Worst Flowers for Allergy Sufferers

Woman smelling a flower while wearing a face mask

It’s hard to stop and smell the roses when your nose is all stuffed up due to pollen allergies. Study our list of the worst flowers for allergy sufferers to avoid planting kryptonite in your flower beds. 

Read on to learn about eight of the worst flowers for allergies, how allergies actually work, and how to avoid sneezing your way through the spring. 

1. Aster (Aster spp.)

Asters are small and daisy-like, with many petals surrounding a yellow circle full of pollen and nectar. These flowers vary in color, ranging in hues from white, pink, purple, red, and blue. Aster is easy to grow and a native plant throughout many states, especially in the eastern half of the country. 

Their blooms pop up later in the season, extending your garden’s color into late summer and fall. This flower produces a lot of pollen and nectar, which causes those with allergies to suffer, but attracts many butterflies and bees. Asters are especially important to Monarch butterflies, which depend on the flower as a source of nectar to prepare for their fall migration. 

There are more than 600 varieties of aster flowers, some common varieties include New York aster, New England aster, and red star aster. 

  • Hardiness zones: 3-8
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Bloom time: Several weeks in summer and fall
  • Mature size: 1-4 feet tall and wide
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic

2. Baby’s breath (Gypsophila spp.)

Delicate baby’s breath is commonly found in floral arrangements, flower gardens, and is sometimes grown as a ground cover. Baby’s breath produces hundreds of small, five-petaled white (and sometimes pink) flowers that bloom for about a month in the summer. 

Baby’s breath is a low-maintenance flower, making it popular for drought-tolerant gardens and rock gardens. Unfortunately, baby’s breath is classified as a noxious weed in Washington and California, where the plant spreads uncontrollably and becomes invasive. 

Pollen and nectar produced by this plant brings in plenty of butterflies and bees, at the cost of your sinuses. 

  • Hardiness zones: 3-9
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Bloom time: 4-6 weeks in the summer
  • Mature size: 2-3 feet tall and wide
  • Toxicity: Toxic to dogs, cats, and humans

3. Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile or Matricaria chamomilla)

It’s nice to unwind with a warm cup of chamomile tea, but not if you suffer from the allergies that this plant causes. Chamomile is a flowering medicinal herb popularly grown in tea and herb gardens. It also can be grown in containers and alongside vegetables. 

Most chamomile plants are either the German or Roman variety. German chamomile is primarily used for tea-making, while Roman chamomile is used ornamentally or as a ground cover.

Chamomile has pretty white petals surrounding a yellow center, like its relative, the daisy. It’s easy to care for and has an apple-like fragrance, which attracts butterflies and bees. Chamomile has been used to help with anxiety, sleeping problems, and stomach issues. However, if you are allergic to flowers in the daisy family (or the pollen they produce), drinking chamomile tea might trigger an allergic reaction. 

  • Hardiness zones: 4-9
  • Duration: Annual (German chamomile) or perennial (Roman chamomile)
  • Bloom time: Spring and summer for 10 weeks
  • Mature size: 8-24 inches high, 8-12 inches wide
  • Toxicity: Toxic to dogs, cats, and horses

4. Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum spp.)

Chrysanthemums, also called garden mums or mums, are fast-growing flowers from the daisy family. Their jewel-toned blooms range in color from yellow to red, orange, pink, purple, white, and bronze. 

Known as the “Queen of Autumn,” mums are popular for being the gardener’s go-to fall flower. Unfortunately, as these flowers stretch their colorful blooms into the fall, they simultaneously extend the allergy season. 

Many treat Chrysanthemums as annuals, but with proper winter care, these flowers are actually perennials. They can be grown in the garden, in containers, and indoors. 

  • Hardiness zones: 5-9
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Bloom time: 6-8 weeks in the fall
  • Mature size: 1-3 feet high
  • Toxicity: Toxic to cats, dogs, and horses

5. Dahlia (Dahlia spp.)

Whimsical dahlias bring bright splashes of color to your lawn, but at what cost? These high-maintenance flowers are related to other pollen-producing flowers on this list, like chrysanthemums, daisies, and sunflowers. While they attract plenty of bees and butterflies, they’ll leave you sniffling and sneezing. 

These finicky flowers can be huge, with some larger cultivars spanning up to 14 inches in diameter. Smaller dahlias can be around 2 inches in diameter and look like puffy little lollipops popping into the sky. Each flower can have petals with varying colors, including yellow, orange, peach, pink, lavender, red, and white. 

