The ZZ plant, also known as, Zamioculas zamiifolia is a popular plant for indoor gardeners because it thrives in low-light conditions and doesn’t require a lot of care.
Their beautiful dark leaves make them a wonderful addition to any room. But, is this plant poisonous to humans? What about to our pets?
Is a ZZ plant poisonous or or toxic?
Yes, ZZ plants are poisonous to cats, dogs and humans, however they will not kill you or cause significant harm to you or your pets. The sap of the plant reacts with the mucus membrane of the skin which causes irritation when touched. If consumed, the body will try to expel it by inducing vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms should subside within a few hours. You can safely keep them in your home if you follow some guidelines.
Keep reading to learn what you need to do to keep yourself and your pets safe while living in harmony with a ZZ plant.
How Poisonous is the ZZ plant?
In the past, there has been a fair amount of confusion about how poisonous the ZZ plant actually is. Many people used to believe that the plant caused cancer and you needed to wear gloves if you were going to touch the plant. This is not the case.
While the plant is poisonous, touching the plant is not extremely harmful to humans or pets.
Directly coming into contact with the ZZ plant may cause some skin irritation if you don’t wash your hands afterwards. If you rub your eyes, after touching the plant, this can also be uncomfortable.
Consuming the sap of the plant or the leaves is more harmful than simply touching it. It can cause stomach irritation leading to vomiting and diarrhea.
However, it is unlikely that ingesting the plant will kill you – so don’t worry too much if you somehow accidently eat a leaf.
What makes the ZZ plant poisonous?
Have you ever experienced kidney stones? Or know someone who has?
Well the ZZ plant produces the exact same substance that kidney stones are made up of – Calcium Oxalate.
It consists of sharp edges and has a crystal-like form which causes the skin irritation.
Just like kidney stones, if you ingest the ZZ plant, your body is going to work to expel it. The amount that you would have to consume to cause significant harm would have to be very large.
In most cases, people experience something similar to an allergic reaction and it eventually goes away as the substance leaves the body.
The skin and mucous membranes are sensitive to calcium oxalate. which is the reason for the common skin irritation.
When it comes to pets, they react similarly to humans. If they come in contact with the ZZ plant, they may develop inflammation of the mucus membranes, eyes, and/or the skin.
If they consume the plant, they will react the same way as humans, experiencing discomfort. They may vomit and experience diarrhea, this is just because their body is trying to expel the substance. Encourage your pet to eat something and drink lots of water because this will help them expel the substance quickly.
The most important thing to remember if you touch a ZZ plant, is to wash your hands right away.
You can even wear gloves when you have to deal with them to protect your skin. If you consume some of the sap, drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated, this will help your body get rid of the toxin faster.
If you experience severe discomfort or the effects of the plant haven’t subsided within a few hours, consider calling poison control or going to the hospital. Fortunately, you are most likely going to be fine.
Is there a safe way to live with ZZ plants?
Remember that you are going to be okay if you come into contact with a ZZ plant. There is a very small chance that it is going to be significantly harmful.
Which means that you can live in harmony with the plant. There are some specific tips to make your life with the ZZ plant easier.
Keep out of reach of children and pets
If you want to live with a ZZ plant and keep your pets and children safe, you need to pick the best spot for the plant.
If you want to keep your little humans and furry friends safe, the best thing you can do is put them in a place that they can’t access.
As your children get older, be sure to educate them and tell them about the toxicity of the ZZ plant. Who knows, maybe they will develop a love of plants themselves.
Deter pets from the plant
If you don’t have a place for your plant that is out of reach for pets, you should consider some deterrents.
Sprinkling orange peels or coffee grounds around the plant – the odors will keep them away. A vinegar solution spray will also keep pets away, but the smell can get quite strong, so use it as a last resort.
Wear gloves if you know you are going to touch the plant
To protect yourself, be sure to get some good garden gloves to save your skin. Make sure that you wash the gloves regularly if not every time you use them to work on the ZZ plant.
Wash tools after working with the plant
Just like the gloves, you should wash any tools you use with the plant regularly. If you use scissors, shovels, or any other kind of tool to take care of the plant, it is likely that they will get the substance on them so it is important to clean them.
Get a non-toxic plant
Ultimately, if you are worried about the toxic effects of a ZZ plant, you can swap it for a non-toxic plant. There are many plants that are safe for pets and children.
How to care for a ZZ plant safely
If the ZZ plant doesn’t scare you away and you decide to get one, here are some tips to help you along the way.
As mentioned before, the ZZ plant is very low maintenance. It needs well-draining soil because it doesn’t require as much water as other plants.
You can fertilize it one every month during watering. Be sure to water when the soil is completely dried out.
The plant thrives in low-light environments but it loves places that are indirect light. If it likes the home you’ve given it, it may flower in the middle of summer and early fall – however the plant is primarily a foliage-based plant.
To propagate the ZZ plant, we suggest that you wear gloves to protect your skin, but it is very easy to do. The plant grows from their large and thick rhizomes resembling potatoes.
These rhizomes store water which is why they don’t need constant watering. The way you propagate the ZZ plant is to separate the rhizomes and replant them.
The ZZ plant is a great choice for people who travel or who aren’t home very often. It is also a great plant for an office or for someone who perhaps doesn’t have a green thumb.
The toxicity of the plant shouldn’t scare you away unless you are worried about your pets or children. However, they can be protected if you take the precautions, and no significant harm will come from contact.
Good luck with your ZZ plant if you have decided to take on the toxicity!
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.
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