Tips For Choosing Houseplants that are Safe and Non-Toxic
Houseplants are beautiful but many of them are also dangerous and some poisonous. Here’s a guide to plants that can safely share a home with most pets.
There are thousands of houseplant varieties out there, each with beautiful and unique features. While they can add beauty to a home and even clean the air, some of them can be toxic and even deadly to pets. Here’s a guide to what plants should be avoided or kept out of reach.
Avoid unfamiliar plants. Many nurseries sell houseplants with a generic tag that says “Tropical Foliage” and very little information. Think twice about purchasing such plants unless their identity can be confirmed.
Watch out for berries and spines. Houseplants like Coral Berry (Ardisia crenulata) produce bright fruits that are often irresistible to curious pets. The spines on Cactus plants can cause great pain to inquisitive noses, tongues and paws. Avoid such plants or keep them out of reach.
Lilies and Cats don’t mix. If there is a cat in the home, Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum) should be avoided. They are extremely poisonous to cats. Ingestion causes kidney failure, and if not treated in time, death. Oleander (Nerium oleander) is another deadly plant. One of the most poisonous plants in the world, ingesting a single leaf can kill a pet-or a child.
Most other houseplants known to be toxic aren’t deadly but they can cause injury or illness. For example:
The sap of Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia) causes irritation and swelling to the tongue, mouth and throat if ingested and can cause temporary voice loss. The sap can also cause a mild skin rash.
The leaves of Philodendron can cause irritated and itchy skin if ingested.
Pothos (Golden, Marble, Neon, Satin, or Jade) will cause vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and other gastric upsets if ingested.
English Ivy can cause a variety of reactions from a blistering rash to vomiting and difficulty breathing.
Calla Lily leaves can cause burns to the lips, mouth and throat if ingested.
Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta) can cause gastric upset and renal failure to cats and dogs if ingested.
While the gel in the leaves of Aloe Vera have long been prized for their skin healing qualities (no kitchen should be without one), ingestion will irritate the intestinal tract and result in vomiting and diarrhea.
Some plants that are non-toxic and safe around pets include:
African Violets (Saintpaulia)
Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus australis)
Zebra Plant (Calathea zebrina)
Wandering Jew (Zebrina pendula)
Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)
Jade Plant (Crassula argentea)
Keep plants off the floor and up out of pets reach. Remember, cats are excellent climbers so it may take a little extra effort and creativity to keep a plant away from them. Keep hanging and climbing plants trimmed and /or tied back to prevent a curious cat from playing with it. To distract a determined, plant loving cat, give him his own pot of cat grass or catnip. Seeds and plants can be purchased at most pet stores and garden centers,
Wash hands after handling plants to avoid accidentally transferring any sap to pets. Dispose of any cuttings promptly and in a sealed receptacle.
If a pet is acting strangely and plant ingestion is suggested, or if the animal was caught munching on a plant, call the vet immediately. In many cases the affects, though unpleasant, will be mild and the pet will recover, but sometimes poisoning can become a true medical emergency. Never take chances!