  • Hardiness zones: 8-11
  • Duration: Perennial (annual in zones 3-7)
  • Bloom time: September and October
  • Size: 4-5 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
  • Toxicity: Toxic to dogs and cats

6. Daisies (Asteraceae)

No need to wonder if daisies love you or love you not: if you’re sensitive to pollen allergies, it’s a love-hate relationship. When you imagine a daisy, you probably think of a small-petaled white flower with a bright yellow center, but daisies come in many different colors and varieties. 

Daisies are easy to grow and care for and are a popular flower for their summer-long blooms. However, some daisies aren’t so popular. English daisy and oxeye daisies are both considered invasive weeds due to their ability to spread rapidly and crowd out native plants. 

  • Hardiness zones: 4-9
  • Duration: Perennials
  • Bloom time: Late spring to early fall
  • Mature size: Varies greatly, from 10 inches to 4 feet high
  • Toxicity: Toxic to cats, dogs, and children

7. Lavender (Lavandula spp.)

Fragrant lavender is a favorite in many landscapes and gardens. This plant blooms its signature lavender color, in addition to white, pink, blue, and other shades of purple, depending on the cultivar. Lavender blossoms cluster at the spike of each lavender stalk. 

Thanks to the essential oils industry, agricultural lavender production is booming, especially in Texas, New Mexico, and Washington. Lavender has many soothing benefits, including improved sleep, reduced inflammation, blood pressure, and anxiety. It’s used in teas, cooking, essential oils, perfumes, and more. 

Lavender is deer-resistant, and its pollen and nectar will bring bees and butterflies to your garden.

  • Hardiness zones: 5-9
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Bloom time: Around 4 weeks in the spring or summer
  • Mature size: 1-3 feet high, 2-4 feet wide
  • Toxicity: Toxic to cats, dogs, and horses

8. Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.)

Sunny sunflowers are a favorite throughout the United States. They are in the Aster family, and their beautiful yellow blooms brighten many yards and gardens, especially in Kansas where it is the state flower. But beware: The bigger the bloom, the more pollen it will produce. 

Sunflowers are grown for many reasons, including agricultural production for sunflower seeds and oil, flower bouquets, and birdseed, to name a few. Sunflowers attract wild birds, like mourning doves, and are a popular addition to food plots. They are especially beneficial to bees

Thankfully, there are pollenless sunflower varieties available so allergy sufferers can bask in the shadow of these golden giants. 

Pollen-free varieties include: Firecracker, Apricot Twist, The Joker, Buttercream, and Shamrock Shake.

Pollen-producing varieties to watch out for include: Mammoth Graystripe, Black Russian, and American Giant. 

  • Hardiness zones: 2-11 (most are 4-9)
  • Duration: Annual or perennial
  • Bloom time: 8-12 weeks usually in the summer or fall
  • Mature size: 3 feet high on average, up to 16 feet high, 1-3 feet wide
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic

What is pollen, anyway?

Pollen is a powdery substance, often yellow or yellowy-green, that’s made by the male reproductive system in plants. Flowers bloom in the hopes that a pollinator will visit and fertilize them with pollen. 

Perfect flowers are flowers with both male and female reproductive structures, or stamens and pistils. Instead of having both, imperfect flowers have either female or male structures. Female flowers are known as pistillate flowers, and male flowers are called staminate flowers. 

Perfect flowers rely on self-pollination and cross-pollination, while imperfect flowers rely mostly on pollinators and airborne pollination. 

How does pollen cause allergies?

Hay fever, or allergies, is often called “seasonal allergies” even though pollen producers (trees, flowers, bushes) sometimes bloom at different times of the year. Spring is one of the worst seasons for airborne allergens, and most people experience allergic reactions during this time.

Allergies are usually caused by large quantities of pollen in the air, which causes an immune system reaction in allergy sufferers. Plants and airborne pollen can trigger allergies from as soon as 30 minutes after exposure to hours later.

Wind-pollinated plants are more likely to lead to allergy flareups since their pollen is lightweight and blows around in the wind. This is more likely to enter your airways and cause an allergic reaction, especially compared to insect-pollinated flowers. Flowers that are primarily pollinated by insects tend to have heavier pollen, which isn’t likely to fly into your nose while you’re breathing.

Trees tend to be the main culprits during allergy season, since many species rely on wind pollination. However, if you love gardening, or just tend to stop and smell the blooms, it might be worth planting less-irritating flowers in your yard. 

