Are succulents poisonous? It’s a great question and the answer is ‘It depends on the plant’. While generally speaking succulents are a great way to decorate your home or workspace and have amazing hidden benefits, not every plant is safe for your health, your toddler, or your pets. Small children and animals might get sick from touching or eating certain species of succulents. This is why it’s important to take precautions and educate yourself on the harmful effects poisonous succulents can have.
To help you achieve better awareness, I’ve made a list of common poisonous succulents you might want to avoid buying and growing in your home if you’re concerned about accidental ingestion from your curious child or pet!
It’s better to be safe than sorry. Knowing which options can have harmful side effects will help you make a wiser decision when picking out your next succulent and avoid possible accidents.
Featured Image Credit @elkinae_art
Why Are Some Succulents Poisonous?
Some plants are considered poisonous because produce toxins that deter herbivores from consuming them. It’s a defense mechanism by which plants discourage herbivorous animals from devouring them. Some plants have physical defenses such as thorns, spines, and prickles, but the most effective type of protection is chemical.
The toxins contained in the leaves and stalks, if eaten, cause animals various discomforts such as irritation to the mouth and stomach, with possible vomiting, temporary blindness, diarrhea, weakness and can even affect their muscular and nervous systems.
Are Succulents Poisonous to Humans?
Generally speaking, the majority of succulents are safe for human health, BUT there are a few that could potentially cause illness or pain to people who come across them or don’t handle them properly. Watch out for Euphorbias and Kalanchoes, which are poisonous to humans.
Are Succulents Poisonous To Cats And Dogs?
Unfortunately, some succulents are poisonous to cats, dogs, birds, and other pets. The best way to protect your pets is to identify exactly which plants are poisonous to avoid buying and bringing them into your home.
Whether you’ve already planted them in your outdoor garden or potted them inside look up each one to verify that it is safe for your furry friend: any plant, regardless of its toxicity, can cause a gastrointestinal upset. Before an incident occurs, you might want to familiarize yourself with some of the most common poisonous plants for dogs and cats that grow in your area or that are already sitting on your counter, desk, or coffee table.
If you’re not sure whether or not a certain succulent variety is poisonous to cats and dogs, you can check the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to find out more info.
To completely avoid the risk of buying a toxic plant, you can choose one of the varieties mentioned in this great article on pet-safe, non-toxic succulents for cats, dogs, or other pets.
List Of Common Toxic Euphorbias
Euphorbia is a large genus of succulents with over 2,000 species native to the semi-arid tropical regions of Africa and India, and succulents classified under this family are commonly known as poisonous. Euphorbias are very common houseplants but, unfortunately, not all owners are aware of their toxicity. Euphorbias contain a white, milky sap called latex in their leaves that can irritate the skin.
For humans and animals, coming into contact with the sap can cause a rash. If ingested, euphorbias are known to cause blistering of the mouth and vomiting. Because of its toxicity, this plant must be properly handled: when taking cuttings or repotting, always wear gloves to avoid getting in contact with the poisonous sap.
Euphorbia Tirucalli (Firestick, Pencil Tree Plant, Pencil Cactus)
Euphorbia tirucalli (Firesticks, Pencil Tree) is an evergreen succulent with spineless cylindrical branches usually of a vivid orange/red color during the cooler winter months.
This plant contains a white latex sap that is poisonous to dogs and cats and causes irritation, so it’s best not to have them around if you have curious furry-friends.
Symptoms of poisoning: mild irritation to mouth and stomach, with possible vomiting, temporary blindness.
Euphorbia Milii (Crown of Thorns)
Euphorbia Milii, also known as ‘Crown Of Thorns’, is an ornamental succulent native to Madagascar very appreciated for its colorful flowers in red, pink, or white tones. It can grow up to 1-2 feet tall and is covered in sharp thorns about ½ inch long.
It’s best to keep your Euphorbia Milii away from your pets, although usually, animals tend to stay away from this toxic plant thanks to their instinct, and the accidents are quite rare.
