Having plants indoors is a great way to help keep air clean and bring the feel of the garden into your home, but some plants can be toxic to animals. We’ve gathered a list of some of the most common houseplants to avoid as well as care instructions for plants that are known to be safe for dogs and cats.
Please remember that any plant material a dog or cat consumes may cause vomiting and gastrointestinal upset. If you think your pet may have ingested something poisonous, please call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 24-hour hotline at 888-426-4435.
Plants to Keep Away From Pets
These houseplants are best to keep away from cats and dogs. If you plant them indoors, be sure they are not in a place that your pet can reach. If you pet eats these they may cause vomiting and gastrointestinal upset.
Azaleas and rhododendron
Daffodil and jonquil
English and Boston ivy
Lily of the valley
Rose of Sharon
Wax leaf privet
Nontoxic to Cats and Dogs
Air Plants (Tillandsias) – Air plants are easy to grow when watered properly. The best way to know you’re doing this properly is to totally submerge the plant in water two to three times a week. Underwatered plants will be limp and squishy, while sufficiently watered plants will feel firm. Between waterings, keep your plant in a mostly shaded area that is well ventilated. You can get these here.
African Daisy – The African daisy is a drought-tolerant flower native to South Africa. It is available in a wide variety of colors. African daisies do best in full sunlight and heat. They prefer well-drained soil and will even tolerate dry soil. Sow seeds by sprinkling them on soil. African daisies will bloom just 50 to 60 days after seeds are sown. African daisies are annuals and will bloom summer through fall.
African Violet – African violets produce small, purple blooms that can last for several weeks. Plants are typically propagated from leaf trimmings. African violets do best in well-drained soil with a high phosphorus content and low nitrogen. They need partial sun and should be moved away from windows to protect them from summer sun and winter frost. To prevent spotting, water from the bottom up, avoiding leaves. You can find these here.
Alyssum – Alyssum is a short annual that produces small white, pink, or purple blooms. It is well-suited for use as a border plant and also works well in container gardens. Seeds can be sown outdoors in spring after soil starts to warm or grown indoors and transplanted after the last frost. Seeds should be planted eight to 10 inches apart, lightly covered with soil, and watered thoroughly once. Plants do best in average soil with full to partial sun. Alyssum will produce flowers from midsummer to the first frost.
Boston Fern Boston ferns can be picky about their environments, but they make up for it with beautiful feathery fronds that can grow up to five feet long. They do best in cool temperatures with high humidity and indirect sunlight. Make sure soil is kept moist, and mist one or two times a week to maintain humidity. As a plus, Boston ferns remove pollutants, such as benzene and xylene, and can clean more formaldehyde from the air than any other plant. Formaldehyde is found in many household items, such as flooring glues, caulk, and upholstery finishes. According to the National Cancer Institute website, “NCI investigators have concluded that exposure to formaldehyde may cause leukemia, particularly myeloid leukemia, in humans.”
Calathea Zebra Plant – Zebra plants are a subtle but unique addition to any home. The plant’s green leaves are striped with white, yellow, or pink. Zebra plants are native to Brazil and can grow up to three feet tall and three feet wide. The ideal potting mix has one part soil, two parts peat moss, and two parts perlite. African violet mix works well for zebra plants. Water thoroughly when planting, and fertilize the plant with half-strength liquid fertilizer occasionally. Because it is a tropical plant, the zebra plant needs moisture-holding soil that is kept well drained. With too much water, the plant’s roots will rot. With too little, leaves will curl under. To ensure the plant has the high humidity it requires, mist several times a week. In extra dry environments, fill a shallow tray with pebbles and water, and place the pot on top, making sure the water doesn’t touch the pot.
Zebra plants grow best in shade or indirect light. Zebra plants need repotting every two years at springtime. Divide plants with more than one rosette at the base and replant.
Common Snapdragon – Snapdragons are loved for their tall spikes with dense, brightly colored flowers. The blooms come in a wide variety of colors and smell delightful. Sow seeds indoors, and allow them to germinate in the sun for three weeks or more. Snapdragons will grow well in average soil and full sun. Flowers will bloom in late spring. Once they have died, cut the plant back to about one third of its height. Snapdragons are hardy in cold weather and may produce flowers again in autumn. You can find spapdragon seeds here.
Coral Bells Coral bells are perennials with evergreen, scalloped leaves that come in a variety of colors. In spring and summer, the plant produces tall shoots of small flowers in shades of white, red, pink, and coral. They can be grown from seed, or divided clumps can be propagated in spring or fall. Coral bells grow best in rich, well-drained soil, though it is tolerant of most soil types. After flowers wither, deadhead them to promote a second bloom. Cut back old, woody growth in spring. You can find one here.
Lady Palm – The lady palm has multiple stalks that are topped with fan-like fronds. As a bonus, lady palms filter ammonia from the air. For growing indoors, it is best to start with a mature plant. Keep lady palms in dappled or indirect sunlight. In spring and summer, water the plant when the top one inch of soil is dry. In fall and winter, water when the top two inches of soil are dry. Water thoroughly, and empty the saucer after 20 to 30 minutes. When the plant becomes too heavy to lift, fill the tray with pebbles to prevent reabsorption. Feed only in summer, using slow-release pellets at the beginning of growing season or half-strength liquid fertilizer occasionally.
Polka Dot Plant – Also known as freckle face, this plant has leaves spotted in shades of white, red, purple, and pink. Seeds can grow in temperatures from 70 to 75 degrees in warm, moist soils. Polka dot plants need rich, well-drained soil and indirect sun. Cuttings are the easiest way to grow the polka dot plant. Remove growth at the node, pull off leaves close to the end, and dip in rooting hormone before placing in peat moss or other soilless growing medium. Keep the cutting moist, and once it roots, treat it like a mature plant. Feed indoor plants once a month, and cut older, leggy canes back as needed. You can find one here.
Spider Plant – Spider plants are one of the easiest houseplants to grow. They are adaptable, root easily, and reproduce quickly. When placed near a sunlit window in a hanging basket or on a pedestal, spider plants will help filter out airborne formaldehyde and benzene. Plants can be propagated from the baby plants produced at the end of the spider plant’s stalks. Put the tiny plant in water, and once roots have grown at least an inch, transplant it into soil. Give spider plants well-drained soil and indirect sunlight. Cut brown tips, and prune the plant occasionally. You can find one here.
Watermelon Begonia – Watermelon begonias have pinkish stems with oblong leaves whose pattern resembles that of a watermelon. The plants work well in hanging baskets and only need moderate water and partial shade, though they thrive in bright, indirect light. During spring and summer, keep the plant consistently moist, and reduce watering in fall and winter. Watermelon begonias do best in temperatures over 60 degrees with occasional misting.
Writer Megan Smith Mauk grew up in Texas, where she developed a reverence for all forms of life. In college, she became co-chair of the environmental coalition. She now lives with her husband, and their dog and cat, in Virginia.
Please note that links to Amazon from Gardening Channel are affiliate links.