Are Pothos Edible or Toxic? Uncovering the Truth About This Popular Houseplant

The pothos plant, a popular houseplant for many due to its lush and hardy nature, holds a secret. Beneath the beautiful foliage and resilient character lies a potential danger for humans and animals alike. Today, we delve into the truth about the pothos plant, its toxicity, and the question on many minds: are pothos edible? Discover safe ways to coexist with this charming yet dangerous green companion.

Key Takeaways

  • Pothos plants are not edible and contain dangerous calcium oxalate crystals which can cause a range of symptoms if ingested.

  • Pet owners and parents should take steps to prevent accidental consumption by keeping the plants out of reach.

  • In case of ingestion, contact Poison Control or a veterinarian immediately for Guidance. Safe alternatives such as peperomia, maranta, and tillandsia offer safer options.

Pothos and Edibility: What You Need to Know

Golden pothos leaves with visible calcium oxalate crystals

While pothos plants indeed add an aesthetic appeal to our homes, they are far from being a part of our diet or our pets’ meals. In fact, these plants are poisonous to both humans and animals. The toxicity of pothos plants is due to the presence of insoluble calcium oxalate crystals in their leaves. These crystals are needle-like in shape, which can cause negative reactions when ingested.

The toxicity of pothos plants, often referred to as “devil’s ivy”, is particularly concerning for pets, especially cats and dogs. The calcium oxalate crystals found in the leaves and stems of these plants pose a significant health risk to our furry friends. Awareness of the potential harm these plants can cause is vital for maintaining household safety.

The Hidden Dangers of Pothos Plants

Child reaching towards a potted pothos plant

Despite its innocent appearance, the pothos plant hides a potential danger to those who unknowingly consume it. Every variety of pothos, including the well-known devil’s ivy, is toxic to cats and dogs, making it one of the many poisonous plants pet owners should be cautious of. The symptoms, while not typically fatal, can cause significant discomfort and require immediate attention.

Pothos plant toxicity, also known as pothos toxicity, extends beyond cats and dogs. Other animals, such as:

  • birds

  • rabbits

  • hamsters

  • ferrets

  • mice

  • rats

  • reptiles

can also experience adverse effects from consuming pothos. Symptoms include digestive irritation and mouth swelling, which pose a considerable risk to these animals.

Children are not exempt from the hidden dangers of pothos plants. The ingestion of pothos can lead to:

  • Irritation

  • Intense burning

  • Swelling

  • Vomiting

This is due to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals in the plant. Recognizing these risks and taking appropriate measures to prevent accidental consumption is vital.

Symptoms and Consequences of Pothos Ingestion

Vomiting and swelling as symptoms of pothos ingestion

The ingestion of pothos, whether by a child or a pet, is accompanied by a range of distressing symptoms, including:

  • Oral irritation

  • Drooling

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Swelling

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Lethargy

These are common signs of golden pothos ingestion.

In cats and other pets, pothos toxicity may manifest as:

  • Pawing at the mouth

  • Excessive drooling

  • Mouth discomfort

  • Vomiting

Typically, when a pet eats pothos, they may display signs like drooling and vomiting.

For children, even a small amount of the plant can lead to irritation, swelling, and vomiting. Prompt medical attention is required to adequately address these symptoms.

Preventing Accidental Pothos Consumption

The best way to prevent accidental ingestion of pothos plants or taro vine is to place them out of reach, just like you would with silver vine. This could be on top of tall furniture or shelves, where the vining stems can cascade down safely.

Several measures can deter pets from accessing pothos plants. These include hanging the plant using macrame plant holders, placing barriers around the pots, or using a plant cage.

Paying attention to any abnormal behaviors in pets can also help prevent accidental ingestion. These behaviors include:

  • Salivation

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Refusal to eat

  • Depression

  • Excessive drooling

  • Difficulty swallowing

Handling and Caring for Pothos Plants Safely

While pothos plants may pose a threat, they can still be safely enjoyed with proper care and handling. When tending to the plant, wearing gloves can prevent skin irritation from the plant’s sap. Should pothos sap come into contact with your skin, washing the affected area thoroughly with soap and water is a crucial step to minimize potential irritation and avoid symptoms such as difficulty breathing.

When it comes to cleaning pothos leaves, gentleness is key. Wiping them with a soft microfiber cloth or rinsing them under a shower or sink is recommended. A mild, natural liquid soap and water solution can also be used, avoiding harsh chemicals that may harm the plant and increase the need for veterinary care if ingested by pets.

Emergency Response: What to Do If Pothos Is Ingested

In the unfortunate event of pothos ingestion, swift action is crucial. It is important not to induce vomiting, but rather offer milk or water to the affected individual and contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 for further guidance.

The national poison control helpline is accessible from anywhere in the United States and can provide guidance on handling cases of oral irritation intense burning caused by pothos ingestion.

For pets, immediate contact with a veterinarian is essential. Pets, particularly cats, are expert at concealing pain and discomfort, making it difficult to identify symptoms early on. Therefore, prompt veterinary care, including veterinary medicine, becomes a necessity.

Safe Alternatives to Pothos

Non-toxic options are plentiful for those seeking a safer alternative to pothos plants. Other plants, such as peperomia, maranta, and tillandsia, are not only safe for humans and pets, but they are also easy to grow and thrive in various conditions, unlike some toxic plants.

Maranta plants, for instance, can be propagated by taking cuttings in the spring. These cuttings can be placed in a glass of water or propagated using tap water, filtered water, or rainwater.

Tillandsia requires the following conditions to thrive:

  • Bright, indirect sunlight or appropriate indoor lighting

  • Regular watering

  • Prevention of standing water

  • Temperatures between 10-32°C

  • Moderate humidity levels


Understanding the potential dangers of pothos plant toxicity is crucial for the safety of everyone in the household. Despite its attractive appearance, this popular houseplant can pose a significant health risk to humans and pets alike if ingested.

Prevention measures, such as placing the plant out of reach and monitoring pet behavior, can help avoid accidental ingestion. However, in the event of accidental consumption, immediate action is necessary, including contacting poison control or a veterinarian.

While pothos plants can be enjoyed with proper care, considering non-toxic alternatives such as peperomia, maranta, and tillandsia can provide peace of mind while still adding a touch of green to your home.


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