Gardening with Allergies

Keep your green thumb, avoid the red nose.

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Wind-borne pollinating plants, including trees, grasses and weeds, are most likely to cause a seasonal allergic reaction. They produce pollen that is light and released in large quantities that can be easily inhaled.

Allergy Offenders and When Symptoms Typically Occur


  • Alder, birches, elms, willows, poplars, beeches, chestnuts or oaks, maples and box elders, hickories, cedars, ashes, junipers, cypress, sequoia and sycamores
  • Late winter into spring or early summer
  • Bermuda grass*, bluegrass, orchard grass, ryegrass, timothy, fescue, sweet vernal
  • Spring and early summer


  • Ragweed, mugwort, Russian thistle, pigweed, sagebrush, English plantain, goosefeet and cocklebur
  • Late summer into autumn

* Bermuda grass often releases pollen year-round and is common in the southern states.

If you have a green thumb but are bothered by a red, stuffy nose caused by seasonal allergies, the ACAAI offers the following information to help you maximize time spent tending plants rather than sniffles.

As many as 40 million people have hay fever (allergic rhinitis), which can cause symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, wheezing and cough. Hay fever has nothing to do with hay or fever. Rather, the culprit is pollen from trees, grasses and weeds. Peak season is usually March through October but varies by region depending on when pollination occurs. Tree pollen can begin as early as January in the South, for example.

Plants That Get the Green Light

Bright and colorful plants often are insect-pollinated, producing pollens that are larger, heavier and stickier. These pollens, which are carried by insects and animals from plant to plant, instead of the wind, are much less likely to cause an allergic reaction.

It’s essential to find out what you’re allergic to so that you can find out when that species is pollinated and limit your time outdoors during that brief period of time. Here are some of the plants, trees and shrubs that are less likely to trigger allergies:

  • Apple
  • Azalea
  • Begonia
  • Cacti
  • Daffodil
  • Dogwood
  • Hibiscus
  • Hyacinth
  • Lilac
  • Magnolia
  • Pear
  • Plum
  • Rose
  • Sunflower
  • Tulip
  • Zinnia

Gardening Tips for Those With Allergies

  • Garden when pollen counts are not high. Peak pollen times depend on the plant, the weather and your location. Watch your local forecast, and talk with an allergist, who can identify which plants trigger your symptoms and provide practical tips and treatment options tailored to your situation.
  • Take allergy medications before you begin gardening rather than after symptoms start.
  • Wear a mask to limit exposure. An allergist can help you find the type of mask that works best.
  • Avoid touching your face and eyes while working outdoors.
  • Watch for rain showers to temporarily clear pollen from the air. Brief thunderstorms, however, can actually increase pollen counts.
  • Wash hands often and rinse eyes with cool water after coming indoors to remove clinging pollen. Shower and wash hair at night to prevent pollens from getting into bedding.