One of the most frequently asked questions in Chalet’s Glass House is: “Which of these plants are safe for my dog or cat?” It’s a very legitimate question and usually posed by those with a new puppy, or a cat of any age. If truth be told we have to consider the various ways plants have evolved to protect themselves. One of the most effective ways is to be unpleasant tasting, or worse…. Hence, the size-able number of plants possessing one or more toxic substances. Generally speaking, if a plant is toxic to a cat, it is toxic to a dog, too.
So, I’d like to share some top-of-mind, readily available houseplants that are safe to pets on both sides of the aisle - canine or feline.
Bromeliads: The popularity of “air plants” continues to rage due to their ease of care. And yes, air plants are bromeliads, just like their larger kin that are sold in pots and have such interesting foliage textures and colors. When the potted Bromeliads mature and flower, they’re very striking specimens. All are considered non-toxic to pets.
Carnivorous plants aren’t just for kids. Pitcher plants and Venus Fly Trap are some of Nature’s most fascinating plants. They live in moist/wet sites with soils of low fertility. So, they have evolved with deadly flowers to trap insects, digest their insectivorous meals, capturing the extra nutrients to compensate for what they’re not getting from what they’re growing in.
Ferns of all shapes, sizes and types (Boston, Button, Dallas, Blue Star, Staghorn, Silver Ribbon and Tiger, to name a few) fall into the “pet safe” category. Generally, they like even moisture, bright, but indirect light, and high humidity. The latter condition is perhaps the most challenging to meet consistently when central heating is running ‘round the clock in the winter. The kicker is the soft, textured foliage and often arching stems may be irresistible to kitties, but at least they’re safe!
Miscellaneous pet-friendly foliage plants: Ming Aralia, Calathea (Maranta/Prayer Plant), Fittonia (Nerve Plant), Peperomia, Pleomele and Stromanthe. Sorry, I don’t know of any easy common names for the latter three.
Palms, thank goodness, provide us with a range of sizes and interesting textures for indoors, with most tolerating (not necessarily preferring) the lower light sites of our abodes. And while some are available in small sizes suitable for terrariums, they’re generally taller for use as “floor” specimens! Areca, Lady, Parlor and Pygmy Date are some of the standard Palms. Just know that as a category they are overwhelmingly safe for your furred family members to be around.
Succulents: Even though they are apparently defenseless, lacking the spines of cacti, the Echeverias and the Haworthias are tidy little rosette-forming numbers that have terrifically interesting textures and shapes. They’re a water-when-you-think-of-it group, and who doesn’t like minimal maintenance plants, indoors or out?
Even if your furry family members haves an occasional hankering for fresh greens, if you surround yourself with the tropicals mentioned above you needn’t worry about their safety!