A garden filled with bright blooms may be gorgeous, but can also be a dangerous temptation for curious children. According to the California Poison Control Center, plants are one of the main culprits when children under six become poisoned. If you have camellias (Camellia sp.) in the garden or keep them as houseplants, you may wonder if they need to go to keep your family safe.
Camellias are rated by several groups such as the California Poison Center, the University of California and the University of Connecticut as safe garden plants. This includes the two most common species of camellia seen in home gardens, Camellia sinensis and Camellia or Thea japonica. A safe rating means the plant is not toxic to humans.
Just because the leaves and flowers of camellias aren't toxic in small amounts, they can still pose a problem if a person eats a large quantity. Camellia sinensis in particular can be problematic if a person consumes too many leaves. This plant's leaves are used to make tea and contain caffeine as well as other compounds that can elevate heart rates, cause palpitations and even produce convulsions. In addition, the leathery leaves of camellia are hard to chew thoroughly and may cause choking.
Safe Camellia Care
Although camellias are not poisonous, how you care for them can make them dangerous. Both Camellia japonica and sinensis grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 7 through 9 and can be grown indoors. Whether indoors or out, camellias can face insect problems such as aphids, mites or scale. Treating these bugs with pesticides coats the leaves in poison that can then be consumed by a curious child or an adult wanting to make tea from the leaves of Camellia sinensis. Prevent insect infestations by growing your camellias in their optimal growing conditions such as well-drained soil and partial shade. If insects do appear, giving the plant a blast of water from the hose will clear away the pests without leaving your plant covered in poison.
Camellias & Pets
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Camellia japonica is not poisonous to pets including dogs, cats and horses. The University of Connecticut reports that Camellia sinensis is also nontoxic to pets. However, if your pets consume large quantities of either of these plants, you should watch them closely for signs of illness.
- California Poison Control Center: Know Your Plants
- University of California at Davis: Safe and Poisonous Garden Plants
- University of Connecticut: Safe and Poisonous Houseplants
- ASPCA: Common Camellia
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Camellia Japonica
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Camellia Sinensis
- Kew Royal Botanical Gardens: Camellia Sinensis
Based in Portland, Ore., Tammie Painter has been writing garden, fitness, science and travel articles since 2008. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as "Herb Companion" and "Northwest Travel" and she is the author of six books. Painter earned her Bachelor of Science in biology from Portland State University.