Allergy Sufferers: Don’t Fear the Garden

Flowers are a mixed blessing for allergy sufferers.

Still, not all flowers trigger allergies. The more hybridized the plant, the less likely it will have a high level of pollen. The plants that transfer their pollen by wind are the real culprits.

by Ken Lain, The Mountain Gardener, Watters Garden Center

Worst Flowers for Allergies

The worst offender for allergy sufferers is the daisy family (Asteraceae), including asters, dahlias, daisies, Gerber daisies, chamomile, chrysanthemums and sunflowers.

There are some exceptions. 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.

Some pollen-free sunflower varieties, like Apricot Twist and Joker, are listed as hypoallergenic because their pollen is too heavy to be wind borne.

For decades poor goldenrod has been mistaken for ragweed. Ragweed is the bane of every allergy sufferer. While goldenrod isn’t as bad as ragweed, it can cause some reaction in high wind areas.

Baby’s Breath packs a lot of pollen. So, go for the hybridized double flower varieties that have been bred for beauty without the pollen count.

Best Flowers for Allergy Sufferers

Start with plants grown for their foliage. Hosta, dusty miller and cactus are all superior choices. Azalea, begonia, bougainvillea, camellia, clematis, columbine, geranium, hibiscus, hydrangea, impatiens, iris, lily, orchid, pansy, petunia, phlox, rose, snapdragon, thrift, verbena, viola, and zinnia provide allergy-free color in your garden.

Most spring bulbs are shallow in pollen, including crocus, daffodils, hyacinth and tulips.

While lilies have a bit of pollen, it is effortless to remove the stamens and the pollen-laden anthers with a pair of scissors. Be aware, though: yellow pollen can stain clothes and fingers, and stems can exude a sap causing skin irritation to some.

If you find yourself sneezing, take a look at your trees. The biggest offenders are arborvitae, junipers, and some of the pines as they spew pollen.

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. Unfortunately, some pollen makes its way to your nose instead of to the female flowers.