If you’re a dedicated plant parent who also has a furry family member in your household, you might wonder, “Are plants safe for cats and dogs?” The truth is, there are certain plant species you should keep away from your four-legged companion as they can be toxic when ingested. But the great news is that there are plenty of other choices when it comes to pet-friendly plants.
Most pet owners would agree that plants seem to have some sort of magnetic attraction for family pets. Many cats and dogs love to nibble at plant leaves and play with their waving fronds, and some even use them as digging spots for their natural curiosity.
Whether you already have a pet or plan on getting one, you can still grow a lush and healthy indoor garden. In this guide, you’ll find useful tips when shopping for your next leafy housemates, as well as a list of plants that are non-toxic and pet-friendly.
Things To Consider When Shopping For Indoor Plants
Before we start diving into the topic of which plants are safe for cats and dogs, there are a few things to take into consideration.
Assess Your Space
First, take a look around your place to assess how much space you have for plants and what kind of light exposure you can provide. This will help you determine which plants best fit your home environment.
While the species on this list are pet-safe plants, you still might not want your pet nibbling at the beautiful leaves of your succulents or using your Boston fern as a wrestling opponent. It might be a good idea to keep your plants in a location where they’re not easily accessible to your dog or cat — and we all know how hard that is when it comes to felines!
Plants to Avoid
It’s essential to know that some of the most popular houseplants are not pet-friendly. Here’s a quick list of common indoor plants that are toxic for canines and felines:
- Snake plants
- Rubber plants
- ZZ plants
Do a Namecheck
One of the most important things to do when choosing a houseplant is to always check both the common name and the scientific name. This is a critical step as some plant families contain similar-looking species. While some species are harmless, others contain natural compounds that are poisonous to your pet — for example, ferns. (We offer more examples throughout the list.)
10 Non-Toxic Plants Safe For Cats and Dogs
Keep in mind that even safe plants can cause mild discomfort if your kitty or pooch ingests them. However, the effects should subside relatively quickly and are no reason for concern.
If you happen to have an overly plant-obsessed cat, consider growing a couple of trays of cat grass to keep your furry friend entertained and distracted from the other greenery at home. Now, here are the top 10 plants safe for cats and dogs.
1. African Violet
The first plant on our list is perfect for bringing a pop of color to small, dark corners as it only grows up to 12 inches tall. African violet (Saintpaulia) — or Cape marigold — is native to the tropical parts of East Africa and is characterized by its beautiful purple and pink-hued flowers.
This vibrant plant is not only pet-friendly but it’s also very low-maintenance. It thrives best in low light and benefits from a good, occasional soak. You can add water to the pot’s saucer instead of watering directly at the base of the plant to prevent damage to both petals and leaves.
African violets are quite sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, so try to keep them in stable conditions throughout the year. These species love good-quality, rich soil, so regular fertilizing might be a good idea to encourage healthy flowering.
2. Blue Echeveria
If you’re a sucker for succulents, you’ll be happy to learn that most species belonging to this plant family are pet-friendly.
Note: Jade plants (Crassula ovata) belong to the succulent family but are toxic for cats and dogs.
Blue echeveria (Echeveria glauca) is one of the most popular and common varieties for those who have a hard time keeping plants alive. They’re super low maintenance, thrive best in bright light, and are extremely drought-resistance — they only need water every few weeks.
With its beautiful, flower-shaped, fleshy leaves, blue echeveria is a dream plant for those who are both succulent lovers and proud cat or dog parents.
You’ll have a hard time finding a drought-resistant plant with such enormous and gorgeous flowers as bromeliads (Guzmania lingulata).
There are 3,590 known species of bromeliads in the world, most being native to the tropical Americas. These extraordinary plants are pet-safe, love direct sunlight, and can grow up to 20 inches tall.
Bromeliad plants — like orchids — can be easily grown using soil-free methods, making them a perfect inhabitant for the Back to the Roots Water Garden. This eco-friendly fish tank is perfect for growing plants using the hydroponics system, with minimal effort since it waters itself.
No matter what bromeliad variety you pick, this exotic-looking plant will undoubtedly bring a touch of the tropics to your home.
When you bring home a plant from the calathea family, you know you’ve struck gold. Not only are these stunning beauties safe for cats, but they’re also air-purifying.
While calatheas come in many shapes and sizes, the most commonly found in garden centers is the Calathea insignia or prayer plant — it folds its leaves upwards at night, hence the name.
The calathea plant is a perfect example of why it’s crucial to check the scientific name of plants at the moment of purchase. If you go searching for a prayer plant, you might come across more than one option: either Calathea insignia or Maranta leuconeura.
While their common name is the same, they come from different plant families. Luckily, in this case, both are non-toxic and considered safe for cats and dogs. Other equally stunning and pet-friendly calathea plants include the rattlesnake plant (Calathea lancifolia) and the calathea zebra (Calathea zebrina).
As native plants to the rainforests of Brazil, these species love low light and high humidity, which makes them perfect as bathroom plants. They can grow around 8 to 10 inches tall and wide and are considered one of the easiest plants to grow.
You may be surprised to find sunflower (Helianthus annus) on this list as it’s not a common houseplant. But these colorful and happy flowers thrive indoors and are a great way to brighten any place.
