Allergies and Gardening Help Guide

Do you love the thought of gardening but don’t dare to because of seasonal allergies? Believe it or not, there are ways to manage allergy symptoms and still spend quality, comfortable time digging in the dirt! It all comes down to being prepared, and knowing which plants to choose and which to avoid. Here are some tips our patients have found helpful:

Protect Yourself:

  • Check the forecast; pollen counts are lower on damp, cool, or cloudy days, and higher on dry and windy ones.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect your skin from allergens, as well as glasses and gloves.
  • Take antihistamines an hour before heading out to work.
  • While working in the garden, be careful not to touch your face or eyes.
  • Don’t ever mow the lawn yourself! Mowing stirs up lots of pollen from grass and other sources; leave it to a family member, or hire someone to mow for you.

 Know Which Plants to Choose:

  • Stick with native plants. Since they’ve adapted to the climate, they’re easier to grow and therefore less stressed; stressed plants tend to release higher levels of pollen.
  • Plants with bright and fragrant flowers tend to be pollinated by insects, not wind; and their pollen is usually too big to be loosened and blown into the air. Some good choices are crocuses, begonias, salvia, phlox, tulips, pansies, and geraniums, impatiens, and iris.
  • Did you know that most pollen comes from male trees? They’re also sometimes referred to as seedless or fruitless trees. So if you’re thinking of investing in new trees, ask for female. Good options include red maple, dogwood, cherry, magnolia, and apple.
  • If you’re looking for low-pollen shrub choices, think hydrangea, azalea, hibiscus, and boxwood.

And here are some plantings to avoid:

  • Male varieties of willow, maple, beech, cedar, oak, and ash
  • Grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, Timothy, Bermuda, rye
  • Shrubs like juniper and cypress

Want more information? Head to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s website for a more detailed list of plantings and their potential pollen count.