11 Pet Friendly Houseplants

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.

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  1. 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.

  1. 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.  

  1. 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.  

  1. 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.  

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  1. 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.  

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.  

  1. 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.  

  1. 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.  

General Care 

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.  


Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Native Plant Spotlight: Texas Creeping Oxeye

Wedelia texana

After many spring flowers and gardeners have languished from the heat, this easy-care shrub continues to bloom an airy bouquet of sweet daisy-like flowers through summer and into fall. A little water-sipper of a plant, Texas creeping oxeye Wedelia texana proves that even in the middle of summer, those with a sunny disposition can still thrive.   

Some like it hot 

True to its central and west Texas roots, the plant can handle reflected heat from a walkway, driveway or brick wall. Consider siting it at the edge of a patio or at that tricky spot just beyond the reach of the sprinkler. Also called zexmenia, this perennial shrub typically grows 18 to 24 inches and is semi-evergreen, going dormant during harsh winters. Unparticular about soil, zexmenia only requires excellent drainage to thrive. Rainfall typically provides all the water the plant needs once it is established.   

Feed the pollinators 

Ample nectar attracts butterflies and honeybees. A larval host like many members of the aster family, zexmenia is where the bordered patch butterfly lays her eggs. The buffet doesn’t stop there as songbirds also dine on the seeds.  

Growing success 

This low, long-blooming, shrub is well-mannered and adaptable. In partial shade it tends to sprawl into a pleasant groundcover. To maintain a compact rounded habit, plant zexmenia in full sun. Cut back in early spring and enjoy flowers by April or May. For denser growth or to rejuvenate plant, cut back by half in mid-summer. 

Remember to register your pollinator garden 

A registered garden provides the basic needs of pollinators, including food, shelter and water in a chemical-free zone. Don’t worry if you think your garden might not qualify. The garden registration form helps you put the necessary components in place, whether you’re starting from scratch or making a few additions to an established garden. You’ll find easy-to-follow guidelines, such as offering nectar-producing (flowering) plants for each season, leaving some patches of bare ground for burrowing insects, supplying a water source (bird baths work great) and providing host plants so insects can lay eggs. Native plant lists are included to help with any shopping. 

Registrations received from June 1, 2021 through December 1, 2021 count towards the 2021 Plant for Pollinators Village Challenge. Each registration earns a point for your village association. Program sponsors, The Woodlands GREEN and Project PolliNation, will donate funds to the three village associations with the most points for their scholarship program. 


Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Think Like A Plant: How To Water Effectively With Deep Watering

Here’s a deep thought for you: how a plant is watered is just as important as how much it’s watered. Start watering deeply for more robust and rugged root systems and thriving, happy plants. In this article, we’ll take a closer look into deep watering: its benefits, how to do it, and some other consideration to help make your landscape the best on the block.

What Does It Mean To Water Deeply?

There’s no cut-and-dry definition of a deep watering. Most gardeners generally refer to it as when water has soaked at least eight inches into the soil. This gives plants the structure required to survive lack of water, whether from a drought, a busy gardener, or other environmental stresses.

5 Perks Of Deep Watering

  1. Water gets to where it’s needed most – The majority of a plant’s root system is well below the surface. Deep watering ensures water gets down to the roots instead of lingering at the surface.
  2. Develop strong root systems – Plants that receive frequent watering don’t bother developing strong root systems. Why should they? We’re training their roots to stay near the surface where the water is, leaving them susceptible to stress, especially when we miss a few days of watering. Once water-stressed, it may take weeks for a plant to recover, or it may never fully recover!
  3. Protection during drought – The top of the soil dries out quickly. Delivering the water deeply shields it from evaporation.
  4. Use less water – Deep watering is efficient watering. For most plants and vegetables, one inch delivered once a week is adequate. If your plants act like they need more, you might not be watering deep or often enough.
  5. Save money and time – This one’s a no-brainer.

Watering Deeply How-To

The keys to successful deep watering are simple: infrequently and slowly. But let’s dig a little deeper…

  1. First, check your soil’s moisture. Moisture meters help but your finger will do just fine. Be sure to get eight inches down and near the roots. Does the soil feel dry?
  2. Next, water your plants with a steady and light stream. Fast running water slides off the top of the soil, taking your time and money with it. Clay soil is especially slow at absorbing water so be patient.
  3. Wait 30 minutes for the water to percolate down.
  4. Recheck the moisture level. If the water hasn’t soaked down eight inches, water a little longer.
  5. Wait 30 minutes and recheck the soil.
  6. Once you’ve moistened at least eight inches down, you’re set. Be sure to note the total time it took along with the number of watering cycles and the water flow rate.

Remember To…

Mulch It

Mulch offers a second layer of protection for your plants. It slows evaporation, preserving soil moisture which is especially important for our hot Texas summers. Mulch also deters the spread of garden pests. Check here for tips on effective mulching in our area.

Drip It

Drip irrigation is specifically designed for deep watering. The drip emitter sits at the base of the plant delivering water right to the roots, minimizing evaporation and eliminating runoff. Installing a drip system is easier and cheaper than you might think and it allows you to vary the amount of water each plant receives, ensuring each one gets just the right amount. If you’re new to drip, check out this Environmental Services blog for an introduction.

Plant Native

Native plants and wildflowers are accustomed to drought situations, so they’re naturally inclined to grow longer roots and be more resilient. To really save water and money, choose native plants whenever you can and you’ll have significantly fewer struggles in the garden and landscape.

Go Deep

Deep watering is a game changer. In our hot, demanding climate, proper watering technique is a make-or-break, especially during prolonged dry periods. Save water and save your plants this summer.


Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

It’s the Year of the Sunflower: 2021

Year of the Sunflower

Easy to grow, healthy to eat and uplifting to see, sunflowers enhance our life. After the challenges of 2020, The National Garden Bureau has named 2021 “The Year of the Sunflower.” It’s almost impossible not to smile, relax and think of sunny days when you’re in their presence.

In fact, sunflowers earned their common name because their faces follow the sun from east to west each day.

These engaging flowers are so easy to start from seed that transplants aren’t needed. Purchase a packet of seeds, select a spot with full sun (6-8 hours daily) and plant directly in the ground about an inch deep and a foot apart (the flowers grow tall and narrow). New plants need regular watering for a couple of weeks, but since sunflowers are drought tolerant, you can back off the watering as they grow.

Good news! It’s not too late in the gardening season to add sunflowers to your landscape. Depending on the variety you’ll have bloom by July or August (50-90 days).

Check out this amazing time lapse video that captures the life cycle of one sunflower.

Selecting Sunflowers

Here in southeast Texas, our native sunflowers attract a host of pollinating insects, birds, and small mammals. Many native bees favor sunflower pollen for its protein and feed it to their developing larvae. Pro Tip: before purchasing sunflower seeds, check the information on the packet to be certain the variety is open-pollinated. These flowers will produce abundant pollen while hybrid sunflowers have little to none. Two easy-to-find native varieties are Maximmilian and the annual sunflower (Helianthus annus).

Birds make great use of the seeds high oil content for energy production and body maintenance. Let the plants stand through the winter for an ideal bird feeder! Your garden will be filled with finches, pine siskins, chickadees and nuthatches. Dried sunflower stalks and leaves provide cover and food for many small mammals.

Of course, birds aren’t the only ones who love a good sunflower seed. Try one of these varieties if you’re interested in harvesting them for your dinner table: Mammoth Greystripe, Black Russian, Lemon Queen or Great White Seeded. Grow-your-own sunflowers are a fun and tasty way to add nutrients and antioxidants to your diet. The National Sunflower Association is a great source for nutritious sunflower recipes.

Celebrate “The Year of the Sunflower” and give your landscape a happy focal point this summer. The benefits abound for you and the environment!


Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Spice up your pollinator garden

Who doesn’t love festooning a homemade pizza with just-picked basil? Or muddling fresh mint into a glass of tea? If you’re like me, you cherish your herb garden. What’s more, these culinary caches, big or small, can serve more than the chef. They can double as a dinner table for visiting pollinators, too! Many herbs provide nectar or serve as host plants for caterpillars. Support your local bees, butterflies and moths by adding these six herbs to your garden or patio

  1. Fennel Foeniculum vulgare

A fast-growing plant that adds a touch of delicacy and height to flowerbeds. This perennial herb produces yellow flowers and grows up to 5 feet tall. Avoid planting fennel next to dill, caraway, or coriander (included on this list below) as it can cross-pollinate, likely reducing its seed production. Plant in full sunlight.

Attracts : Black and Anise Swallowtails for both nectar and as a host plant for their caterpillars.

Use it in the kitchen: Fennel’s anise flavor works well in both savory and sweet recipes. A popular ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, add the feathery fronds to salads and soups for a delicate flavor.

2. Caraway  Carum carvi 

This biennial herb can grow up to two feet tall. Enjoy its carrot-like foliage during the first growing season. Clusters of tiny white and pinkish flowers resembling Queen Anne’s lace appear in its second year which will attract a number of pollinators. All parts of the caraway herb are edible, and seeds can be harvested once flowers fade in the fall. Plant in full sun. 

Attracts: Yellow sulphurs and metalmark butterflies enjoy the nectar. Black swallowtails use caraway as a host plant.  

Use it in the kitchen: Add caraway seed to soups and stews for an earthy flavor with a hint of citrus and pepper.  

3. Cumin  Cuminum cyminum 

Dainty white flowers attract small butterflies from this low growing plant. Reaching a height around 15 inches, cumin’s slender branches resemble many of the other herbs listed below. A member of the parsley family, cumin requires the same growing requirements as carrots, cilantro and parsley. Plant in full sun. 

Attracts: Blues, hairstreaks, sulphurs and many other small to medium-sized butterflies. 

Use it in the kitchen: A key ingredient in Mexican, Asian, Indian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisines. An intensely warm, earthy, and also sweet flavor perfect for both savory and dessert dishes. 

4. Anise  Pimpinella anisum 

Anise is a low spreading, bright green bush herb that grows about two feet tall and wide. These feathery plants add an airy presence in the garden and are blanketed in snowy white clusters. Both seeds and leaves are edible. Plant in full sun. 

Attracts: Swallowtails, including the two-tailed and pipevine. Black and anise swallowtails use as a host plant. 

Use it in the kitchen: Reminiscent of licorice, add anise seeds to breads, cookies, and candy. Leaves make a garnish or crush the leaves and add to any number of recipes. 

5. Dill  Anethum graveolens 

Add contrast and color to your flowerbed with dill. Although delicate looking, dill is a fairly hardy annual that grows quickly and produces showy yellow flowers. This annual herb can grow as tall as five feet and as wide as three feet. Plant in full sun or a location that receives just a bit of afternoon shade during our intense summer days.  

Attracts: Anglewings, tortoiseshells and sulphurs. Host plant to black swallowtails.  

Use it in the kitchen: Dill’s flavor is a cross between celery and fennel. Commonly used in the pickling process, it can also be used to season a variety of dishes like potatoes, bread, fish, and lamb. You can harvest both the seeds and leaves for cooking. 

6. Coriander  Coriandrum sativum 

Get two herbs for the price of one! Coriander are the seeds from a cilantro plant. Allow your cilantro plant to flower and you’ll soon have clusters of delicate white, pinkish or pale lavender flowers. This annual herb can reach a height of two feet. Plant in part shade as it’s delicate leaves can be scorched by direct sunlight.  

Attracts: Small to medium-sized butterflies like sulphurs, metalmarks, blues and hairstreaks. 

Use it in the kitchen: Fresh cilantro is often present in Mexican dishes, but pairs well with many recipes. Remove leaves and add to casseroles, sandwiches, and sauces. Coriander seeds are a great addition to Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian cuisines. Collect seeds for cooking or to plant more cilantro. 

These plants will make an irresistible herb garden, for you and the pollinators. Just be sure to plant enough; three or more of each plant is recommended. Be careful not to over harvest and don’t be alarmed when you find some midnight snacking has occurred. After all, that’s one of the reasons you planted these beauties. Your herbs will grow back (they’ve evolved to deal with bug predation) and you’ll soon be rewarded with wonderful butterflies and a healthier environment.  

Last, but certainly not least, for the health of pollinators and your family, avoid applying chemicals to your herbs. In fact, forgo pesticides and herbicides throughout your landscape; it’s one of the most important steps you can take to protect all those good bugs out there. Want to learn more about natural pest control? Check out this recent Environmental Services blog.  

If you’re looking for more ways to attract pollinators to your garden, check out the Plant for Pollinators website or contact The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department – email below. 


Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov


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