10 Worst Flowers for People with Allergies

Avoid Wind-Pollinated Flowers if You Have Hay Fever

gerbera daisies can be bad for allergy-sufferers

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Flowers may be beautiful to behold, but many come with irritating pollen that can trigger itchy eyes, runny noses, and general misery. Gardeners with hay fever can have a hard time picking garden flowers that are beautiful but relatively non-allergenic.

Fortunately, not all flowers trigger allergies. Generally speaking, the more hybridized the plant, the less likely it will have a high level of pollen and the less irritating it will be. And because the showiest flowers are often the most hybridized, it is often fairly safe to choose the more spectacular varieties—at least if your allergy symptoms are not extreme. These plants have the double benefit of usually being quite attractive to bees and other pollinators, which are primarily responsible for pollinating them.

The plants that tend to be the worst for allergy sufferers are those with light, dusty pollen that is easily transported by the wind. Wind-pollinated plants are generally more likely to cause allergy symptoms than those that are primarily pollinated by bees and other insects.

Here are 12 common garden plants that you should avoid if you have pollen allergies.

Warning

In addition to the flowering garden plants listed here, many trees pose problems for allergy-sufferers. Some of the worst offenders include Arizona cypress, ash, aspen, beech, birch, boxelder, cedar, cottonwood, elm, hickory, mountain cedar, mountain elder, mulberry, oak, pecan, and willow. 

  • 01 of 12

    Aster (Aster spp. and Hybrids)

    Hardy Blue Aster Flowers Close-up
    Debi Dalio / Getty Images

    At the top of the list of allergen-heavy plants would be most of the plants in the aster or daisy family, including many species from the Aster genus. Asters can be everywhere during the warmer months and can even find their way into homes as container plants. Even though most asters are not wind-pollinated, many people with allergies are sensitive to pollen. Although hay fever symptoms can seem worse in the spring, asters are late-season bloomers and can be irritants.

    USDA Growing Zones: 4–10; depends on species
    Color Varieties: Purple, pink, white
    Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Soil Needs: Medium-moisture, well-drained

  • 02 of 12

    Baby's Breath (Gypsophila spp.)

    Baby's Breath
    Carolyn Barber (c) Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

    Baby's breath is popular in cottage gardens and shows up in many florist bouquets. Although the flowers are small, they can pack a big punch of pollen. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the double-flowered baby's breath is a better choice than the single-flowered types. The double flowers are hybrids that have a low level of pollen. It also helps that all those petals prevent the pollen from flying off.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9
    Color Varieties: White, pink
    Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Soil Needs; Any well-drained soil

  • 03 of 12

    Dahlia (Dahlia spp.)

    Red dahlia flower blooming on plant
    Mark Tannin / FOAP / Getty Images

    Dahlia flowers are showy enough to attract many insect pollinators, but as members of the aster family, the pollen of dahlias can cause an outbreak of hay fever symptoms throughout summer. However, some dahlia hybrids classified as "formal doubles" have virtually no pollen. These are the fluffy flowers with lots of petals and stamens that have evolved into pollen-less staminodes.

    USDA Growing Zones: 7–10; often grown as an annual
    Color Varieties: Red, pink, orange, yellow, white, purple
    Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Soil Needs; Moist but well-drained

  • 04 of 12

    Daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum)

    White daisies

     

    Jo Superspace / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Also in the aster family, daisies may look pristine and tame, but this plant is a high pollen producer. Although the pollen is mostly transferred by bees, not wind, people with allergies should avoid getting too close.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5–9
    Color Varieties: White
    Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained

    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Gerber Daisies (Gerbera jamesonii)

    Gerber Daisies
    Allan Seiden / Getty Images

    One of the flashiest members of the Aster family is the Gerber daisy. For all its bling and beauty, it also contains pollen that can set off sneezing and sniffling. Take care before you bring a bouquet of these into the house.

