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A lot of the time, those two loves coexist in peace. However, pet parents and houseplant parents may realize that furry friends like to get curious and may nibble (or chomp) on plants. This urge to try a taste is normal, but what you might not know is that many common houseplants are poisonous to our pets. While the toxicity levels can vary from one end of the spectrum to another — “toxic” plants can induce symptoms that range from an upset stomach to possible death — the best way to protect your beloved pet is to educate yourself on the plants you have in your home.
So, read on! As a rule of thumb, always do your research on a plant before purchasing it and never bring a plant into your home that you don’t know anything about.
A quick heads-up: This article is not comprehensive. Note that any specific plants mentioned in this story or any others may be toxic to pets or humans. If you have a cat, dog, or kid, make sure you research the plants ahead of time on a reputable site like ASPCA.org, PetPoisonHelpline.org, Poison.org, or by calling your vet or pediatrician.
These jungalow-vibing, gorgeous-leaved plants are nontoxic to pets, according to the ASPCA, and great design anchors for your favorite living space. One of the best parts about calatheas is that you can collect dozens of varieties with foliage in all shapes, colors, and patterns.
Native to the rain forests of South America, calatheas are generally mid-sized, crave humidity and warm temperatures, and thrive in bright, indirect light. Make sure to plant yours in a glazed or plastic container to keep the moisture around the plant. (Terracotta or other unglazed pottery will let the moisture wick out of the soil, which will dry out faster and give you trouble.)
Oh, but you’ve heard that spider plants can be difficult to care for? This can be true, but by following a few guidelines, you can keep your spider plant happy. One of the most common issues with spider plants is water stress. If the leaves of your plant turn black or dark brown, you’re most likely overwatering. If the tips of the leaves are dry, crispy, and light brown, you’re probably under-watering.
The key to avoiding both issues is not letting the roots sit in water and not letting the soil dry out all the way. Instead, water your spider plant when the soil feels dry an inch from the surface (roughly knuckle deep). Additionally, since spider plants are native to the coastal regions of South Africa, where there is plenty of air movement, make sure your plant gets lots of ventilation.
Chamaedorea elegans, commonly known as the parlor palm, is another wispy plant — and one of the most versatile, nontoxic houseplants out there. You can find the Central America native in all sizes, from terrarium-sized to XXL. In fact, you’ll discover that your parlor palm can get up to six feet tall with the right amount of coaxing.
Speaking of which, parlor palms are extremely easy to care for as houseplants. (They’re so forgiving that their fronds are frequently used in cut flower arrangements.) They can adapt to lower-light situations and can be relatively drought-tolerant. For the greatest success, place your parlor palm in a spot that gets indirect light — a north-facing window is a good option. Then water only when the soil is dry to the touch, roughly once a week. Do your best to not overwater to avoid root rot.
P. peperomioides is originally from the southwestern Yunnan province of China. In 1906, a botanist from Scotland named George Forrest took a specimen home with him from China and recorded his findings. Later, in the 1940s, Norwegian Missionary Agnar Espegren brought cuttings back to Scandinavia with him. There, because of the plant’s rapid self-propagation, Espergren started giving out plant starts to his friends. This kicked off the global spread of P. peperomioides, as well as the nickname “friendship plant.”
Unless you have a plant that is decades old, P. peperomioides is a smaller, compact plant. It thrives in bright, indirect light and warm temperatures. As for watering, try treating this plant like a common succulent, watering only when the soil is completely dried through. You can even plant it in well-draining soil — like cacti mix — for prime results.
You don’t have to stick to tropical, leafy plants while on your quest for pet-safe additions to your houseplant collection. Echeverias, one of the most common species of succulent plants, are nontoxic, per the ASPCA and succulent nursery Mountain Crest Gardens, and come in all sorts of rosette shapes and colors.
They’re native to dry, desert landscapes from Texas to Argentina. They’re compact plants with shallow root systems, which make them a great option for open terrariums or shallow containers. They’re also relatively easy to care for and can be displayed in a myriad of different places in the home — as long as there’s enough light. The key with echeverias is to not overwater them, mist them, or try to grow them in a very humid environment. They have a tendency to rot from the center out, so by the time you realize what has happened, you’ll have a disintegrating plant on your hands.
African violets might be known as the classic houseplant, but that doesn’t mean they’re boring or outdated. Native to tropical, eastern Africa, African violets are a delicate-looking plant that can transport you right back to the Victorian era. They’re a favorite for windowsills and plant displays and are very easy to come by. And they’re one of the only nontoxic houseplants that will bloom for you on a regular basis.
It’s possible that African violets can grow in a lower light situation, but to ensure that they bloom, put them in a window that gets indirect to bright, indirect light. A south-facing window is a great option. Additionally, plant only in pots with drainage and a tray underneath, and water there: African violets prefer to be bottom-watered, so pour water right into the collection tray so the plant can suck up the water into the soil. Let the soil dry out a couple of inches deep before watering again, roughly once every one to two weeks. They don’t like water or any kind of moisture on their leaves or flowers — that will lead them to quickly spot and rot.
Tillandsias, commonly known as air plants, can be found growing up in trees in tropical places — they don’t have a root system or need to be planted in a potting mix. These epiphytic plants make great additions to any bookshelf, windowsill, or coffee table in your home — and they’re nontoxic for our furry pals, according to GardenersWorld.com and Pistils Nursery.
Native to the West Indies, Mexico, Central America, and the southern United States, air plants do not like temperatures under 60 degrees Fahrenheit. They get their nutrients from the moisture in the air, so your biggest challenge during the colder months will be keeping the air in your home warm and moist. Keep them away from cold windows, and be aware of any fireplaces or air exchanges like heating vents. To water your air plants, mist them twice per week or soak them in a bowl of distilled water once per week. Let the plants dry before putting them back, or you’ll risk them rotting from the inside out.
While the cases vary from cat to cat, instances of exposure to Stargazer lilies, Easter lilies, and Asiatic lilies seems to be the most dangerous, according to UC Davis Veterinary Medicine. These are all lilies that are commonly used in cut flower bouquets and potted plants given at holidays and celebrations.
Even though their common name implies it, these plants aren’t true lilies. Spathiphyllums, or peace lilies, are one of the most common houseplants found in homes today, and they’re also toxic to pets, according to the ASPCA.
As the Pet Poison Hotline and Colorado State University’s Guide to Poisonous Plants explain, the cells that make up a peace lily’s tissue contain calcium oxalate crystals. When a leaf or stem is snapped off — by way of accident or chewing — the crystals are released and can dig into any animal tissue it comes in contact with. Usually, this is your pet’s mouth and digestive tract. The ASPCA says this can cause severe irritation to the mouth and tongue, as well as vomiting, difficulty swallowing, and excessive drooling.
Dieffenbachia, also known as dumb cane, are large floor plants that can grow up to six feet tall in the home. They’re easy to care for, which makes them extremely popular. But they’re toxic to pets, per the ASPCA.
Like others on this list of pet-toxic plants, pothos are extremely prevalent. They create that popular vining look, and they’re one of the easiest and most forgiving houseplants on the market.
However, this trailing plant also contains calcium oxalate crystals, like the peace lily and dieffenbachia, which can damage pets’ gastrointestinal and respiratory systems if not treated correctly.