In the effort to ensure your summer of gardening is as carefree as possible, we’ve curated a list of decorative plants that really aren’t worth all the trouble. If you don’t want to worry about plant toxicity, garden bullies, or demanding divas, then you definitely want to stay away from these lovely, yet time-consuming, cultivars:
Beautiful & Deadly
Since plants have no claws or teeth to protect themselves from predators, many have evolved with toxic compounds to defend against insects, animals, and humans. Though fatality by plant is exceedingly rare, you may wish to keep these poisonous species far away from kids and pets. There are way too many potentially harmful plants to list in full here, so see this page for a more complete accounting.
1. Poet’s Narcissus (Narcissus poeticus)
Part of the daffodil family, poet’s narcissus offers a gorgeous display of pure white petals surrounded by a funnel-shaped yellow center that is rimmed with a delicate ridge of red.
Named after the Greek hero Narcissus, whose love of his own beauty brought about his demise, all parts of the poet’s narcissus are toxic, especially the bulbs which can be easily mistaken for onions. Containing lycorine, eating this plant can cause vomiting, stomach cramps, and in extreme cases, convulsions and cardiac arrhythmias. It is also highly fragrant and keeping a large quantity of poet’s narcissus in an enclosed space is powerful enough to bring about headaches and nausea.
2. Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale)
A fall flowering plant, autumn crocus offers showy blooms in hues of pink, purple, white, and blue. But beware, these lovely autumn flowers contain the alkaloid colchicines. Though this chemical has been used medicinally to treat gout, atrial fibrillation, and pericarditis, the plant is toxic if eaten, inhaled, or absorbed through the eyes. With symptoms that are similar to arsenic poisoning, acute exposure is usually felt within two to 24 hours and includes fever, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and possibly multiple system organ failure when left untreated.