With the longstanding drought facing California, water-wise, sustainable gardening has become very popular. As gardeners remove their thirsty lawns and water-loving plants, they may unknowingly replace them with toxic or harmful plants.
The University of California Cooperative Extension’s (UCCE) Plant Safely campaign demonstrates how one can enjoy most plants by implementing a few preventive measures. These protective practices will help to avoid injury, especially to children and pets, from toxic plants or those with sharp spines. The internet has information on hundreds of toxic and injurious plants that are commonly for sale at local nurseries. The Plant Safely website identifies about 100 plants that are often suggested for sustainable and drought-tolerant gardening but are also potentially toxic or harmful.
Most, if not all, of these plants can be safely planted by implementing a few safety measures such as wearing gloves, long sleeves and basic eye protection when gardening. Many injuries can also be avoided by simply washing your hands as soon as you remove your gloves and laundering gardening clothes daily.
An example of a plant that has become increasingly popular in drought-tolerant gardens is Fire Sticks (Euphorbia tirucalli). It requires little to no water and it has stunning reddish green foliage, but did you know that the plant exudes a toxic milky white sap? Caution and care should be exercised at all time with this plant and by implementing a few safety measures like always wearing gloves, one could safely plant this in the garden. Fire Sticks and other unsafe plants should also always be planted away from walkways or places that children and pets can easily reach.