Instead of buying a sunflower bouquet, consider growing them instead so you can have fresh flowers year-round. They love a sunny, warm place, so a windowsill is a perfect place to grow your sunflower plant.
The Back to the Roots Organic Sunflower Windowsill Grow Kit comes with everything you need to start growing these gorgeous flowers, including a custom organic soil blend with all the nutrients necessary for optimal growth.
Sunflowers are pet-friendly, and while cats seem to be particularly attracted to the leaves, dogs prefer the nutty taste of the seeds. Keep in mind that the fibrous seed shells may cause some mild tummy upsets, so if you want to avoid this, place your sunflower in an area where Fido and Lola can’t reach it.
6. Cast Iron Plant
The cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior), as the name suggests, is practically indestructible. Many plant lovers swear they’re harder to kill than cacti!
Marked by eye-catching glossy leaves, these green beauties are native to Japan and Taiwan. They make fantastic gifts for aspiring gardeners as their ease of care can boost confidence.
Because of their upright nature, cats and dogs are particularly attracted to them, so it’s a good thing that all parts of the plant are non-toxic. They’re quite happy in a corner with low light and can withstand irregular waterings and temperature changes. Like most houseplants, they prefer if you let their soil dry out a bit between waterings.
Not all ferns are created equal. Ferns are the first species on this list that you should pay extra close attention to when buying, as some varieties have toxic properties. The thing about ferns is that their lush fronds are incredibly appealing to both dogs and cats, so you must select a species that is pet-safe.
The most well-known and commonly available variety is the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata bostoniensis). This vibrant beauty adores bright, indirect sunlight and loves humidity, so placing it in a hanging basket in your bathroom will make it super happy.
Boston ferns are super reliable and are a natural humidifier, which means they’re great companions for other plants that need a little moisture boost.
Another unique and lovely variety is the Staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum), which will make you fall in love with its one-of-a-kind antler-shaped leaves. If you love cooking, they make excellent kitchen companions as they also love humid air.
You may want to avoid the asparagus fern. Despite its name, is not actually a fern but a part of the lily family, which is known for being very toxic to pets.
If you’re looking to bring the ultimate exotic look to your home, think about getting a palm.
With their beautiful green leaves, palms are elegant and a great compromise between a small houseplant and a larger tree. The cool thing is that many outdoor palms can also be grown indoors. If you have space to spare, getting a palm tree will certainly make your room shine.
Like ferns, it’s important to do your research before buying a palm tree as some varieties are toxic for animals. Stay clear from sago palms as they contain cycasin, a compound that damages the liver and can have serious consequences on a pet’s health.
Opt instead for one of these three pet-safe options:
- Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens): Also known as butterfly palm, the areca palm is native to Madagascar and thrives in indirect light. They can grow up to 6 feet high and live as long as 10 years when given the proper conditions.
- Parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans): This species hails from Mexico and Guatemala and is quite low maintenance. While it prefers humidity and bright, indirect sunlight, it also tolerates drier, darker conditions.
- Ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata): This quirky plant — also known as elephant’s foot — is not a palm but a member of the succulent family, which means it can go for long periods without water. A native to Mexico, it prefers low to bright indirect light.
9. Spider Plant
Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) are popular among plant aficionados and are also great plants safe for cats and dogs. Also known as ribbon plants and airplane plants, spider plants are easily recognizable by their variegated spiky leaves.
They are native to tropical Africa and can withstand high levels of neglect and poor conditions, making them a perfect fit if you tend to forget watering your plants.
Due to their grass-like foliage, spider plants are quite irresistible to pets, especially if they love nibbling. Fortunately, they’re non-toxic, but if you’d like to keep your plant in good shape, consider a hanging basket far away from your pet’s reach.
This species thrives in moderate light but grows in any type of conditions, making it a great option for novice gardeners. Spider plants are also quite easy to propagate, so when they grow too big and start spilling on the sides, simply cut them and replant the clippings.
10. Zebra Plant
The zebra plant (Haworthia attenuata) is possibly one of the cutest plants in the world. It’s easy to fall in love with this mini aloe-like succulent.
Note: While aloe has many healing properties for humans, it’s toxic for both cats and dogs. Make sure you keep it in an area that your pet can’t access.
With their horizontally-striped foliage, zebra plants grow slowly, and they can go without water for several weeks. They’re a perfect addition to the Back to the Roots Self-Watering Grow Kit specially designed to house cacti and succulents. They come with a wicking system that allows your plants to drink water only when they need it, making it easier than ever to create your little indoor garden.
Zebra plants are natives of Southern Africa and love the sun and warmth of window sills. Just be sure to keep them away from cold drafts and go easy on the water, especially during the winter months.
Pet-Friendly Plants Are a Great Addition to Your Indoor Garden
You don’t have to give up your indoor jungle dream over your feline or canine companion — you can have the best of both worlds. Just keep in mind that while the plants on this list are not toxic, it’s advisable to keep them in areas where your pet can’t reach to preserve the health of the foliage — especially if you live with a “chewer.”
To learn more tips and tricks about indoor gardening and get some inspiration about the plant world, be sure to browse more on the Back to the Roots blog, which we update weekly.