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The Best and Worse Plants to Grow for People with Allergies

Posted by Melisa on

Summer is finally here and for people with allergies, that means it’s hay fever season. If you have a flower allergy then you know what's coming: itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing fits. If gardening is your passion but you or a loved one is allergic to certain flowers then it pays to think about the kind of plants that you will grow in your outdoor space. Thankfully, not all flowers cause allergies.

One thing to keep in mind when thinking about the varieties of flowers that you will grow in your garden is that brightly colored flowers that are a magnet for pollinators are often the ones that cause allergies. That being said, not all showy flowers cause allergies.

Other things to look out for are flowers that produce light, dusty pollen because they are more likely to cause allergies. Light pollen is blown by the wind to start the process of pollination. If the pollen is too big and heavy, it won’t be transported by the wind and won’t irritate people who are sensitive to it. In addition, some outdoor flowering plants that are grown indoors might also trigger allergies to pollen-sensitive individuals.

The Worst Flowering Plants to Grow for People with Allergies

Baby's Breath

Baby's breath is a popular flowering plant that's prized for its delicate, tiny white blossoms. Don't let the size of the flowers fool you, the blossoms are teeming with pollen. Since a small patch of baby's breath has hundreds of flowers, you can only imagine the amount of pollen that’s released in the air! Baby’s breath comes in two varieties, single and double-flowered types. The double-flowered variety produces less pollen so if you have hay fever, choose this variety.

Dahlia

Dahlia attracts all sorts of pollinators because of its big, beautiful flowers that produce a lot of pollen. In fact, the dahlia is one of the reasons for a hay fever outbreak during the summer season. If you love dahlia but your nose cannot stand the pollen then opt for the hybrids classified as "formal doubles." These hybrids are virtually pollen-less.

Daisy

Flowering plants belonging in the aster family are a nightmare for sensitive noses. Daisies, in particular, are quite offending to people with pollen allergies because the blossoms are some of the most aggressive producers of pollen. That’s the reason why daisy patches are always buzzing with bees and other pollinators. Pollen from daisy isn’t wind transferred but still, it packs a punch so steer clear if you have allergies.

Chamomile

Chamomile is best enjoyed as a soothing tea and is known to promote calm but watch out, it can trigger pollen allergy in more ways than one. As a part of the aster family, chamomile is an aggressive pollen producer. The chamomile flower, which is used to make tea, tends to contain trace amounts of pollen, which could trigger allergies among extra sensitive sufferers! If you are severely allergic to pollen, avoid chamomile, both the plant and the tea.

Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums are prized for their showy flowers that come in virtually every color of the rainbow. Unfortunately, this flowering plant is incredibly irritating for sensitive noses because it produces a lot of pollen. The worse part? Chrysanthemums will produce a lot of flowers from summer to the fall season, which stretches allergy season even further.

Ragweed

Ragweed is known for its wispy foliage and tiny graceful yellow flowers. It may not be a garden plant but it’s everywhere so it does trigger allergies among pollen sensitive individuals. Ragweed’s pollen is dusty and light because it’s pollinated by the wind. Since it is a part of the aster family, ragweed is a prolific pollen producer.

Sunflowers

Sunflowers add glorious pops of cheerful yellow in the garden but for those with sensitive noses, they have to stay away. Sunflowers could produce copious amounts of pollen and to make matters worse, the size of the flowers is massive. You can only imagine the amount of pollen that a single sunflower could produce. Once the pollen is dispersed by the wind, the whole vicinity will be teeming with the stuff.

Trees

Certain trees are also known to cause allergies because these trees produce male and female flowers. To start the pollination process, the pollen is dispersed by the wind to get the male flower to the female flower. And get this, not all allergy-inducing trees are showy. Some attract insects for pollination and the effect becomes even more potent for individuals with pollen allergies. Below are just some of the many trees that are known to trigger allergies:

  • Arizona cypress
  • Ash
  • Aspen
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Boxelder
  • Cedar
  • Cottonwood
  • Elm
  • Hickory
  • Mountain cedar
  • Mountain elder
  • Mulberry
  • Oak
  • Pecan
  • Willow

The Best Plants to Grow for People with Allergies

Azalea

Azalea is a terrific flowering plant to grow if you or a loved one is severely allergic to pollen. You see, azalea plants depend on pollinators to reproduce. The azalea pollen is rarely blown by the wind. One thing, however, azaleas are toxic to human beings, including the pollen. The flowers are pretty but do not take a whiff too closely.

Begonia

The begonia makes a lovely addition to any garden. It produces such beautiful blossoms that won't trigger allergies! That's because begonias produce minimal pollen. The best part? All the most popular varieties of begonias are safe for sensitive noses. So if you want to grow flowers in your garden en masse, fill your outdoor space with begonias!

Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea is known for its vividly hued "flowers" but these flowers are actually bracts that surround the flowers. The real bougainvillea flowers are the tiny, tubular blossoms inside the colorful bracts. Bougainvilleas produce very little pollen so they are perfectly safe for anyone suffering from hay fever. One thing to consider when growing bougainvilleas, they are vigorous spreaders so you have to prune them regularly to retain their size.

Camellia

Who doesn't love Camellias? With their showy, fragrant blooms and bright green foliage, the Camellia plant is beloved by new and seasoned gardeners alike. Individuals with sensitive noses equally love camellias because these flowering plants do not trigger allergies. Why? A single plant has female and male reproductive organs so the pollen does not have to travel everywhere for pollination.

Clematis

This climbing flowering plant is often grown to adorn trellises and pergolas. With its delicate blooms and verdant foliage, clematis adds a touch of romantic flair to a garden space. Most clematis varieties won't trigger allergies save for the Virgin's Bower and Sweet Autumn Virgin' Bower. Clematis blossoms last a long, long time so if you've always dreamed of a garden teeming with colorful flowers sans the sneezing fits, we highly suggest growing several clematis!

Columbine

The columbine flower may look like it's bursting with pollen at first glance but that's not the case at all. You see, this gorgeous flowering plant relies on pollinators like birds and insects to disperse the pollen all around. Once the pollinators brush against the stamens of the columbine, they will carry the pollen to the pistil, which will start the pollination process.

Geranium

What's a garden without striking geranium flowers? Geranium is prized for its eye-catching blossoms and graceful foliage. For those with sensitive noses, we are happy to report that geranium makes a safe bet for your garden. The plant produces very little pollen. Scientists also developed a pollen-free geranium although this variety is only available in selected regions. The only thing to remember when growing geranium is that the leaves can cause mild skin irritation.

Hibiscus

Rounding up our list of the best flowering plant to grow for people with pollen allergy is hibiscus. Hibiscus is not irritating because its pollen is quite heavy. The wind cannot disperse the pollen so the plant relies on pollinators to reproduce. If you are extra sensitive to pollen, do not take hibiscus tea because the flowers might contain traces of irritants.

No need to worry about hay fever on summer days with these tips. For more gardening information and helpful resources, subscribe to our weekly newsletter right now!


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