Your furry friends are an integral part of your family — and even if you are completely new to caring for houseplants, you’ll already know all too well that they’ll definitely leap to munch on plants the moment the opportunity arises. You’ve seen your cat and your dog chew on spring onions and parsley already, after all.
Keeping houseplants around offers numerous mental health benefits, as well as a few physical health benefits. The moment you start exploring bringing houseplants in, though, you will quickly discover that many of the most treasured and popular ones are highly toxic or otherwise dangerous to pets (see also: pothos and monstera).
Do you have to make peace with the idea that you will only ever be able to keep catnip and cat grass around? Of course not! Many amazing houseplants are completely safe for cats and dogs.
Some plants are safe for dogs but not for cats, while others are safe for cats but not for dogs. Because many households include both cats and dogs, this guide will offer a glimpse at some of the best plants that won’t harm either pet.
A Short Guide to Protecting Your Beloved Plants from Curious Pets
You may take great care to select a range of houseplants that are not toxic to your cats or dogs, and that will not induce physical injury by way of spines or thorns. That means that you can tick step one off your to-do list — the plants that you have brought into your home won’t kill your cat or dog.
Your companion animals will not, however, return the favor. You wouldn’t be the first person to go from novice houseplant keeper to enthusiastic plant mommy or daddy, only to be truly heartbroken when your four-legged pet kills your photosynthesizing companion.
So, what are you to do to protect your plants from your pets, especially cats? You take to Google, of course, only to be rewarded with painfully obvious tips like “place your houseplant on tall and robust plant stands”. First off, it’s not like you didn’t think of that already.
Then there is, of course, the sad fact that your cat loves these tall “watchtowers” as much as your plant does and sees them as their personal fiefdom just waiting to be conquered. “What’s that green thing doing there?”, he or she may wonder — and off to the ground it flies. Another one bites the dust.
What actually works?
In the case of dogs, training is the key to any plant attacks that may have occurred. Dogs respond well to commands and positive feedback, and can learn, over time, not to eat plants and not to dig in the dirt around pots and planters. Teaching dogs not to enthusiastically run to the front door to greet a guest is a different matter, however, so houseplants will need to be placed in strategic positions that aren’t heavy-traffic paths for your dog(s).
Cats are a more challenging matter altogether. You will not be able to train your cat not to eat your plants or to refrain from digging in the dirt around your plants. Keeping your cat occupied with plenty of truly interesting activities and structures like cat trees and tunnels helps, but only a little. No matter high up you place your houseplants, even in ceiling-mounted hanging baskets, your furry menace will find a way to reach any plant.
You have a few options to consider:
- Pick hardy (and cat-safe) plants that won’t protest if they’re occasionally munched on. Make peace with the fact that your plants and your cat won’t play together very nicely.
- It’s often better to place your plants in pots on the ground. At least your cat won’t knock them down. If you have a “tree-dwelling cat” (the kind that prefers high places and shuns the ground), he or she may even leave the plant alone.
- Choose to grow houseplants in closed terrariums, removing any risk that your cats will kill your plants. The best plants to grow in terrariums are absolutely stunning, so this isn’t a consolation prize.
- Opinions on this option are divided, but some people grow houseplants in designated cat-free rooms. If you have a greenhouse or conservatory, that’s also an excellent choice.
With that out the way, we’re all set to take a look at some wonderful plants that will beautify any home and are safe for cats and dogs, to boot!
Baby’s Tears (Soleirolia Soleirolii)
This creeping perennial ground cover plant has gorgeous ornamental foliage and is usually grown in hanging baskets, terrariums, or as a companion plant to larger houseplants or even small shrubs or trees. Baby’s tears is also known as angel’s tears, mind your own business, and peace in the home and this lovely little vine is part of the nettle family. Its dense foliage made up of tiny leaves — which people often refer to as a “mat” — makes baby’s tears a charming option for any home. The best part? Baby’s tears is completely non-toxic to both cats and dogs!
However, this plant is known to be rather delicate and could easily be destroyed by your feline friend. This means that cat owners looking to keep a baby’s tears plant, either need to act as 24/7 bodyguards to their baby’s tears (like a crying newborn, it will keep you up all night!) or choose a cat-free spot for this vine.
If the baby’s tear sounds like a lovely choice for your home, you’ll want to make sure that you:
- Place the baby’s tears in a spot that isn’t too sunny, as the sun can scorch their fragile leaves. Instead, this plant can do quite will in artificial light or filtered sunlight.
- Put your baby’s tear plant in an area with quite a lot of humidity where it will thrive. Most place it in their kitchen or bathroom. If you don’t have a humid area to place your baby’s tears consider planting it in a humid terrarium — this gives the extra bonus of protecting it from your cat.
