10 houseplants that are safe for dogs and cats

Posted On Mon, July 15, 2019 By

Posted On Mon, July 15, 2019 By In apartment living 101, Features, Green Design, NYC Guides

Photo via The Sill

There’s no doubt that plants are good for you. Most scientific research agrees that being near green spaces can improve mental health, and gardening can act as a stress reliever. But it can be hard to get your green thumb on, especially if you’re worried about your pet chowing down on a houseplant that might hurt them. We spoke to Erin Marino from The Sill (an NYC-based plant delivery service specializing in providing greenery to city dwellers) to learn about which houseplants won’t harm our furry friends.

pet friendly plants, houseplant, the sill

Photo courtesy of The Sill

So, what makes plants pet-friendly?

Plants have been creating secondary plant metabolites for millions of years to protect themselves against herbivory! It’s important to remember that most of these chemicals are irritating, but not fatal. Plants that don’t have these secondary metabolites are considered non-toxic, or pet-friendly.

What are some common plants that people don’t realize are harmful to pets?

Some plants that can be extremely irritating when ingested include the rubber tree (Ficus elastica), the ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), and the Dieffenbachia. I like to think of toxicity as a spectrum, from mild irritate to poisonous. These three are closer to the poisonous end of the spectrum, and plants I’d definitely recommend keeping out of reach of curious pets! Although, you might find that your pet isn’t interested in your plants at all. Best practice is to first bring pet-friendly plants into your space to gauge your pet’s interest, before bringing in mildly toxic ones.

Why might a cat or dog decide to chew on your houseplants?

I’m more of a plant expert than a pet expert, although I do have two cats! Luckily in the eight-plus years I’ve had them, they’ve never been interested in any of my houseplants, except for occasionally playing with trailing plants. There are many reasons your pets could be interested in your plants – they’re playing with them, they’re bored, they like the texture, the plants are the most enriching things in the room, etc.

What are some of the benefits of having plants around, for both humans and pets?

It’s true when we say plants make people happy (The Sill’s motto!). Not only can plants enhance the overall appearance of a space (adding color and texture), but they’ve been shown to boost moods, increase creativity, reduce stress, and eliminate air pollutants (in comparison to a space without plants) — making for a healthier, happier you. I find them incredibly therapeutic to care for. Checking in on my plants every Sunday has become my weekly meditation.

Keeping all of that in mind, we’ve rounded up the 10 best pet-friendly houseplants.

friendship plant, plant, apartment plantPhoto via Wikimedia Commons

1. Friendship plants

Friendship plants are the perfect plant for you and your pet. Not only are they easy to care for and hardy, but clippings of the plant will also easily sprout roots and grow. That means, with a little time, you and your furry friend can each have a plant of your own.

herb garden, garden, apartment plantPhoto via Flickr

2. Herbs

Unless you supremely lucked out on this affordable housing lottery in the Bronx, chances are you don’t have room for a vegetable garden on your roof. Not to worry, though. Herbs like basil, mint, sage, and thyme are easy to keep even in tiny apartments, and are totally safe for pets if they manage to sneak a little nibble. Just make sure to double check any other herbs you plant- herbs like oregano and lavender can be toxic for pets.

palm tree, parlor palm, plantPhoto via Wikimedia Commons

3. Parlor palms

Parlor palms are some of the most heavily sold houseplants in the world, and with good reason. They’re the perfect pop of green to add to any room, and unlike most palms, they’re fine in non-tropical environments.

prayer plant, Maranta leuconeura, plantPhoto via Flickr

4. Prayer plants

Prayer plants are tough plants that do well either in tabletop pots or as hanging plants, in case your pet has a tendency to try to pull leaves off. Their beautifully patterned green and purple leaves also fold up at night. Some say the folded leaves look like hands praying, which is where the plant gets its name.

plant, spider plant, houseplantPhoto via Wikimedia Commons

5. Spider plants

Spider plants are the ultimate apartment plant. They grow quickly, require very little light, and do well in crowded pots. They also do well as a hanging plant and purify the air of toxins like formaldehyde. Spider plants are also sometimes given the nickname “cat whiskers,” due to their long, thin leaves, making them the perfect addition to any apartment with pets.

catnip, catmint, plantPhoto via Wikimedia Commons

6. Catnip

Also known as catmint, catnip plants are closely related to mint and lemon balm plant. Catnip has the reputation of being irresistible to cats, likely because of a compound in the leaves that has a mild hallucinogenic effect on them. Catnip is completely safe for cats, with effects lasting only 5 to 15 minutes. Dogs don’t seem to be affected.

rattlesnake plant, plant, potted plantPhoto via Flickr

7. Rattlesnake plants

Don’t let the name fool you, rattlesnake plants are perfectly harmless. The leaves of this fast-growing plant are beautifully marked with darker green spots and dark, wavy edges. The undersides of the leaves are reddish-purple and look stunning even if your pet accidentally knocks the pot over.

cast iron plant, houseplant, potted plantPhoto via Wikimedia Commons

8. Cast-iron plants

Cast-iron plants are perfect if your attention is more focused on your pet than it is on watering the plants. These incredibly durable plants can cope with temperatures of less than 30° Fahrenheit, and withstand accidental neglect very well. Their leaves stay green year-round, making them perfect for drafty apartments.

orchid, flower, plantPhoto via Flickr

9. Orchids

Orchids can be fussy plants, but their cheery blooms more than make up for the amount of time you spend tending to them. There are hundreds of colors and varieties to choose from, meaning you can get one as unique as your furry family member.

succulent, potted plant, plantPhoto via Flickr

10. Succulents

Succulents are all the rage when it comes to apartment decor. Cacti’s cuter and less spiky cousin, they also have the added bonus of being close to impossible to kill. There are hundreds of varieties of succulents, so it’s easy to find a variety that fits in perfectly with your decor. Some varieties of succulents can cause mild stomach upset in pets, but varieties like Sempervivum, Echeveria and Sedum Morganianum (also known as burro’s tail) are perfectly safe.


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