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Do you suffer from outdoor or seasonal allergies? If so, you may feel like your options for planting flowers in your backyard are limited. After all, the pollen output in some varieties can trigger an intense response for many people. But just because you suffer from this ailment doesn’t mean you have to forgo flowers all together. There are several options out there that cause minimal irritation—you just need to know which ones (and then make sure they’ll grow in your region). Here, an allergist and a floral expert outline which types of blooms will trigger your seasonal and outdoor allergies the least. Plus, they offer their best tips for mitigating irritation in the first place.
Related: Is It Seasonal Allergies or a Cold?
Roses and tulips are safest.
Christina Stembel, the founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers, suggests allergy sufferers plant roses and tulips. “Both of these flower types still have pollen (they are flowers after all!) but because of the type and quantity of pollen they contain, they’re less irritating to sensitive noses,” she says. As for a variety to completely avoid? Sunflowers, surprisingly. “Their large, sun-like centers are beautiful to look at, but are actually huge sources of pollen (and potential irritants),” Stembel adds.
Flowering trees typically don’t trigger allergies, either.
Plants that are pollinated by insects, such as those aforementioned roses, and some flowering trees (like cherry and pear trees) often do not trigger allergies, says Dr. Jennifer Caudle, a board-certified family medicine physician and professor at Rowan University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine. “Depending on your climate, you can likely find something to spruce up your garden without fear of endless sneezes,” she reassures. Dr. Caudle also suggests visiting your local garden center and asking about hypoallergenic species that grow best in your area.
Manage your symptoms before you plant.
Before you begin planting—or even shopping for plants—you should take steps to get your allergies under control. Start with a daily allergy medication, which can offset your symptoms, says Dr. Caudle. “Fast relief is important for allergy symptom control,” she says, noting that she recommends Xyzal ($7.99, target.com), which begins working in one hour, to her patients. “It is best to take an allergy medicine before you develop symptoms.” Take allergy medications at night, before you get out in the yard the following day, she advises. “Xyzal, in particular, helps prevent allergy suffering from the moment you wake up—when pollen is at its worst,” she explains.
Stay indoors on days with high pollen counts.
To further reduce allergies, Dr. Caudle suggests checking pollen counts online before you venture outside to the garden; if the numbers are high, choose a different day to put your flowers in the ground. And when you are outdoors? “Wear glasses or sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes,” she notes. Additionally, she says to remove and wash your clothes as soon as you’re done planting for the day—and then shower as soon as possible.