- Are able to consistently water this plant, as baby’s tears is a rather thirsty plant. If the soil does dry out, this could lead to the plant wilting.
- Use soil that has a high organic matter — rich soils that have compost or humus are great choices. This doesn’t mean that a regular commercial soil won’t be fine too.
Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea Muscipula)
It is hard to imagine that this famous carnivorous plant would be non-toxic to pets, but unless your pets are spiders and houseflies, you’re good to go with the Venus fly trap, which is scientifically called Dionaea muscipula. This plant belongs to the Droseraceae family, home to around 180 unique species of carnivorous plants. Botanists often joke that it should really be called the Carolina spider trap, because it’s native to North and South Carolina and mainly eats spiders, rather than flies.
The Venus fly trap is exceptionally picky about its living conditions, and can easily perish if it doesn’t get what it needs — even if you do manage to keep your pets away from the plant. Before you bring the endlessly fascinating Venus fly trap home, make sure that you can offer it:
- Full sun, as these plants require at least six hours of direct sunlight each day and prefer much more.
- A peat-based potting mix that resembles the conditions it would grow in in its native zone. The soil should additionally be extremely well-draining.
- A consistently warm environment. Room temperature will suffice. Do not, however, place your Venus fly trap anywhere near radiators or HVAC units.
- A modest amount of water whenever its soil is close to drying out. These plants do not need a lot of water, but are extremely choosy about the kind of water they receive. Do not give a Venus fly trap tap water or any kind of mineral-rich water. Choose rainwater, and if you can’t, buy distilled water for this plant.
- Most importantly, it is key to be aware of the fact that Venus fly traps do need protein from insects or arachnids. These bugs won’t simply fly into the plant when it’s grown as a houseplant, so indoor gardeners need to be actively involved. During their dormant phase, when their leaves are close to the ground, they should be fed once a month. During their growth cycles, Venus fly traps should be fed once every week to once every two weeks. Do not feed every “trap”, as digesting the insect matter takes a lot of energy. Feed one trap at a time, and wait for it to open again before feeding the plant again.
Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes Phyllostachya)
These absolutely stunning plants are famous for their extraordinary and very colorful variegated leaves which can come in many different colors. They are often called freckle face, pink dot, and flamingo plant and is a herbaceous perennial part of the Acanthaceae family. Their gorgeous leaves can come in variegated shades of green, white, and pink. Pet owners will be pleased to hear that this attractive plant is completely safe for cats and dogs.
Would you like to bring a polka dot plant into your household today? Before you make any decisions, keep in mind that:
- Polka dot plants prosper in shadier areas and placing it in a spot with lots of sunlight could turn the leaves into a dull green color. A spot that isn’t too sunny but still gets enough sunlight is ideal, such as a south or east facing window.
- Like with sunlight, polka dot plants will enjoy a moderate amount of moisture, not too little and not too much. This means you shouldn’t leave the soil fully dry as this can cause your plant to wilt and die if not taken care of. Too much water, however, could lead to root rot which also could kill your precious polka dot plant.
- A well-draining soil rich in organic matter is best for polka dot plants. If you’re not sure exactly what soil to get, all-purpose organic potting mix will serve you just fine.
- Some gardeners may want to prune their polka dot plant which can make it look much cleaner. Others like to prune the polka dot plant for a bushier look, though it will require weekly pruning.oston Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata)
Boston Ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata)
The Boston fern, scientifically known as Nephrolepis exaltata and also called the sword fern, is a beautiful flowerless plant from the Lomariopsidaceae family that has the added bonus of being non-toxic and thus safe for cats and dogs. These lovely plants are, however, notoriously slow growers — and that means that, should your cat or dog feel compelled to much on its beautiful leaves, it will take a while to recover from the damage.
Boston ferns are otherwise easy to care for, and here’s what indoor gardeners need to know about these ferns before bringing one home:
- Boston ferns need to be placed in a spot where they can receive lots of bright, but indirect, sunlight. Finding the right balance can be challenging; the plant’s foliage (called fronds) can become droopy when the shade is too heavy, but harsh sun can damage it.
- Pick a rich loamy soil for this plant.
- During its growth phase, the Boston fern needs to be watered and misted very regularly — this will keep your fern looking strong and healthy, and allow it to grow. Because it needs a lot of humidity, it is important to keep it away from heating systems. A humidifier will help your Boston fern thrive.
- Instead of a fertilizer program, the Boston fern appreciates soil augmented with natural compost.
- The fact that the Boston fern copes with “aggressive pruning” quite well additionally means that it is unlikely to die after a cat or dog attack.
- As a bonus, people growing Boston ferns in their homes gain the benefits of this plant’s unique air-purifying qualities.
