House plant allergies

Updated April 17, 2017

Many people keep household plants and gardens for aesthetic or health reasons. However, some may notice allergic reactions to their house plants, which is usually a sign of a mould allergy. Symptoms are typically respiratory, including wheezing, nasal congestion, itchy and watery eyes or a rash and hives. Mold allergies are present year-round and can be found anywhere, no matter the climate.


Mold is a type of fungus present both indoors and outdoors. It grows by digesting plant or animal matter. Spores are produced and released into the air. People who are allergic to mould will react when they breathe these spores in, causing symptoms ranging in severity.

Mold grows quickly, thriving in dark and damp places, such as potting soil beneath a house plant. Most basements, garages, garbage cans and yard waste are also filled with growing mould.

The Dirt on Houseplants

There is a critical link between plants and mould spores: the soil. Basically, the wet dirt and soil in the pot of a plant serves as a reservoir for mould and moisture. Once the mould spores are released into the air in the home, allergy sufferers aren't safe. Without proper action, a sufferer may breathe these mould spores in daily and experience symptoms.

Controlling Plant Moisture & Mold

To combat a mould allergy, try to keep the home free from mould spores. Always be sure to keep outdoor yard waste away from the doors and windows, especially in the fall and spring when mould production peaks. Air conditioners and filtered fans will remove mould spores from the air. Also, keep heating ducts clean year-round.

For indoor plants, spread aquarium rocks over the top of the soil to keep mould spores trapped beneath them. Keeping the spores out of the air will make your houseplants more allergy-friendly.

Specific Plant Allergies

Some plants can trigger specific allergic reactions. The weeping fig, or ficus, is known to cause eye allergies in some. The sap on the leaves, when transferred from the hands to the face, may irritate the skin and eyes. Some fern plants also have spores on their leaves that cause a similar reaction.

Also, the flowering maple has also been known to cause respiratory problems, leading to asthma for some allergy sufferers. Any plants that have flowers may produce a reaction to their pollen as well.

Other Ways to Lessen Plant Allergens

If plants in the home are a must, keep plants like the fern at the floor level, to reduce the area that fern spores spread. For flowering plants, choose those with smaller stamens and less visible pollen, like the closed, allergy-friendly snap dragon.

Make sure that plants stay dust-free to lessen allergic reactions to dust mites in the home. Spraying the leaves regularly with a water mister will keep them clear of dust and keep an allergy sufferer's sinus troubles at bay.

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About the Author

Living in the Boston area, Stephanie Haddad has been freelance writing since 2008. She focuses her work on women’s health, beauty, and skin care. She has been published online at ShopGala and "Nifty Magazine." Haddad earned a Bachelor of Science in business communications from Bentley University and is currently working on her Master of Arts in education from the University of Phoenix.