10 houseplants that are safe for pets

August 12, 2021

Photo via The Sill

Pet parents also tend to be plant parents, but it can be hard to get your green thumb on when 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 plants to city dwellers) to learn about which houseplants are non-toxic and won’t harm our furry friends.

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+ 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.

1. Parlor Palms

Parlor palms are some of the most heavily sold houseplants in the world, and with good reason. It’s like having a mini palm tree in your house, but they’re fine in non-tropical environments. It’s happiest in bright, indirect sunlight and only has to be watered once every week or two.

Parlor Palm, from $57 at The Sill

2. 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. They’re also easy to maintain and will be happy in low light.

Calathea Ornata, $51 at The Sill
Rooted Green Prayer Plant, $18.99 on Amazon

3. 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. And a fun anecdote: Spider plants are nicknamed “cat whiskers,” due to their long, thin leaves.

Spider Plant in 4-inch pot. $13.99 on Amazon
Spider Plant 'Bonnie' - 4 10-inch Curly Spider Plant, $18.99 on Wayfair

4. Bird’s Nest Fern

These plants are popular for their tropical look and the fact that they’re easy to care for indoors. “It can tolerate bright to low indirect light (does best right in between), with weekly waterings,” says The Sill. A little extra humidity helps, too, so place a humidifier nearby if you have one.

Bird’s Nest Fern, from $40 at The Sill
Costa Farms Bird’s Nest Fern, $30.82 on Amazon

5. 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 (like a reptile’s skin) while the undersides are a beautiful reddish-purple. The plants raise and lower their leaves from day to night, a phenomenon called nyctinasty.

Calathea Rattlesnake, from $47 at The Sill
Rooted Rattlesnake Calathea, $19.99 on Amazon

6. 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. They also don’t require much light.

Cast Iron Plant – Aspidistra Elatior – 6-inch pot, $40.98 on Amazon

7. Phalaenopsis Orchids

The Phalaenopsis Orchid is the most common type of orchid thanks to the variety of sizes and colors it comes in and how easy it is to care for them. Bonus, they’re not toxic to cats or dogs, which is very important since the leaves do fall off between blooming cycles.

Petite Orange Orchid, $75 at The Sill

8. Pilea Plants

Pilea Peperomioides–also called the pancake plant or UFO plant–are popular for their attractive coin-shaped leaves. As The Sill explains, the Pilea is a self-propagator that “produces sweet little babies or ‘pups’ on its own, which pop up from the potting mix surrounding the mother plant.” They do best in bright, direct light but only have to be watered once every week or two.

Pilea Peperomioides, from $35 at The Sill
Rooted Pilea Peperomioides, $18.99 on Amazon

9. Air Plants

Technically called Xerographica, air plants are a great choice if your pet tends to get into the potting soil because they require none! Simply soak it weekly in a bowl of room temperature water for about 15-30 minutes and then shake off any excess water.

Giant Tillandsia Giant Tillandsia, $60 at Terrain
Xerographica Air Plant, $20 at The Sill

10. Waffle Plants

So named because of their unique, crinkly texture (which also increases their surface area and helps them capture more light), waffle plants come in beautiful shades of purple and do best in medium to bright indirect light with weekly waterings.

Purple Waffle Plant, from $44 at The Sill
Snow White Waffle Plant, from $44 at The Sill

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on July 15, 2019 and has been updated. 


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