Making your garden safe for children

Gardens are generally safe and interesting places, and children often love spending time in them. But gardens aren’t always designed with children in mind.

Supervising your child is the best way to avoid danger in the garden or anywhere else, but this isn’t always possible. This means it’s very important to make the garden safe.

You can do this by avoiding growing poisonous plants and dangerous plants. Fence off or remove any suspect plants until your child is old enough to learn not to eat strange plants (usually at around the age of three years).

Highly poisonous plants: plants to destroy or remove

Castor oil plant (Ricinus communis)
This is a common self-sown weed with toxic seeds, flowers and leaves. Chewing and swallowing a few seeds can cause severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

Castor oil plant

Coral tree (Erythrina genus)
The leaves, bark and seeds are poisonous. The seeds are particularly toxic for children and can cause shortness of breath, cyanosis (when the skin gets a blue tint because there’s not enough oxygen in the blood), weakness and light-headedness.

Coral tree

Common or pink oleander (Nerium oleander) and yellow oleander (Thevetia peruviana)
Every part of these shrubs, including the seeds, is poisonous. Symptoms include staggering, vomiting, diarrhoea, irregular heart action, dilated pupils and coma leading to death.

Oleander

Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna)
The attractive round purple/black berries on this plant are highly toxic. Eating the berries can cause drowsiness, facial flushing, fever, vomiting, confusion and hallucinations.

Deadly nightshade

Golden dewdrop (Duranta erecta)
This is a common self-sown weed with pretty but poisonous leaves and berries. Eating these parts of the plant can cause nausea or vomiting, drowsiness, convulsions, fast heart rate, fever and in some cases death. This ornamental plant is also known as sky flower.

Golden dewdrop

Rhus or wax tree (Toxicodendron succedaneum)
Also known as poison ivy, this plant can trigger strong allergic reactions in many people, causing rashes, redness, itchiness and blisters over the course of a week or longer. Avoid contact, even contact with clothing or tools, or exposure to sawdust or ash from the plant. Wear protective clothing when removing the plant.

Rhus Wax tree

White cedar tree (Melia azedarach)
This is a native tree. Eating the fruits can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, confusion, coma and seizures.

White cedar tree

If you or someone in your care might have been exposed to a poisonous plant, immediately call the Poisons Information Centre on 131 126 for advice (24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Australia wide). If you need to go to hospital, try to take a piece of the plant with you for identification purposes.

Dangerous plants to avoid

Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia genus)
The flowers, seeds and nectar are very poisonous.

Angel trumpet

Arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica)
All parts of the plant can cause irritation and pain in the mouth when chewed.

Arum lily

Belladonna lily, naked lady (Amaryllis belladonna)
The sap and bulb are especially toxic to children.

Amaryllis belladonna

Cacti and other succulents (fleshy plants)
Children can cut themselves or injure their eyes on the spikes.

Cacti

Chillies
If your child puts a chilli in her mouth or touches one then rubs her eyes, it could be quite unpleasant or even painful.

Chillies

Daphne
All parts of this popular ornamental shrub are poisonous, especially the attractive berries.

Daphne

Dumb cane (Dieffenbachia genus)
Eating this plant can irritate the mouth and cause swelling, although it won’t do any permanent damage.

Dumb cane

Euphorbia genus
The sap from these common plants can cause severe pain and injury to the eye. Also known as spurge and milkweed, this genus includes Poinsettia, a popular Christmas plant.

Euphorbia

Hemlock (poison parsley) and water hemlock (cowbane)
These are commonly found toxic plants.

Hemlock

Lantana
All parts of this flowering shrub, especially the green berries, can cause stomach pains, jaundice and muscular weakness.

Lantana

Mushrooms and toadstools
Although most of the toxic species – like death caps and the red and white fly agaric – are found in forests and parklands rather than backyards, there are many poisonous species. It’s worth clearing all mushrooms or toadstools from your yard until your child is old enough to know not to touch them.

Mushrooms

The plants listed here are some of the most common and most dangerous. To find out more about these and other dangerous plants, visit the Queensland Poisons Information Centre site.

Plants to treat with caution

Bulbs that can be poisonous
These include agapanthus, autumn crocus, clivia, daffodil, hippeastrum, hyacinth, lily of the valley, tulips and some irises.

Agapanthus

Cycads: the bright yellow and red seeds are used in bush tucker, but only after the toxins have been leached out. Fresh from the branch, they’re poisonous.

Cycads

Grevilleas (especially ‘Robyn Gordon’ and Robusta)
Some grevillea species can trigger itching, redness and rashes if children have an allergic reaction on contact.

Grevillea

Rhubarb
All parts, especially the leaves, are poisonous (the stems are safe when cooked).

Rhubarb

Sticky weed or asthma weed (Parietaria judaica)
This can be associated with asthma attacks and can cause skin allergies.

Sticky weed

If you’re unsure whether the plants in your garden are safe, ask your local nursery for advice. You can also get a list of poisonous plants from your nursery or local council.