The warm summer months bring the anticipation for blooms both inside and out. But for some, the season brings more dread than joy. Trees, grasses and plants bloom and pollen fills the air — which means pollen allergies. If you are an allergy sufferer, take heart, there are many options for your home and yard that won’t require an asthma inhaler or a pocket full of tissues.
Flowers & Plants
Say no to: The asteraceae family, which includes: artemesia, asters, dahlias, daisies, Gerber daisies, chamomile, chrysanthemums, utica and some breeds of sunflowers.
Solutions and alternatives: azalea, begonia, bougainvillea, camellia, chenille, clematis, columbine, crocus, cyclamen, daffodil, dianthus, geranium, hibiscus, hydrangea, heuchera, impatiens, iris, lilac, lily, lupin, orchid, pansy, penstemon, periwinkle petunia, phlox, rose, salvia, sedum, snapdragon, thrift, verbena, viola and zinnia. Whew! — told you there were plenty.
Baby’s breath is added to many floral bouquets and arrangements. In its single-flower state, it can be an allergen. Opt for baby’s breath with double flowers. This hybrid variety has reduced pollen.
In fact, few flowers are problematic for allergy suffers, but if you’re highly sensitive, seek out hybrids classified as “formal doubles.” These have virtually no pollen.
Lilies do produce pollen but it’s easy to remove their stamen with scissors before bringing them into your house. Just wear gloves when doing so because the pollen can stain your hands.
Some sunflowers are good choices for allergy suffers. These breeds including apricot twist, infrared mix, joker and pro-cut bicolor.
Many plants that are mainly grown for their foliage such as hosta, dusty miller and cactus are all great choices. Many spring bulbs are also very low in pollen, including crocus, daffodils, hyacinth and tulips.
Plants with larger flowers tend to produce less pollen. This is because their pollen is heavier and requires insects, bees, and birds to move the pollen from plant to plant versus relying on the wind. Plants with small, inconspicuous flowers tend to be the worst offenders.
The good news: only about 100 of more than 50,000 tree species cause allergies.
The bad news: those 100 are a challenge to avoid.
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, usually via wind. This is what makes these heavy pollinators an allergy culprit.
Dioecious tree species bear male and female flowers on separate plants. Dioecious trees include ash, boxelder, cedar, cottonwood, juniper, mulberry and yew. If you select or happen to have a male plant you may have problems.
Avoid: alder, ash (male), aspen (male), beech, birch, box elder (male), cedar (male), cottonwood (male), white/American elm, hickory, red and silver maples (male), mulberry (male), oak, olive, palm (male), pecan, pine, Phoenix palm, platanus, poplar (male), sycamore, walnut, willow (male) and yew.
If you are allergic to oak, you are likely to be allergic to beech, birch and alder too, which are in the same family.
Sure-fire solutions for an allergy-free garden: ash (female), apple, double-flowered cherry, Chinese fan palm (female), dogwood, fern pine (female), English holly (female), fir, Bradford pear, crepe myrtle, hardy rubber tree, magnolia, red maple (female; especially the autumn glory cultivar), yellow poplar, spruce and flowering plum.
Problem grasses include: Bermuda, fescue, Johnson, June, Kentucky bluegrass, orchard, perennial rye, redtop, salt grass, sweet vernal and Timothy.
Late spring and summer is when grass allergy season kicks in. There are more than 1,000 species of grass in North America, but only a handful cause serious allergic reactions in humans. Grass allergy sufferers must take extra care when doing yard work — especially mowing the lawn.
Ground-cover alternatives: Plant St. Augustine if you want grass in your yard but can’t handle other varieties. If you are allergic to grass, consider replacing it with a ground cover like vinca, geranium, dichondra or Irish moss that doesn’t produce much pollen. Wear a face mask if you do have to mow or ask someone else to do the job. You might consider replacing your lawn with artificial turf altogether.
Steps to Minimize Your Allergic Reactions
Think you might have a pollen allergy?
First, pay a visit to your allergist for a skin or blood test. This will determine the triggers of your reaction.
Pollen counts are highest in the morning, so avoid being outdoors during this height. Weather stations and apps are a good source of up-to-date pollen count information.
Plan your home landscape with varieties that don’t cause allergies. Nurseries often have hybrids and cultivars available. FTD has many flowers that cater to those with a pollen allergy.