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One of the concerns of new houseplant keepers is knowing whether the plants they choose are going to be pet friendly. This is a tricky subject, as people have many different types of animal as pets and some may be more interested in your greenery than others.
Pet Friendly Plants: The Good News
It is fair to say that most pets are not too interested in your plants. Sometimes a dog may nibble some foliage and a cat might choose your plant as a new scratching post, but usually, they will leave well alone.
I have had dogs for over 20 years and not once has any of them shown the slightest interest in my plants, many of which are listed as being potentially toxic to animals. And although I’ve never owned a cat, friends that do have also never mentioned a problem.
The other point is that houseplants that are listed as being potentially toxic are rarely (if ever) so poisonous as to cause trouble even if your pet does choose to take a bite. There may be some irritation to the mouth, which may cause some short-term discomfort, but the chances are slim that they will eat enough to do real harm.
Pets and plants: what are potential problems?
There are very few things that might cause a conflict between a pet and a plant. Those that are most important are potential toxicity if your pet eats part of the plant or risk of injury of your pet plays with your plant. From the plant’s perspective, there is also the risk of damage if it gets played with or knocked over (and the subsequent mess that you will have to clear up!)
The chances that your pet will eat any of your plants is remote. Cats are complete carnivores and really would not be tempted to munch on a leaf, although dogs sometimes do take a nibble of foliage - especially grass.
The most common form of toxicity in houseplants is a chemical called calcium oxalate, which is a crystal found in the sap and foliage of many plants (especially aroids, such as Dieffenbachia or Philodendron, and also Begonias). When this gets into the mouth or throat, it can cause irritation and swelling, which is uncomfortable and might, if a lot is consumed, cause breathing difficulties.
Other plants that might be toxic to animals are Dracaenas and Sansevierias. Although harmless to people, there are reports of toxic reactions in animals.
Spines, spikes and serrated leaves
A lot of desert plants (cacti and other succulents) are armed with spines, spikes and serrated leaves - these are to deter browsing animals as close contact can be painful. If your pet (or child) is prone to playing with plants, then these can cause injuries such as scratches, puncture wounds and even eye injury - you should take this into account when you handle the plants too.
Which plants are safe for your pets?
There are over 250,000 species of flowering plants, and about 12,000 species of ferns. Some are notoriously poisonous, but others are less well known. There will be several plant species that have never even been tested (so it is wise to take a precautionary approach and assume that they might be harmful). The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals (ASPCA) has produced one of the most comprehensive lists of plants that are known to be poisonous to dogs, cats and horses, and those known to be safe.
As far as houseplants are concerned, here is a selection of foli8 houseplants that we are confident will be the least troublesome to cats and dogs.
Top Pet Friendly Plants
The ponytail palm, or elephant’s foot is a robust and easy plant to care for and has a very distinctive look. Its most distinctive feature is its swollen stem base, which may, in the wild, reach two metres in diameter. This is topped by a whorl of thin, green, pendulous leaves that have a graceful arching habit, and which may also grow up to two metres long.
These beautiful small plants, with strikingly patterned leaves are related to ginger and arrowroot. They need to be kept in shady conditions and protected from excessively dry air - bathrooms are good places for them.
The parlour palm is slow-growing, small palm with typical feather-shaped fronds that has been a popular houseplant since Victorian times. It is very robust and ideal for modern homes due to its small size and tolerance of a wide variety of indoor conditions.
The spider plant is a popular houseplant that tolerates a very wide range of conditions and recovers well from accidental neglect. It is also very easy to propagate from the offsets, or baby plants, that are produced on long runners.
The butterfly palm or Areca palm is another excellent indoor palm tree that will cause no problems with your pets and will make a statement in any room. It is an elegant species with clusters of pale green fronds held at an angle so that they resemble butterfly wings.
Small succulents that do well on window sills and in conservatories. Some have hard leaves, but they are not spiny.
Another fantastic palm for homes that is tough, elegant and with a real, statuesque presence. Also known as the Kentia Palm, it is the palm of the famous palm courts of the great hotels and ocean liners and has been a firm favourite of interior landscapers and houseplant collectors for decades.
Ornamental bananas are pet-friendly bold houseplants with paddle-shaped leaves, sometimes with purple colouring. They are fast growing and can tolerate heavy-handed watering.
The boston fern has been a popular houseplant since Victorian times. Its timeless appeal is due to its appearance and tough constitution - it tolerates a wide range of conditions, just make sure you let it dry out.
Peperomias are popular small, semi-succulent houseplants, often with very attractive foliage which can be textured and coloured. Fantastic on bathroom and kitchen windowsills where good light and humidity will help them to thrive.
Another popular small houseplant with very distinctive disc-shaped leaves that has been kept as a houseplant since 1906, but remained a bit of a botanical mystery until it was properly classified in the 1980s. Also know as the Chinese Money Plant, it will do well in almost all interior conditions, but make sure you keep it out of direct sunlight.
The stag’s horn fern is a fantastic plant that looks good in a pot or attached to a vertical feature, such as a moss pole or even tree bark. The sterile fronds form a gripping structure that holds the plant to its support (tree trunks, in the wild) and the antler-shaped fronds that grow outwards are deeply divided and can grow up to 45cm. These fronds, which give the plant its common name, carry the spore cases and are the reproductive part of the plant.
Shop our range of Pet Friendly Houseplants to find the perfect plant for your home.