Even humans need to take precautions when handling this plant: the white sap in the stem or leaves can cause skin irritation and rashes.
Symptoms of poisoning: nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. On contact with the skin or eyes, the sap causes irritation and rashes.
Euphorbia Lactea ‘White Ghost’
Euphorbia Lactea ‘White Ghost’ is a popular cultivar of Euphorbia Lactea. It grows up to 10 feet (3 meters) This one of a kind, visually striking, cultivar lacks most of the chlorophyll bearing tissues necessary to produce green stems. Its creamy white or grayish coloration gives this plant a ghost appearance. Triangular sharp-spined stems grow in dense candelabra, perfect as a landscape plant.
All parts of this plant are poisonous, particularly the white sap (latex) leaking from the stem cuts. The sap is irritant to the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes.
Symptoms of poisoning: On contact with the skin or eyes, the sap causes irritation and rashes.
Euphorbia Mammillaris Variegata (Variegated Indian Corn Cob)
Euphorbia mammillaris variegata is also commonly known as the ‘Variegated Corn Cob’. As the plant matures, it can reach up to around 35 cm (14″) tall and around 6 cm (2.4″) in diameter. This plant, originally from South Africa, is a short stem is a fast-growing shrublet with thick chalky green stems, erect and ribbed. These spined stems with thick hexagonal tubercles placed next to each other vertically resemble the look of corn cob and can turn rosy pink in colder weather.
From late winter to early summer, Euphorbia mammillaris blooms producing small orange or flowers from each stem. Euphorbia mammillaris produces a milky sap called latex that is toxic and can range from a mild irritant to very poisonous. Keep out of reach of pets and children, and don’t forget to wear gloves when handling this plant.
Symptoms of poisoning: On contact with the skin or eyes, the sap causes irritation and rashes.
List Of Common Toxic Kalanchoes
Kalanchoe is a genus of 150 to 200 plant species, most of which are native to southern Africa, Madagascar, and Australia. Kalanchoe species, like the popular ones listed below, contain cardiac glycosides and are toxic to animals due to a group of bufadienolide compounds.
Kalanchoe Daigremontiana (Mother of Thousands)
Kalanchoe daigremontiana, better known as ‘Mother Of Thousands’ is an interesting and unique succulent plant native to Madagascar in the Crassulaceae family. “Mother of Thousands” has large, bluish-green leaves and its name comes from the many plantlets that form along its leaf edges. These miniatures grow quickly, even developing roots, and later drop off and sprout.
This constant production of offspring is where the Mother of Thousands gets its name. The leaves grow up to 6 in (15 cm) long and are usually 3 in (7 cm) wide and the whole plant can grow up to 3 feet or 1 meter tall. the mother-of-thousands is also a popular succulent for the home and thrives in warm, dry landscapes. All parts of Mother Of Thousand are highly poisonous (due to a toxic steroid so-called daigremontianin is known for causing cardiac poisoning) to pets or even larger animals if ingested.
Symptoms of poisoning: vomiting, diarrhea, weakness; it has been found to affect the muscular and nervous systems of small animals.
Kalanchoe Delagoensis (Mother of Millions, Devil’s Backbone, Chandelier Plant)
Kalanchoe Delagoensis, better known as ‘Mother Of Millions’ are fast-growing plants and are known for their easy multiplication and spreading anywhere, in even the most adverse conditions. Mother of Millions is considered a noxious weed in parts of Australia and Africa: they are very drought tolerant and their seeds can survive for years even when the plants are eradicated.
In addition to ‘Mother Of Millions’, the plant is also known with the common names of Devil’s backbone, Mexican hat plant, Alligator plant, Chandelier Plant. These plants are highly toxic due mainly to bufadienolides which can cause heart failure if ingested in large quantities. Make sure your beloved pet is nowhere near this toxic plant!
Symptoms of poisoning: stomach irritation and abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, palpitations, heart failure.
