vision, nausea, stomach pain, low blood pressure, fainting, vomiting and diarrhea, and irregular or slowed heartbeat. Immediate medical assistance is crucial.

Privet Hedges

You may recognize these hedges as the same ones horses jump over in equestrian events. They make a nice border for the yard, but eat the berries and you won’t feel like jumping – instead you’ll get headaches, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, overall body weakness, and cold and clammy skin.

Purple Nightshade

This plant has pretty reddish-purple bell-shaped flowers and glossy-coated black berries. But the berries, or any other part of the plant, are deadly. In fact, ancient Romans used these to make poisoned tipped arrows. Just eating a few berries will make you very ill. You’ll lose your voice, experience respiratory complications, nausea, violent convulsions, and possibly die if immediate medical assistance isn’t given.

Water Hemlock

Though this is a wild flower, you may still find it if you own or plan to buy property as it grows on the banks of streams or near wet meadows and pastures. It has been called “The most violently toxic plant that grows in North America” by the USDA. This is extremely dangerous when ingested. Within 15 minutes, death can occur. Symptoms include excessive salivation and frothing, dilation of pupils, rapid breathing, tremors, seizures, and convulsions.

Get Help!

If you suspect/witnessed your child eating a poisonous plant, call the National Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222. For pets, call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

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Anya Henners
I have several of these flowers in my garden .... thankfully my daughter never thought to eat any of them.