Life Times Newsletter

Spring 2007
Vol. 9, No. 2

Ah, spring! Ah-choo! Gardening tips for allergy sufferers

Timothy W. Horton, MS
Horticulture Specialist

    With the emergence of flowering plants of spring also comes allergy-causing pollen. If you are a gardener who suffers from
allergies, how do you feel about the arrival of pollen-producing plants? Are you excited to go outside and enjoy the warmth of spring? Or do you dread the suffering of allergies that can come along with it?

 By following a few recommendations, you can get out and enjoy the garden while minimizing your exposure to allergens in the garden.

Types of pollination

Pollen is a powdery substance produced by flowering plants that contains the male reproductive cells of the plant. It is carried by wind and insects to other plants, which it fertilizes.

Insect or self-pollination. Some plants produce pollen grains that are large in size so they can be easily picked up and moved by insects. This heavy, large pollen is not blown by air, so it is hard to inhale. As a result, it is responsible for fewer allergic reactions in people.

Plants that are either self-pollinating or cross-pollinated by insects fit into this category. These include rose, geranium, petunia, pansy and salvia, for example. Generally speaking, plants with bright, showy flowers tend to cause fewer allergy problems because they are insect-pollinated rather than wind-pollinated.

Wind pollination. Wind-pollinated plants produce small, light pollen that is easily picked up by the wind. It can travel great distances in the landscape and is easy to inhale, resulting in more allergic reactions. Weed and grass pollen fit into this category. 

Many trees, including oak, birch, cedar and cottonwood (to name a few) produce wind-blown pollen, but tree pollen generally doesnít travel great distances. (An oak tree in your yard will expose you to 10 times more pollen than an oak tree one block away, so avoid planting high pollen-producing trees in your landscape to minimize your exposure.)

Tips to avoid allergic reactions

Hopefully, following these tips will help reduce your exposure to pollens causing allergic reactions. Happy gardening!


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University of Missouri Extension Editor: Roxanne T. Miller