Lush, green houseplants can beautify your space, brighten your day, and even clean the air in your home, but they don’t always mix well with our furry friends. In fact, some of the most common houseplants—like aloe, jade, pothos, and lilies—are poisonous if ingested by dogs or cats.
The only thing worse than your favorite new plant being eaten is taking your cherished pet on an expensive and stressful trip to the emergency vet.
Luckily, there are lots of happy houseplants that are easy to grow and won't hurt your pets if they get their paws on them.
Hardy yet featherlight air plants, or Tillandsia, can thrive hung from the ceiling in a globe, mounted in a chic frame on the wall, or arranged on a narrow windowsill—all places that are extra-tough for cats and dogs to reach. And even if your critters do manage to sink their teeth into one, it’s comforting to know that air plants are nontoxic. Choose from varieties like Tillandsia ionantha (also known as sky plant), whose leaf tips turn pink when it flowers, or a fuzzy, gray-green xerographica with long, curling leaves.
This charming tropical pops up in every kind of space not only because of its hardiness, flexibility, and elegant growth habit, but because no harm will come to your critters if they sink their teeth into its long, variegated leaves. Even better, spider plants can grow well in bright, indirect light or lower-light spaces, so you have lots of options when deciding where to display them.
Spider plants grow beautifully in hanging baskets, too.
Add a pop of color to your bathroom with a pet-safe prayer plant, the collective name for plants in the calathea and maranta families. These humidity-loving plants get their nickname from the way their vibrant, stained glass-patterned leaves fold up at night as if in prayer, and they’re nontoxic to both dogs and cats. They need bright, indirect light, but not too much. Try displaying yours in a north-facing or east-facing windowsill.
These adorable, pet-friendly houseplants are a kitchen windowsill classic, boasting cute flowers with yellow centers and petals in vivid shades ranging from white to deep purple—but you can put them anywhere in your home that gets lots of bright, indirect light. African violets thrive in moderate temperatures with good humidity, so choose a spot away from cold drafts to display yours.
Parlor palms give a graceful tropical feel to any space and make great tall statement plants for high-ceilinged or open-plan spaces. Since large specimens are typically displayed in containers directly on the floor, it’s great news that they’re nontoxic to cats and dogs. They grow best with lots of bright, indirect light—think in front of a large, east-facing window—but can tolerate lower-light conditions, too.
Bird's Nest Ferns
Along with other true ferns like Boston ferns, bold spear ferns, and staghorn ferns, bird's nest ferns are nontoxic to cats and dogs. With their long, drooping leaves—they do well in a window with bright, indirect light—they’re great hanging plants that can be displayed out of reach of your pets.
Keep in mind that plants with misleading common names—like asparagus fern, which is not a true fern but a toxic member of the lily family—are big trouble if your animals ingest them.
Polka Dot Plant
Your cuddly fur babies are just about the only thing cuter than the polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya, also known as baby’s tears). Its bushy green foliage, which looks like it’s been splatter-painted with shades of white, pink, or red, won’t hurt your dog or cat if they happen to chomp on a leaf or two. Even better, its colors show best in medium-bright light, giving you a little flexibility in where you decide to display it.
Several species in this colorful, roselike genus of succulents—wax rosette (Echeveria gilva), blue hen and chicks (Echeveria glauca), Copper Rose (Echeveria multicaulis), and Mexican gem (Echeveria elegans), to name a few—are nontoxic to dogs and cats. To keep them showing their brightest colors and prevent them from getting leggy, display yours in the brightest, sunniest spot in your space.
If you’re missing the spiny, tapering leaves of pet-unfriendly succulents like aloe, look no further than the many species in the Haworthia genus for an elegant, compact, and pet-friendly replacement. One of the most common is Haworthia fasciata, also known as zebra plant for its point, dark-green leaves lined with thin, white horizontal stripes.
Display it in a sunny window that gets lots of bright, indirect light for best results.
Like many other true ferns, staghorn ferns are nontoxic to cats and dogs. Unlike most other plants, though, the staghorn’s unique growth habit means that your pets will have a pretty tough time getting to them in the first place. Since they grow best mounted on a base or frame and displayed on a wall with moderate bright, indirect light, it’d take a pretty athletic pup or curious cat to get a bite of one of their long, antler-shaped leaves.
The tropical tree Pachira aquatica, is often sold with several stems braided together. The plant gets its nickname from feng shui, where it earned a reputation for bringing financial fortune if you keep it in a bright, well-lit space in your home. If you’re a pet owner, consider yourself lucky already: The worst thing that can happen to your cat or dog if they eat a leaf from your money tree is an upset stomach—meaning no big vet bills for you!
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Poisonous Plants: Toxic and Non-toxic Plants List.