If you have asthma or allergies you don’t have to limit your yard decorating to stones and concrete! There are many plants you can use to design your home garden including flowers, shrubs, trees and more, that won’t contribute to your outdoor allergy symptoms. (See some pictures of a few common allergenic plants.)
However, keep in mind that, even if your garden is “allergy free,” many of the pollens that affect you can travel to your yard from other gardens in the neighborhood or even from as far away as the next state. But there are intelligent and create ways to make sure you minimize the allergens growing right in your own back yard.
Blowin’ in the Wind
Many plants “mate” by releasing billions of pollen grains into the wind during the spring, summer and fall months, including many grasses, trees, and bushes. These are the types of plants you want to avoid in your garden. Instead, you should consider plants that rely on insects for cross-pollination, which are known to have pollen grains that are much heavier and don’t travel through the air quite as easily.
Among these types of plants are several bright colored flowers, fruit trees and shrubs. Ask any nursery expert or a local horticulturalist to help you identify these types of plants and make a list of those you’d like to see in your garden plan.
- Grasses - Bermuda, Fescue, Johnson, June, Orchard, Perennial Rye, Redtop, Salt Grass, Sweet Vernal, Timothy.
- Shrubs - Cypress, Juniper.
- Trees - Alder, Ash, Aspen, Beech, Birch, Box Elder, Cedar, Cottonwood, Elm, Hickory, Maple, Mulberry, Oak, Olive, Palm, Pecan, Pine, Poplar, Sycamore, Walnut, Willow.
- Weeds - Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac, Cocklebur, Pigweed, Ragweed, Russian Thistle, Sagebrush.
- Flowering Plants - Begonia, Cactus, Chenille, Clematis, Columbine, Crocus, Daffodil, Daisy, Dusty Miller, Geranium, Hosta, Impatiens, Iris, Lily, Pansy, Periwinkle, Petunia, Phlox, Fose, Salvia, Snapdragon, Sunflower, Thrift, Tulip, Verbena, zinnia.
- Grasses - St. Augustine
- Shrubs - Azalea, Boxwood, English Yew, Hibiscus, Hydrangea, Viburnum.
- Trees - Apple, Cherry, Chinese Fan Palm, Fern Pine, Dogwood, English Holly, Hardy Rubber Tree, Magnolia, Pear, Plum, Red Maple.
In addition to strategically selecting certain plants, other prevention tips include:
- When working outdoors, wear a NIOSH-approved face mask, hat, glasses, gloves and a long-sleeve shirt to reduce skin and nose contact with pollen.
- Since wood chips or mulch can retain moisture and encourage molds to grow, use gravel, oyster shell, or special plant groundcovers (vinca or pachysandra) instead.
- Asking a family members who don't have allergies to mow lawns and weed flower beds.
- Keep grass cut low - 2 inches high - to help keep stems of pollen from reaching to high into the wind.
- Be cautious about using hedges since their branches easily collect dust, mold and pollen, and keep then pruned and thin.
- Keep the windows in the house closed while mowing and for a few hours afterwards.
- Limit your gardening days to cool or cloudy days, and in the later afternoon or evening when pollen concentration in the air is generally lower.
- Immediately shower and change your clothes when you go back indoors and make sure to wash your hair to remove allergens trapped there.
SOURCE: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care. First created 1995; fully updated 1998; most recently updated 2005.
© Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) Editorial Board