Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from “50 Pet-Safe Plants + Their Health Benefits For Owners,” originally published by Honest Paws. Check out the article for the list of 40 more pet-friendly plants for your home and your garden. Published with permission.
When two things make you happy, the last thing you want is for them not to live in harmony. As pet owners, we know all too well that this struggle is real when it comes to plants. So many are poisonous to cats and dogs, and sometimes finding a pet-safe plant can feel as painstaking as getting an anxious pup in the car.
The ASPCA reportedly receives over 233,000 cases of potential animal poisonings per year. Plants are the eighth-most reported pet toxin and account for 6 percent of all poison incidents.
You needn’t choose between having a green thumb or being an animal lover, however — especially since the health benefits of owning both pets and plants are worth it.
What Makes a Plant Pet-Safe?
Simply put, pet-safe or pet-friendly plants are nontoxic plants, meaning plants without any known toxins that could cause harm to humans or animals if ingested or touched.
So, what makes a plant poisonous to cats and dogs? It all depends on plant toxicity levels, which are generally broken into four classes:
- Major toxicity plants can cause serious illness or death if ingested.
- Minor toxicity plants can cause minor illnesses, such as vomiting or diarrhea, if ingested.
- Oxalate refers to the juice or sap of plants containing oxalate crystals that can cause skin irritation and other ailments if ingested.
- Dermatitis refers to plants that can cause rashes or skin irritation if touched.
Some of the most popular starter plants like pothos and snake plants are poisonous to pets and fall in the fourth class. And, sadly, curiosity can literally kill a cat who eats lilies — the mortality rate is 50 percent. These blooms generally fall in the second and fourth toxicity classes. The same goes for sago palms, which are poisonous to dogs, with a 32-50 percent mortality rate and falling in the second plant-toxicity class.
For peace of mind, according to the Pet Poison Helpline, “While there are thousands of species of plants and flowers, only a small percentage of plants are truly dangerous and poisonous to your pet.” Generally, any adverse effects are not life-threatening and will differ depending on an animal’s level of contact with the plant.
When unsure of a plant’s toxicity level, nip your doubt in the bud and place it out of your animal’s grasp — even the most toxic of plants are only poisonous if a pet can reach it.
Pet-Safe Houseplants for Cats and Dogs
Despite some being toxic to pets, houseplants actually remove toxins from the air, helping boost our home’s air quality and by some counts even removing dust by as much as 20 percent.
Work-wise, their benefits are also aplenty. Plants have proven to increase productivity, spark creativity and improve memory and attention spans. For these reasons, consider the following houseplants to keep you and your pets breathing easy and stress-free.
Nontoxic Flowering Houseplants
Flowering houseplants can be a lesson in patience. Some of them bloom slowly and others only once in their lifespan. No matter when they blossom, embrace their pops of color and, in the case of the following, the fact they’re pet-friendly.
Native to Brazil, gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa) are very popular as gifts. Particularly to pet owners since they’re a showstopper — they come in shades of purple, pink, red or blue — and are nontoxic.
2. Lace Flower Vine
Lace flower vines (Alsobia dianthiflora) are cascading houseplants that can produce zany flowers with tentacle-like petals. They’re also called chocolate soldiers.
3. African Violet
As the name indicates, African violets (Saintpaulia ionantha) are stunning for their purple — and purple adjacent — blooms. In addition to being a pet-safe plant, they also can thrive in low-light. Double whammy!
Also called wax plants, hoyas (Hoya carnosa) are comparable to succulents for their waxy flesh, but they also can flower. When they do, give the blooms a sniff to smell their characteristically sweet scent.
There are many varieties of pet-safe orchids (Phalaenopsis sp.), including moth orchids and moon orchids. Hot tip: Feed your orchid ice cubes to avoid overwatering.
6. Lipstick Plant
Lipstick plants (Aeschynanthus humilis) are standouts for their red, tubular buds with whimsical tendrils. Put them up high or in a hanging planter to give them room to grow — up to 3 feet long.
A true tropical plant, bromeliads (Bromeliaceae) bring a touch of color to any room, thanks to the bright flower that grows smack-dab from its center — enjoy them for the few months that they’re there, as they bloom only once.
Flowing, Climbing and Cascading Pet-Safe Houseplants
Some houseplants simply overflow with greenery, donning vines that flow, climb and cascade out of their planters. They’re fun, and they may even tempt your fur babies. The following houseplants are harmless in the event Fido or felines bat them around.
8. Boston Fern
Plant lovers appreciate Boston ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata) for their shaggy figure that can fill up almost any empty space or corner — your pets are sure to want to play with the fronds. Good news: Boston ferns aren’t only pet-safe but also very sturdy.
9. Swedish Ivy
Sometimes called creeping charlie, Swedish ivy (Plectranthus verticillatus) almost resembles a mint plant but with waxy leaves. When it matures, put it in a hanging planter and let the vines prosper.
10. Spider Plant
A natural air purifier, spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) are also very tolerant of different types of light and a little wear and tear. The ribbon-like fronds earned this pet-safe plant the nickname ribbon plant. Fun fact: You can pluck the baby plants that sprout from the ribbons and propagate them yourself.
