Flowers are a mixed blessing for allergy sufferers. They may be beautiful to behold, but many come with irritating pollen that can trigger itchy eyes, runny noses, and general misery. Fortunately, not all flowers trigger allergies. It seems the more hybridized the plant, the less likely it will have a high level of pollen and the less irritating it will be. But there are still plenty of old-fashioned, high-pollen flowers being grown. This is a good thing or else bees, and other pollinators would be going hungry.
It is not usually the showiest flowers that cause allergies, although some do. Large, brightly colored flowers tend to be magnets for bees, and other pollinators and that pollen is often too heavy to float in the air, which is good for allergy sufferers. The plants to really look out for are those that have pollen that is light and dusty and easily transported by the wind. Another thing to keep in mind is that any outdoor flowers that are brought inside may be even more irritating.
01 of 10
At the top of the list of allergy plants would be most of the plants in the aster or daisy Asteraceae family. Even though most asters are not wind pollinated, many people with allergies are sensitive to the pollen. Although hay fever symptoms can seem worse in the spring, with the emergence of new plants, it usually does not end there. Asters are late-season bloomers and can be irritants.
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Baby's breath (Gypsophila) 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 variety 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.
03 of 10
Dahlia flowers are showy enough to attract many insect pollinators, but as members of the aster family, its pollen can cause an outbreak of hay fever symptoms throughout summer.
If the aster family includes some of your favorite flowers, there is still hope for you. Not all asters are nightmares for your nose. The 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.
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Also in the aster family, daisies may look pristine and tame, but this plant is a high pollen producer. You will likely see many bees visiting these plants. Although the pollen is not wind transferred, people with allergies should avoid getting too close.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
One of the flashiest members of the Aster family is the Gerber daisy (Gerbera jamesonii). For all its bling and beauty, it still posses pollen that can set off sneezing and sniffling. Take care before you bring a bouquet of these into the house.
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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 are given the steaming beverage.
07 of 10
The aster family resemblance is strong in chrysanthemums, as is the allergy-inducing pollen. Mums help stretch the allergy season well into the fall.
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Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) is not considered a garden flower, but 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. It is also in the aster family.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
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.
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Most spring flowering bulbs are not the culprits causing allergy symptoms early in the season, however, you should take a look at your trees. Many trees are monoecious, meaning they have separate male and female flowers. For the pollen to get from the male flower to the female flower, it has to travel and the wind is often the easiest way to disburse it.
It is not usually the showy, spring flowering trees that are triggering your allergies. Most of those have heavy pollen and their flowers attract insects for pollination. The major allergy-triggering culprits to watch for are:
- Arizona cypress
- Mountain cedar
- Mountain elder