Why do dogs and cats eat houseplants? Perhaps to calm an empty stomach or help process hairballs. Or maybe they’re just too fun not to attack. Any pet owner knows it’s a challenge to keep houseplants away from a pet who’s determined to chew, so it’s up to us to make sure those plants are safe.
With the exception of edibles, like cat grass, the safest option is simply to keep houseplants up high and out of your pet’s reach. Of course, our Feng Shui usually doesn’t accommodate this. Thankfully, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) makes it easy to identify which of your plants may pose a danger to cats or dogs. Consult their Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant Lists to keep your furry friends safe. It makes a great buying guide, too. Here’s a few of our favorites.
Bright to Indirect Light
- Banana Plant Musa oriana
Some varieties will produce edible fruit (takes 3-4 years), but others do not (Musa basjoo). Can grow to be rather large. If limited on space, look for a dwarf variety like Musa ‘Dwarf Cavendish‘. Large, smooth edged leaves that are slighly wavy.
2. Ponytail Palm Beaucarnea recurvata
Drought tolerant, slow growing and easy to care for, the ponytail palm is a great houseplant for those who have busy schedules or travel regularly. A bulb-like trunk stores water and long leaves, resembling a ponytail, reach out from the top.
- Prayer Plant Maranta leuconeura
Beautifully decorated leaves that are a blend of deep green and yellow with a red vein running across each leaf. Named from the way the leaves fold in the evening, resembling hands folded in prayer. This is a reaction to the amount of light the plant is receiving.
4. Boston Fern Nephrolepis exaltata
Voluminous plant with distinct arching fronds made up of small leaves. Great in a hanging basket (and keeps fronds safe from a playful cat or dog). Pale to medium green leaves.
- African Violets Streptocarpus S. saintpaulia
Velvety petals with flower colors of violet, purple, pale blue and white. Can bloom year-round. Known for being a bit finicky, but actually not too difficult once you know some basic rules as mentioned in this video.
- Spider Plant Chlorophytum comosum
Among the most popular houseplants to grow. Hardy plants that can survive less than ideal conditions. Slender, arching leaves can average 1.5’ in length. Mature plants with long stems produce small, star shaped flowers. Consider planting in hanging pots if you have playful kitties around.
- Friendship Plant Pilea involucrata
Easily propagated from stem cuttings making it easy to share with friends, thus it’s common name. Deeply crinkled, velvety leaves with deep bronze veins. Most varieties do well as trailing plants but can be pinched back to create a more bushy plant.
- Parlor Palm Chamaedorea elegans
Also known as Bamboo Palm, with proper care, and plenty of time, this plant can reach up to 6’ in height. An ideal indoor plant that grows well in cramped spaces and low light. It’s possible to find single-stalk varieties, but most often you will find them growing in small clumps that resemble a palm-like shrub.
- Gloxinia Sinningia speciosa
Related to the African violet, gloxinia produces show stopping blooms in a variety of colors. Many gloxinias found in stores today are seed-grown hybrids, which put a lot of energy into creating beautiful blooms, instead of their root systems. This results in the plant dying back after their blooming season and is not likely to grow back. Many consider this pet-friendly houseplant to be an annual. Extend the blooming season by pinching off dead flowers.
- Mosaic Plant Fittonia albivenis
Commonly used in terrariums due to its need for constant humidity, this evergreen perennial thrives in low light. This low growing plant can spread up to 18”, completely covering a small space with it’s silver-veined leaves.
- Cast Iron Plant Aspidistra elatior
Just like cast iron, this plant is tough to destroy and is tolerant to being neglected. A great option for homeowners without a green thumb. Its bright green leaves can grow up to 2’ tall and 3’ wide. Cast iron plants don’t like to have their roots disturbed so select a pot that is a few inches wider than the roots to give this slow growing plant plenty of extra space.
Before you bring your new plant home, make sure you have the right conditions and space for your plant to thrive. Selecting a healthy plant from a reputable nursery will also make a big difference in the life of your plant. Not sure what a healthy plant looks like? Look for new growth (a sign that it will continue to grow when you get it home) and avoid plants that are damaged.
A pot with good drainage will be more forgiving as you learn the watering needs of your new plant. Make sure to have a saucer to catch any runoff and avoid damage to your table or windowsills. A pot that is an inch or two larger than the plant will allow room for growth. Fertilizer is a must as the plant will exhaust the nutrients in the soil over time. And of course, be mindful of using chemicals to treat any pests or disease to keep your plants safe for kids and pets.
Not for the Garden
While these plants are non-toxic to pets, they can be devasting to our native landscape. We strongly advise against adding these plants to your yard or garden where they can become invasive, pushing out native plants and animals. Properly dispose of non-native vegetation by mixing in with your curbside yard trimmings which will be sent to a local composting facility.