11. Aluminum Plant
The aluminum plant’s (Pilea cadierei) nickname is spot-on: watermelon plant. That’s because this pet-safe plant has leaves that resemble, yep, a watermelon. While we don’t advise you taste them, rest easy knowing your cats or dogs will be OK if they’re tempted.
12. Baby Tears
Baby tears (Soleirolia soleirolii) can be used as ground cover outdoors, but also make for a fun and easy-to-care-for houseplant. Pot it, water when it wilts and watch the little leaves drip out of the pot.
13. Staghorn Fern
Whether you mount your plant on a wall or plop it in a hanging planter, staghorn ferns (Platycerium) bring a touch of the tropics to any room — just make sure it’s not a dark room. This pet-safe plant prefers bright, indirect light.
Foliage Houseplants That are Safe for Pets
Foliage houseplants are the epitome of an organic decoration. Admire their leaves that come in many shades, patterns and shapes, and rest easy knowing these ones specifically are pet-safe.
14. Royal Velvet Plant
It’s true. Royal velvet plants (Gynura aurantiaca) are, in fact, velvety smooth. Also called velvet plant, purple velvet plant and purple passion vine, this pet-safe plant produces furry leaves in violet colors.
15. Prayer Plant
The leaves of a prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) can look much like a drawing, with some bearing pink veins and others brush strokes of different shades of green. How did it get its name? The leaves actually fold together, as though they’re in prayer, at night.
Calatheas (Calathea spp.) can come in many varieties, including rattlesnake plants and Calathea Orbifolia, each like their own piece of art. Their leaves tout magnificent stripes and patterns and some variations even have different colored bottoms.
17. Bird’s Nest Fern
A bird’s nest fern (Asplenium nidus) is quirky indeed, with its leaves having zigzagged edges. Fun design and fine for Fido? This pet-safe houseplant has our approval.
18. Chinese Money Plant
Nontoxic doesn’t have to translate to untrendy, and the Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides) is a testament to that. This pet-safe houseplant, with its coin-like leaves, is also rumored to bring luck to any owner — and we like to think their pets, too.
19. Mosaic Plant
Also called a nerve plant, the mosaic plant (Fittonia albivenis) has earned its name thanks to the intricate veining on its leaves. This pet-safe plant is great ornamental.
20. Banana Tree
Believe it or not, you can grow a Banana Tree (Musa) inside, and under ideal conditions — it might even bear fruit. Keep them in bright light for around 12 hours a day.
Reasons to Pair Your Love of Pets and Plants
It’s no secret that our pets make us happy. The CDC has even outlined the upsides of pets, including that they provide us with companionship and opportunities for socialization. Plants, too, come with a wealth of positive attributes — there are even entire treatments dedicated to them, including ecopsychology and horticulture therapy.
Combine your exposure to the two — pets and pet-safe plants — and the benefits are immense.
More exercise opportunities: Whether it’s daily walks to the dog park or playing fetch, dog owners know that the responsibility of caring for a pet means more opportunity to exercise. And gardening is another form of that, too, with the CDC recognizing it as such and estimating that just 30 minutes of gardening can burn up to 165 calories.
Breaking a sweat aside, over 80 percent of people have also considered gardening having a better positive effect on their mental health than attending a gym.
Rejuvenated sense of purpose: When someone or something depends on us to give them TLC, that provides us with a sense of purpose. Pets and plant babies need us for survival. And the beauty of that relationship is that pet-owners and green-thumbed enthusiasts reap the benefits in the form of increased self-esteem in addition to that sense of purpose.
Reduced stress and anxiety: Service animals are a testament to how animals can reduce our stress and anxiety, and it’s been reported many times over that plants and gardening can reduce our stress levels, too. But did you know dirt has antidepressant properties? The mere act of getting your nails — or possibly claws — dirty exposes you to a healthy bacteria called M. vaccae that lives in soil and has proven to increase levels of serotonin, which can reduce anxiety.
Boost your mood times two: All of these points considered, caring for pets and plants plain out makes people happy. Combine both types of caretaking and it can be argued that you’re doubling down on a mood boost.
What to Do if Your Pet Eats a Poisonous Plant
Despite how much we work like a dog to keep our pets safe, sometimes they still manage to eat poisonous plants.
If you believe your fur baby ingested a poisonous plant, call for help immediately from either the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661.
Gnawed leaves or missing flowers aside, some common signs your pet might have ingested or been in contact with a poisonous plant include:
- Diarrhea and upset stomach
- Loss of appetite
- Abnormal behavior
- Excessive thirst or urination
In addition, consider cross-checking any impending plant purchase with the following resources that list plants poisonous to cats and plants poisonous to dogs:
- ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant Lists — Dogs
- ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant Lists — Cats
- Pet Poison Helpline Poison List
Creating a pet-safe home doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice other things you love. Being informed about pet-friendly plants and other plants’ toxicity levels can go a long way in creating a healthy haven that supports your overall wellness and, in turn, the wellness of your pets.