Planting For Allergies by Nicki Jackson

According to the British Lung Foundation one in five people in the UK have a respiratory issue; Allergy UK say 15% of children and 26% of adults have allergies, this is a huge amount of people that are affected in some way or another. Allergies are a very complex subject as they are a very personal thing – what triggers you may not affect the next person so trying to be more aware of what your own triggers are is key when choosing low allergen plants.

Usually, late February to May tree pollen occurs and June to September grass pollen is high, but with our seasons changing due to climate change these periods may start earlier or end later, or both. It isn’t possible to remove all plants that have pollen from your garden, but you can make choices for lower pollen and start to enjoy your garden more.

Pollen is produced by male reproductive parts of a plant and then wind or insects transfer the pollen to the female plants. We then breathe in the pollen that is being transferred and this can cause issues for those with pollen allergies. Generally speaking, plants that are pollinated by insects alone avoid wind pollination as the pollen sticks to the insects and is then transferred to the next plant and so on. So, a good rule of thumb is that if your plant is good for the bees and biodiversity it should also be good for us humans in terms of allergies.

Some key plants to avoid if you do have pollen allergies are Silver Birches, Ash, Oak, Forsythia, Artemisia and some of the daisy family such as Leucanthemums, Dahlias and Asters. There are always exceptions to the rule but it’s a good starting point.

Here are a few of our favourite low allergy plants that we use for clients that suffer with allergies.

Amelanchier lamarckii – a beautiful small garden tree that has a long season of interest, delicate white flowers and amazing autumn colours. It is good for pollinators and birds.

Sorbus commixta ‘Olympic Flame’ – this tree is also good for small gardens and has a columnar habit. Having amazing autumn colour with orange/red berries. It is good for pollinators and birds.

Astrantia major – a lovely perennial that can take a little while to establish but will look lovely in a part shade border, a bee favourite!

Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’ – their common name is Sneezeweed so this gives you a clue about Helenium’s not being great for allergy sufferers. However, this one is sterile so it can be used as part of a low allergy planting scheme. Another bee favourite.

Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ – here at Blue Daisy we do like our salvias, they offer such a long flowering period and are great workhorses in a garden! Great news is they are low allergen, also good for bees but do need deadheading for continued flowering.

Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ – a sterile early grass that will add movement and texture to your borders.

Erigeron karvinskianus – this is a marmite plant; we love it here at Blue Daisy but it can self-seed so if you don’t like plants that move about avoid it!  If you are laid back and like plants to tell you where they prefer to be then this is a plant for you. If we have a warm start to the year this can flower from March right through to November, so another good value plant for long interest.

Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’ – an evergreen shrub (a female form) and this can be used as an informal hedge or a specimen shrub with its slightly ruffled leaves.

At Blue Daisy we have allergies too and fully understand how tree and grass pollen can be so difficult to live with. We hope this is useful for you and helps you realise that you can have a beautiful garden even with allergies!

© Nicki Jackson, Blue Daisy Gardens 2022