Is the ZZ plant Poisonous to Humans and Animals? Is it safe?

Unfortunately, as beautiful as the Zamioculcas Zamifolia (ZZ) plant is, if you have little four-legged friends or children running around the house, you may want to consider passing on this one. ZZ plants are toxic to pets and humans when directly ingested, albeit with mild toxicity. Here is everything you need to know about whether you should add these popular houseplants to your collection.

ZZ plants contain a substance known as Calcium Oxalate, which earns itself a position on the list of poisonous plants. It is a substance that is known to produce sores, irritation and numbing when ingested. If any part of the ZZ plant is consumed by a human or pet (like a cat or dog) they will experience mild discomfort and possibly nausea. However, if ingested in large quantities, ZZ plant can be fatal and medical advice should be sought immediately.

Are ZZ Plants Toxic

Welcome to the Garden Bench Top. In today’s article we are going to explore the toxicity levels of the ZZ plant. We’ll explore the possibilities of keeping these beautiful plants as a houseplant. As well as consider the potential risks with mixing ZZ plants and little ones.

Why are ZZ plants not pet or child-friendly?

As we explained earlier, ZZ plants produce a substance called Calcium Oxalate, which is in the sap that travels along the leaves and stems. The structure of this compound is actually similar to small shards of crystal with sharp edges. When the sap comes in contact with the skin or the lining of the stomach, it irritates it and causes the discomfort we discussed earlier.

Unfortunately, pets and children tend to have a natural curiosity for investigating new objects in their home, particularly indoor plants.

Through their curiosities, they may accidentally (okay, let’s be honest – it is probably intentionally) come into contact with the sap, resulting in a nasty reaction.

Are ZZ plants toxic to dogs?

Like cats, dogs are also known to take enjoyment out of interfering with houseplants. However, for different reasons.

Some dogs like to dig around in the soil of pot plants. This tends to be more common for dogs in apartments, and they don’t have the opportunity to play out in a yard. They emulate their normal outside behavior of digging and playing around outside, inside with the dirt in the pots.

On the other hand, dogs are also known to eat vegetation to soothe an upset stomach. Typically, an ill dog will chew on grass to induce vomiting, so they can eliminate the substance that is making them feel sick.

Unfortunately, they may choose the wrong type of vegetation, like ZZ leaves, causing them to feel even worse than before due to the mild toxicity of the plant.

zz plants are toxic and poisonous

How to stop dogs from eating ZZ plants?

If you have a dog and a ZZ plant at home, don’t panic. It is relatively easy to keep the toxic plant away from dogs.

Keeping your ZZ plant in an elevated position will help accidental ingestion by your dogs. Dogs tend to interact with items only at their level, so in line with the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ principle, you can avoid the majority of incidents.

In the same vein, you can also keep the plants in areas that the dogs have been trained to keep out of. For example, our dogs understand the upstairs area is out of bounds. Which is exactly where we keep our ZZ plants.

Are ZZ plants toxic to cats?

It is common for a cat to become ill from ZZ plants because they love to nibble on indoor plants. For some reason or another, they also like to treat the soil in the planters as their personal litter tray. Even when there are actual litter trays at their disposal.

We cannot be certain, however we suspect cats play with indoor plants because they are looking for stimulation, and are simply bored.

Some have suggested cats sometimes chew on indoor plants for stress relief. This is related to displacement behavior and happens when a cat is dealing with an external stress.

cats love to play with pot plants

How to stop cats from eating ZZ plants?

Unfortunately, keeping cats away from ZZ plants is not quite as easy as the canine counterparts.

Cats are notorious for camping out in high unreachable places around the house. And generally speaking, they aren’t quite as obedient when it comes to creating out of bounds borders around the house.

So if you cannot hide the ZZ plants away from cats, what options are you left with?

We don’t personally have feline friends in our household, however our neighbors do (who we often swap propagation babies with each other). So we quizzed them on how they keep their cats away from their indoor plants.

They said the most effective method for keeping their cats at bay was to use unpleasant smells in the pots. Their cats detest the smell of anything citrus, like lemons and oranges.

They have also used chili or pepper flakes mixed in with garlic and water in a spray bottle to great effect. They simply spritzed the leaves with this concoction, and their two tabbies stayed well clear of any houseplant.

To prevent the cats treating each planter as a toilet, they simply added small spikes into the soil and coffee grounds, so their cats could not access the soil.

Are ZZ plants toxic to humans?

Yes – all parts of the ZZ plants are toxic to humans. Generally speaking, babies and children are the most susceptible to falling ill through ingesting.

The primary reason being curious and blissfully unaware of the poisonous substance running through the veins of the ZZ plant.

They may also become exposed to the sap through touch as they innocently play with the plant.

zz plant toxic to pets

How to stop children from playing with ZZ plants?

Preventing children from playing with ZZ plants is much easier than pets.

We can communicate with them in a way that is meaningful, where they can (hopefully) recognize there are consequences if they play with ZZ plants.

For those with children too young to understand the whole ‘cause and effect‘ principle, simply keeping the ZZ plants out of reach and away from curious little hands will prevent any future mishaps.

What are the symptoms of ZZ plant poisoning?

If the ZZ plant has been ingested already, it is useful to understand what the potential effects may be.

As the sap of the ZZ plant comes into contact with live tissue, the calcium oxalate crystals penetrate the cells, leaving cuts and abrasions around the mouth and throat.

The irritation then promotes swelling, which can make it hard to swallow. The patient may also find it hard to speak, and their voice (bark, meow or crying) will become hoarse temporarily.

Severe causes of ZZ plant poisoning involve stomach aches, vomiting and potential diarrhea (due to the stomach irritation) as the body tries to expel the poison.

After the body has had time to satiate the swelling, the irritation should subside.

How to treat ZZ plant symptoms

Eliminating as much of the plant is the best and quickest way of treating ZZ plant. This will help to minimize the amount of calcium oxalate that is ingested into the system, and therefore reduce the irritation.

Washing off the sap and rinsing your mouth with water is a good strategy of reducing the irritation.

If the patient is vomiting or experiences diarrhea, ensure the fluids are kept up and seek medical attention.

Are ZZ Plants Toxic – Common Questions

Can a ZZ Plant Kill You?

Even though the ZZ plant contains toxic substances, it would be unlikely that it would kill you.

The reason is that the irritation caused by the sap is instantaneous. As soon as someone bites down on the ZZ plant, they will feel a stinging sensation. It would be similar to chewing on small shards of glass. This would result in them spitting it out and immediately ceasing to consume anymore.

Therefore, to consume enough that results in death is extremely unlikely.

What Parts Of The ZZ Plant Are Poisonous or Toxic?

The sap of the ZZ plant is where the calcium oxalate resides. Which means the entire plant, leaf and stem, contains the toxic substance and will cause irritation.