Kalanchoe Tomentosa (Panda Plant)
On the list of toxic kalanchoes, we also find Kalanchoe Tomentosa, better known as ‘Panda Plant’. This succulent belongs to the Crassulaceae family and is native to Madagascar. The fuzzy leaves are of a sage green color with brown spots on the tips. It is considered a great plant for beginners because is fairly easy to care for and does not require much attention to thrive, making it a popular houseplant.
All parts of Kalanchoe Tomentosa a.k.a. ‘Panda Plant’ are toxic when ingested. According to the ASPCA, its leaves contain a type of crystal called insoluble calcium oxalates which can be quite irritating to the mouth and other tissues.
Symptoms of poisoning: oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.
List Of Other Popular Poisonous Succulents
Below is a list of 11 toxic succulents to dogs, cats, and even larger animals. Keep reading this informative article to make sure you avoid a potentially harmful variety for your furry-friend.
First on our list of very common poisonous succulents is Aloe Vera, a stemless or very short-stemmed succulent plant that can grow up to 40 inches tall. It has thick, fleshy, green to bluish-grey leaves. Although aloe vera is well known for its many pharmacologically active ingredients beneficial to humans, it is toxic to cats, dogs, and horses when ingested.
Two chemicals found in aloe vera can be very harmful to your pet: saponin is the main toxin that can cause problems in your pet’s digestive system and aloin, which is present in the latex juice of the leaves, has laxative properties and causes abdominal pain.
Symptoms of poisoning: abdominal pain, diarrhea, red urine, nausea, vomiting, skin irritation, lethargy, tremors.
Agave is a long-leaved succulent plant that naturally forms a rosette shape and produces a flower spire of attractive cup-shaped blooms. Originally from Mexico, the agave now grows across the world in similar growth conditions: a sunny and dry climate, and well-drained soil. Agave leaves vary from bluish-green to silver-gray and are usually long and narrow, but can be also short and broad.
The leaf margins are typically lined with large, sharp spines (teeth) and each leaf is usually tipped with a hard, sharp spine. Although this plant has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, it contains toxic sap that immediately causes pain and burning upon contact with skin. It is safest to assume all parts of the Agave are toxic – leaves, and flower stalk.
Symptoms of poisoning: On contact with the skin or eyes, the sap causes irritation and rashes. If ingested, the saponin in the agave plant can have serious consequences including kidney and liver damage.
Crassula Ovata (Jade Plant)
Next on our list of toxic succulents is Crassula Ovata, also known as ‘Jade Plant’, one of the most popular indoor ornamental plants all over the world. This toxic succulent native to South Africa and Mozambique has thick, woody stems and plump, glossy oval leaves, giving it a miniature tree-like appearance.
While the chemical responsible for the toxicity of the plant remains unknown, the safest thing you can do is to keep your pets away from the leaves, flowers, stems, and roots of the plant.
Symptoms of poisoning: vomiting, depression, loss of coordination, lethargy.
Crassula Arborescens (Silver Jade Plant)
Crassula Arborescens commonly referred to as Silver Jade, Chinese Jade, or Money Plant is a succulent plant native to South Africa. It is often grown as a houseplant and features lovely rounded blue-gray leaves with brown edges and small maroon speckles on the upper surface.
Although the toxic substance is unknown, all parts of the Silver Jade plant are considered poisonous, and that is why it’s on the list of toxic succulents.
Symptoms of poisoning: nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea.
Sansevieria Trifasciata (Snake Plant, Mother-In-Law’s Tongue)
Next on our list of toxic succulents is Sansevieria Trifasciata, commonly known as Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue native to tropical West Africa. It is an evergreen perennial plant a member of the Asparagaceae family and features stiff green pointy leaves that range from six inches to eight feet tall, depending on the variety.
Sansevierias are popular & easy-care houseplants, perfect for beginners due to their ability to thrive even when neglected. Sanseveria with its modern, edgy look and can also help purify the air in your home by removing formaldehyde and benzene toxins. However, the leaves contain saponin, a bitter chemical compound that causes severe stomach irritation to the pets when ingested.