Friendship Plant (Pilea Involucrata)
The friendship plant, scientifically known as Pilea involucrata, is a delicate trailing or creeping plant that is native to the tropics. While this wonderful plant, which is characterized by its velvety deep green ovate leaves, is completely safe for cats and dogs, that likely won’t matter at all — when it’s grown as a houseplant, the friendship plant is usually a terrarium dweller. The tiny baby pink flowers that the friendship plant produces are not often considered to be anything special, but if you appreciate the little things in life (quite literally), they are awfully cute.
Are you itching to adopt a friendship plant? Here’s what you need to know:
- These small herbaceous perennials grow to be around 12 inches (30 centimeters) tall.
- They need bright and indirect sunlight to prevent their delicate leaves from being damaged.
- Friendship plants need well-draining and rich soil.
- Friendship plants are thirsty little things that will need to be watered often — do not allow the soil to become soggy, which can lead to root rot, but do water your friendship plant every time the soil is starting to dry out.
- Using a diluted liquid fertilizer twice a year, once at the beginning of the plant’s growth season and once more in the middle of the summer, can help to keep your friendship plant healthy, and prevents its leaves from drooping. However, the friendship plant can survive without a fertilizer regimen, too, and may be grown in a closed terrarium.
Money Tree (Pachira Aquatica)
Money trees, which are also called Guiana chestnuts, are small ornamental trees native to South America. Many people keep money trees on their desk because of their positive reputation, as these plants are often thought to give the owner “chi” — positive and happy energy that may indeed act as an income magnet. These attractive little trees often have braided trunks and gorgeous green foliage.
Not only are these plants not toxic to cats and dogs, but they are also rather hardy, making them a perfect choice for those who worry about keeping plants because their cats have a nasty track record of killing their houseplants off.
Money trees will need plenty of care, and anyone thinking about getting a money tree should know that:
- Money trees will do best in bright but indirect sunlight where they will ideally get at least six hours each day. Fluorescent light can also be a fine option for money trees.
- These trees need plenty of water to stay strong and healthy and you’ll need to water the money tree whenever you notice that the top layer of soil is dry. Keep in mind that while money trees love moist conditions, this doesn’t mean they do well in soggy soil. It is important to pick a pot with large drainage holes!
- When it comes to the soil you’ll want to use for money trees, they thrive in well-draining soil with lots of nutrients.
- Money trees will need regular pruning to keep them neat and this process is even more important if you’re looking to grow it as a bonsai tree.
Prayer Plant (Maranta Leuconeura)
The prayer plant, scientifically called Maranta leuconeura, gets its name from its unique habit of displaying its — rather beautiful and often variegated — oblong leaves in all their glory during the day, only to fold them up like praying hands during the night. Anyone should be happy to have a prayer plant in their home, especially varieties with burgundy nerves. The fact that the prayer plant is safe for cats and dogs is just a nice bonus. What’s the plant praying for, you ask? It’s probably hoping your pet doesn’t chew on it, because cats and dogs are much more of a danger to the prayer plant than the other way around.
- Can grow to be up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) tall when grown inside the home, have an equally wide spread.
- Are native to Brazil and need tropical conditions to thrive, making them high-maintenance houseplants. Prayer plants cope well with normal household temperatures, and are not frost hardy. They are extremely thirsty and their soil should never be allowed to dry out, but because the threat of root rot always looms, they need to be placed in well-draining soil.
- Need indirect but bright sunlight to thrive.
- Should be offered a diluted houseplant fertilizer every other week during the prayer plant’s growing phase, which lasts from the beginning of spring all the way through the fall.
- Are easy to propagate, in case you wanted to spread the love!
Cape Marigold (Dimorphotheca Sinuata)
The Cape marigold, scientifically known as Dimorphotheca sinuata and native to South Africa, gives rise to wonderful pink, golden, or white flowers that last throughout the summer and face the sun. Pet guardians who would love to brighten their indoor gardens up with a touch of color and optimism will love these flowering plants, which are completely safe for cats and dogs alike.
Cape marigolds are fairly easy to care for, because:
- These cheerful flowering plants don’t like exceedingly hot temperatures, despite hailing from Africa — room temperature suits the Cape marigold just fine.
- Cape marigolds are drought tolerant plants that will thrive under a regime of benign neglect.
- Need at least six hours of daily sun exposure and will be grateful if you place them right near a window. When they get too much shade, your Cape marigolds will not live up to their true potential in terms of producing an abundant bloom.
- Need loamy or sandy soil.
We’ve only just scratched the surface here, and will shamelessly admit to just picking our favorite plants for this list. Indoor gardeners who only have a cat or a dog, but not both, will have an even more expansive list of perfect houseplants to choose from.
Some of the most popular houseplants may be toxic to pets, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have plenty of plants that are safe for cats and dogs to choose from. Keep exploring, and you’ll have a lush indoor garden before you know it!