Why are pollinator plants important?

You might’ve heard people say “save the bees,” but what are we saving them from, exactly? 

Pollinators, like bees and butterflies, are a vital part of our ecosystem and are necessary for us to survive. More than one-third of the crops produced in America rely on insect pollination, and bees are our primary pollinators. The number of honey bee hives in the U.S. has reduced by more than half since the 1940s. The bees are perishing from pesticides, urban sprawl, and Colony Collapse Disorder

How to protect our pollinators

Bees need pollen, and we need bees. To combat the ongoing losses, many are rallying to plant native, pollinator-friendly plants. 

If you suffer from allergies, it’s understandable that you might not want high-pollen flowers around your house. Why not consider planting a pollinator-friendly patch in a section of your yard that’s further away from your doors, windows, and patio?

Bees aren’t the only suffering species. Butterflies are struggling too, especially Monarchs. Our population of Monarch butterflies has dropped by nearly 90 percent since 1996. 

Butterflies need host plants to lay their eggs and nectar plants as a source of food and sustenance on their migration journey. Help butterflies reach their migration destinations by creating a butterfly garden

Signs you may have flower pollen allergies

Between 10% and 30% of American adults are affected by seasonal allergies. You probably know if you’re one of them if you experience the following:

  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose or rhinorrhea
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy eyes, ears, mouth, and nose
  • Sinus or nasal congestion
  • Clear, runny mucus
  • Sinus infection
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen, red eyes

If you have allergic asthma, you might also experience some asthma symptoms when pollen counts are high.

How to manage exposure to flower pollen

Get ahead of the sniffing and sneezing by taking allergy medications before your symptoms start. This is especially recommended for those who suffer annually from allergies. Keep an eye on your local pollen count to know when to start taking action. 

Some ways to relieve allergy symptoms include using: 

  • Nose spray (Cromolyn sodium)
  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Nasal irrigation devices, like Neti pots
  • Nasal corticosteroids
  • Immunotherapy
  • Leukotriene receptors
  • Over-the-counter medications

If you have severe allergies, you should make an appointment with an allergist. They can perform allergy testing and help you find out what triggers your allergy symptoms, so you can better avoid whatever is causing the reaction. After seeing an allergist, you can discuss getting allergy injections or taking prescription allergy medicine. 

You also can manage exposure to pollen by:

  • Hiring a local Lawn Love pro to tackle your lawn chores for you
  • Staying inside between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., which is when pollen counts are usually the highest
  • Keeping windows and doors closed
  • Washing the pollen off your car
  • Wearing long sleeves, pants, a hat, gloves, and sunglasses when working in the garden
  • Wearing a hat and face mask when outside 
  • Changing clothes after coming inside
  • Showering or at least washing your hands and face after coming inside
  • Wearing glasses instead of contact lenses, which pollen can get stuck to
  • Planting allergy-friendly trees

FAQ about the worst flowers for allergy sufferers

1. What flowers are allergy-friendly?

Allergies shouldn’t stop you from creating the flower-filled cottagecore garden of your dreams. There are plenty of low-pollen, insect-pollinated, or otherwise allergy-friendly flowers to choose from. 

Some of the best flowers for allergy sufferers include: 


2. What else in my backyard causes allergies? 

Flowers aren’t the only plants to blame for your watery eyes. Other things to look out for include:

High-pollen monoecious trees
Male trees
Pigweed or amaranth
Grass pollen
Shrubs like juniper and wisteria

You don’t need to plant pollen-filled flowers for an interesting backyard landscape. Consider planting a succulent garden or xeriscaping your yard with low-pollen landscape plants if you suffer from severe pollen allergies. 

3. Are there allergy-friendly and pollinator-friendly plants? 

You can enjoy bees buzzing around your garden without scaring them away with all your sneezing by planting flowers that are both allergy-friendly and pollinator-friendly. Look for tubular flowers, their shape keeps pollen from flying around in the air, while allowing hummingbirds and bees to fly in and collect pollen and nectar. 

A few examples include:

Columbine — attracts hummingbirds and bees
Cranesbill — attracts bees and birds
Crocus —- attracts bees and other pollinator insects
Foxglove — attracts bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinator insects
Iris — attracts bumblebees

Want an allergy-friendly landscape, but aren’t sure where to start? Reach out to a local Lawn Love pro to help with all your landscaping and lawn care needs. 

Main Photo Credit: Engin Akyurt | Pexels

Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a graduate from the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.