Symptoms of poisoning: nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Senecio Rowleyanus (String of Pearls, String of Peas Plant)
Another toxic succulent to pets is Senecio Rowleyanus, better known as ‘String of Pearls’ or ‘String of Peas Plant’, a flowering perennial succulent that belongs to the Asteraceae family, native to the dry regions of southwestern Africa. This beautiful trailing succulent looks gorgeous in cascade hanging basket arrangements and it’s very appreciated for its unique, almost spherical, tiny pea-shaped leaves.
‘String of Pearls’ makes the perfect ornamental plant as it is easy to grow, care for, and propagate. It blooms during the summer months with small, white flowers that have a spicy, cinnamon smell. Despite its beauty, according to the ASPCA, it is a toxic succulent because it contains saponin that can cause dermatitis, skin, or mouth irritation when ingested by pets.
Symptoms of poisoning: vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and lethargy.
Sago Palm (Cycas Revoluta)
Sago Palm, a species of gymnosperm in the family Cycadaceae, is native to southern Japan. Despite its common name and its palm-tree look with glossy, stiff fronds, Sago Palm is not a palm tree at all. These plants are cycads, ancient tropical, and subtropical plants.
Sago Palm is a common houseplant, you can easily find it at your local store or nursery, and is perfect for adding a touch of a tropical feel to the room, no matter your home style! BUT… A warning to all pet owners: all parts of the sago palm are extremely toxic with the seeds being the most toxic to animals (and humans!) when ingested because containing a poisoning substance called cycasin.
Symptoms of poisoning: Abdominal pain, weakness, vomiting, increased thirst, liver failure, seizure.
String of Dolphins (Senecio Peregrinus)
String of Dolphins (Senecio peregrinus) is a species of trailing succulents in the Asteraceae family. It’s a charming hybrid of ‘String of pearls’ (Senecio rowleyanus) and ‘Candle plant’ (Senecio articulates). String of Dolphins is an incredible succulent with unique-looking curvy blue-green leaves shaped like jumping dolphins BUT is toxic to cats, dogs, and other pets so you need to keep your furry friend away from this succulent.
Symptoms of poisoning: Abdominal pain, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea.
How to Keep Your Pets Away From Toxic Succulents?
As a parent or a pet-parent pet, you can take steps to provide healthy and safe environments for your child or your furry friend. Besides the obvious of keeping your toxic succulents out of the reach of your curious furry friend or toddler, you might also want to consider keeping your toxic succulents inside metal crates or bird cages. These are a good option because they can let the sunlight in and keep the air circulating. They come in several different sizes adaptable to your space.
Another great idea is to grow your succulents in open or closed terrariums. Terrariums allow you to design and create tiny ecosystems of small succulents and other decorative elements inside a glass enclosure and are low-maintenance, space-saving, and simply beautiful!
How to Treat a Pet that has Eaten a Toxic Succulent?
The most important thing to do if your pet eats a succulent is to identify the plant and call animal poison control. If you suspect your pet has swallowed something dangerous, call your veterinarian straight away or reach out to an animal poison control center for accurate advice.
ASPCA Animal Poison-Control Center provides a database of common pet poisons and is available for telephone consultations (1-888-426-4435) in case of a poisoning emergency. The more information you can provide them, the better they can advise on your next steps. When you call you should be able to tell what type and how much of the plant your pet ate, as well as describe your pet’s symptoms.
At the end of the day… Are Succulents Poisonous? It depends: as described above, some are and some are not! Hope you enjoyed reading this article and found it comprehensive and enlightening! If you like, feel free to leave a comment or share your knowledge on this topic in the section below.
Enjoy more readings:
- 11 Toxic Succulents Harmful To Dogs, Cats, And Other Pets – Watch Out!
- Pet-Safe Succulents – List of 14 Non-toxic Succulents For Cats, Dogs, Or Other Pets
- How Long Can Succulents Go Without Water? 5 Interesting Questions Answered!
- Top 10 Amazing Benefits of Growing Succulents – Health Benefits and Much More!
- Black Spots on Succulents: The Ultimate Guide to This Common Problem week