    USDA Growing Zones: 8–11; usually grown as annuals
    Color Varieties: Yellow, pink, orange, red
    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    Soil Needs: Rich, moist soil

  • 06 of 12

    Chamomile (Matricaria recutita, Chamaemelum nobile)

    Camomile flowers growing in the shade
    Rosmarie Wirz / Getty Images

    Another aster family member, chamomile can cause double trouble. The plants are producers of irritating pollen, and the flowers are used to make tea, which can still harbor some irritants for allergy sufferers who sip the steaming beverage.

    Chamaemelum nobile is known as chamomile; Matricaria recutita is known as German chamomile; both are problems for allergy-sufferers.

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–9; depends on species
    Color Varieties: White with yellow centers
    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil

  • 07 of 12

    Chrysanthemums (Chystanthemum spp.)

    Hardy Fall Mums

    The Spruce / Marie Iannotti

    The aster family resemblance is strong in chrysanthemums, as is the allergy-inducing pollen. Mums help stretch the allergy season well into the fall. Chrysanthemums are hardy plants that come in a huge range of colors and sizes. They're also popular as container plants and are therefore often part of the indoor environment as well.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9
    Color Varieties: Gold, white, off-white, yellow, bronze (rust), red, burgundy, pink, lavender, purple
    Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Soil Needs: Rich, humusy, moist, well-draining soil

  • 08 of 12

    Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

    Ragweed
    Vincenzo Lombardo / Getty Images

    Also in the aster family, ragweed is not considered a garden flower, though it is sometimes planted by gardeners who appreciate its ability to feed bees. It is included here because it is so often confused with goldenrod (Solidago), which is a lovely garden plant that has gotten a bum rap. Goldenrod is not wind-pollinated and does not irritate allergies. Ragweed with its weedy, inconspicuous flowers, is pollinated by the wind. Ragweed tends to grow alongside roads and in vacant lots.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–10
    Color Varieties: Yellow, turning to brown
    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, average soil

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)

    Close-Up Of Sunflower
    Pornsak Na Nakorn / EyeEm / Getty Images

    The sheer size of a sunflower's center disk is an indicator of the copious amounts of pollen that it can produce. Making matters worse, this pollen is dispersed by the wind. Because sunflowers are not fragrant, they often get overlooked as allergy plants. There are some pollen-free sunflower varieties, like 'Apricot Twist' and 'Joker', that are listed as hypoallergenic because their pollen is too heavy to be windborne.

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11
    Color Varieties: Yellow, red, mahogany, bicolors 
    Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Soil Needs: Any well-drained soil

  • 10 of 12

    Amaranth (Amaranthus spp.)

    Amaranth with magenta flowers in shrubs closeup

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    The Amaranthus genus contains dozens of species, many of which are grown as ornamental garden or culinary plants, but allergy sufferers are likely to think of all of them by the common name assigned to weedy annual varieties—pigweed. Amaranths are wind-pollinated plants that are uniformly unpleasant for hay-fever sufferers, producing masses or ultra-fine pollen particles that drift on the faintest breeze.

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11 (depends on species)
    Color Varieties: Red, burgundy, pink, orange, green
    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    Soil Needs: Moist but well-drained soil

  • 11 of 12

    Ornamental Grasses (Various spp.)

    Ornamental grass with feathery pink and tan plumes

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Ornamental grass species favored by gardeners are found in many genera, but like lawn turf grasses, nearly all orgnamental grasses are pollinated by the wind and will cause problems for allergy sufferers.

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11 (depends on species)
    Color Varieties: Depends on the species
    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil

  • 12 of 12

    English Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)

    English lavender plants with thin stems and small purple flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Many people have allergic reactions to both the pollen of English lavender and to its odor. In addition to nasal allergies (rhinitis), the plant can also cause dermatitis reactions to sensitive individuals upon contact with the skin. Plants with the fragrant blossoms that bloom in clusters of small flowers are often especially likely to cause nasal allergies, since they tend to be wind pollinators.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5–8
    Color Varieties: Blue, purple
    Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil