February 4, 2018
Top 5 Pet-Friendly Houseplants
In the many years I have worked in a greenhouse, I am often asked about suggestions for pet-friendly houseplants. It is not surprising that many of our customers who love plants, also love their cats and dogs; plants and animals go hand-in-hand. I am certainly one of those people and have dogs, a cat, and foster kittens in my home, so this is a topic dear to my heart.
There are many plants that are safe for your cats and dogs and it was hard to narrow this list down to just five. I have chosen five plants that give you variation in light needs, growth habits, and foliage textures. I have also included one with a long flower period. Let’s take a look…
1. Palm Varieties
Palms are nice floor plants, with great texture and certainly can be a focal point in any room. There are several palm varieties that are pet-safe including:
- Neanthe Bella (Chamaedorea elegans)
- Areca (Dypsis lutescens)
- Majesty (Ravenea rivularis)
Most palms do well in bright indirect light; while Neanthe Bella or Parlor Palm can thrive in low light conditions. Additionally, humidity is helpful to keep your palm happy and avoid brown tips on the fronds. Palms require good drainage and do not like sitting water at their roots. Overwatering can cause leaves with brown spots. It is normal for the lowest leaves to brown and they can easily be cut off at the base.
This is an easy-care plant group. There are several varieties of peperomia and they can be upright or trailing. They have much variation in the leaf color and texture. There is even one that is striped like a watermelon. I had a beautiful long leaf peperomia for many years, which thrived with little attention. These plants do like bright light and can thrive in fluorescent light. Another plus of this houseplant is that it is slow growing and won’t outgrow its place in your home.
3. Fern Varieties
This popular houseplant comes in many varieties. Ferns that are safe for your pets include:
- The Boston (Nephrolepis exaltata)
- Rabbits Foot or Hare Fern (Davallia)
- Button (Pellaea rotundifolia)
- Holly (Cyrtomium falcatum)
- Dallas (Nephrolepis exaltata)
Ferns offer a nice texture in your space. They can be used in so many ways, such as a formal specimen in an elegant dining room or as a whimsical touch in a fun pot in a bathroom. Ferns generally like bright, indirect lighting and evenly moist soil, so this is not the plant for those who don’t like to water. Evenly moist does not mean soggy and you can cause root rot by overwatering.
4. Phalaenopsis Orchid
Also known as Moth Orchid, this is the easiest of the orchids to grow. Customers often are fearful of caring for an orchid, but this is a great first orchid and will do well if provided with bright indirect light such as an east-facing windowsill.
The orchid flowers for a very long time and provides weeks of enjoyment. I had one plant that bloomed from January until the spring. These plants do like supplemental humidity from misting or a pebble tray – saucer containing water and small stones. The orchid sits on the pebbles and not directly in the water. Remember to repot the orchids when they are not in flower and only when necessary every two to three years. Water your orchid with tepid water and allow it to dry slightly.
I wanted to include this plant since it comes in many colors and can tolerate low light levels, which is often a request that we get in the greenhouse. Fittonia leaves have white, pink, or red veins that give the plant its nicknames – Net plant, Lace Leaf, and Snakeskin plant. The plant likes liberal water in spring and summer and less water in winter. Its growth habit is creeping and it should be trimmed back in spring to keep it full.
About Pet-Toxic Plants
Many of the plants that we bring into our home can have poisonous or toxic chemical substances that can negatively impact our pets if ingested. The symptoms can vary from mild gastrointestinal upset and vomiting to more serious issues affecting the heart and kidneys. Particularly helpful in my research on non-toxic plants were the comprehensive lists compiled by the ASPCA that are accessible online here. This site lists toxic and non-toxic plants specific for cats, dogs, or horses and includes outdoor plants (perennials, shrubs and trees) as well. It is important to check the scientific name to research any plant, since the common names can be numerous and often confusing.
Pets that are alone in the house can become bored and look for something to entertain themselves with. Kittens and puppies are especially good at getting into things and should always be kept in a pet-safe area when not being supervised. It is necessary to keep pets mentally healthy by providing them with appropriate toys and things to chew. By doing so, you can also help keep them away from your plants. Sometimes pets can get into trouble with plants in the home and therefore it gives us peace of mind to keep pet-safe plants. If you do bring a pet-toxic plant into your house, keep it away from your pets by hanging it or keeping it in an area they do not have access to.
I’m hoping you will try some of the houseplants from this list and enjoy the lovely green of an indoor plant while curled up next to your pet on these cold winter days.
Kathy Evans | Greenhouse Design & Sales