Create an animal-friendly indoor jungle with these safe houseplants for pets

Pots at the ready – these safe houseplants for pets will help your house become tropical, not toxic.

We’re a team of animal lovers here at Saga Exceptional, with a menagerie of pets between us – from horses to guinea pigs. Though you might not expect a pony to wander around your home, those of us who have house-trained pawed and clawed pals – and love to adorn our interiors with plants – need to make sure our pets won’t accidentally come to harm.

Choosing safe houseplants for pets is essential if you want your home’s flora and fauna to live in harmony.

cat nibbling a boston fern which is a safe houseplant for petsCredit: Shuttersock / KapiKupi

I heard a phrase recently that, in terms of responsibilities at home, ‘houseplants are the new pets, and pets are the new children’. This couldn’t be truer in my household. In the same way that I want to know plants that are toxic to cats, dogs and other pets lurking in my garden, I also want reassurance that the five-plus houseplants I nurture in each room won’t hurt my curious cats, who love a mischievous nibble every now and then.

1. Boston fern

They love humidity

Beautiful potted fern on table in living room. Space for textCredit: New Africa/Shutterstock

“There are several pet-safe plants you can choose from, such as ferns,” according to Kate Lindley, product manager at Baby Bio. “So even if you do have furry friends at home, you can still create a beautiful indoor jungle.”

The delicate leaves of ferns were a favourite among the Victorians, and we love the Boston fern as a low-maintenance, safe houseplant for pets. Your fern will be happiest in a damp humid spot, so a bathroom would be ideal, where it can soak up moisture from steamy showers.

A bathroom position will also mean it’s less likely to be chewed by your pets, unlike the poor fern pictured above. Although it’s non-toxic, its fronds are incredibly sensitive to touch and may discolour if fiddled with too much.

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2. Chinese money plant

For those in need of a little luck

Pilea Peperomioides, known as the Pilea or Chinese money plant.Credit: Damian Lugowski/Shutterstock

Another safe houseplant for pets Lindley recommends is the Chinese money plant (it’s also one of our best conservatory plant picks). Originally thought to bring money, fortune and a general spot of good luck to its owners, its coin-like leaves can also be easily propagated with a quick snip. So, you can spread the love too.

This is another chilled-out plant that only needs watering when the soil feels dry between your fingers. Find a bright spot, out of direct sunlight, and watch the money start to roll in (well, we can’t promise anything).

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Top tip

Most online houseplant retailers will have clear care instructions on their website, so you can choose the appropriate pet-safe plant for each spot in your house. The Saga Exceptional team has used Patch with great success and appreciated the straightforward, friendly descriptions for positioning each plant before we made our choices.

3. Watermelon peperomia

For leaves that resemble tiny fruit

Leaves of decorative houseplant Watermelon PeperomiaCredit: Shutterstock / Ladydoubt

Though no relation to watermelons, we love this variety of peperomia for its cute leaves that look like the fruit. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. Lindley told us that it’s another great safe houseplant for pets and it’ll also help to purify the air in your room, too – with peperomias featuring in NASA’s landmark 1989 study on plants that combatted air pollution in its space stations.

A weekly misting and a spot in your home that enjoys both bright light and some shade during different parts of the day (mimicking its natural habitat under trees in South America), will keep this plant happy.

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4. Calathea

Keep this in the kitchen

Calathea Freddie planted in a ceramic pot, placed on a chair for displayCredit: Shutterstock / Mid Tran Designer

“Perhaps the most varied pet-friendly plant species is the calathea,” suggests Lindley. “There are many beautiful varieties, such as ‘Whitestar’, ‘Sanderiana’, ‘Rattlesnake’ and ‘Freddie’ (pictured), to name a few, all of which are completely non-toxic to both cats and dogs.”

Lindley adds that you might want to move calatheas to more naturally humid rooms in the home, such as the bathroom or kitchen. “As they are safe for animals, you also don’t have to worry about them being placed anywhere where furry friends might be able to reach them for a nibble.”

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Caring for tropical plants

If you’re considering adding a tropical touch to your collection of safe houseplants for pets, remember they have specific care requirements.

“Calatheas, for example, should be positioned in a warm spot with bright but indirect sunlight – if they are placed in direct light the beautiful leaf markings may fade and even scorch,” explains Lindley. “They can even cope in lower light conditions, as they are native to rainforests and used to living under the canopy of trees. However, brighter conditions will allow your calatheas to thrive and even flower.

“Calatheas prefer high humidity and are at risk of turning crisp and brown if the air becomes too dry. The easiest way to increase humidity levels is to invest in a humidifier or place a tray of pebbles with a shallow layer of water next to plants. Give them a gentle but regular mist using tepid water and consider grouping plants together to create a mini micro-climate, which will help increase humidity levels.”

5. String of hearts

Place in a basket

Close up image of string of hearts leaves and flowers, which is a safe houseplant for petsCredit: Shutterstock / nnattalli

I have one of these adorable plants cascading from a hanging basket in a bright, north-facing window, and it’s extremely happy. Thankfully it’s a safe houseplant for pets, as its heart-studded tendrils have nearly reached the floor, alluringly right in the eyeline of my cat.

He hasn’t seemed too interested, though, and the odd pawing hasn’t affected the quality of its leaves, or the unusually-shaped dark pink flowers it occasionally throws out. These do tend to drop off rather quickly, so it’s helpful that these non-toxic petals won’t cause any harm if nibbled.

String of hearts plants prefer not to get soggy (in one bout of overwatering I accidentally invited some soil gnats to move in, which were a pain to remove). Let the soil dry properly between light waterings.

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6. Spider plant

(Almost) unkillable

Two spider plants in ceramic pots on a cabinetCredit: Shutterstock / Julia Dresch

If you’ve had zero luck with houseplants in the past, then perhaps a spider plant is in order. I have them dotted all around my house and they seem to survive – if sometimes appearing a little frazzled – in sunny, south-facing windows as well as tucked away in gloomier corners.

There’s a reason I have so many. They sprout ‘spider babies’, which thankfully aren’t as terrifying as they sound. The parent plant will produce copious amounts of smaller plants, each complete with their own tiny root system. I routinely cut these off if they seem to be taking too much energy from the main plant. After a few days in some water, they’re ready to pot and pass on.

I’ve seen spider plants integrated into cat castles before, meaning felines can enjoy the foliage at their leisure. This is useful if you have indoor cats.

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Tap water isn’t always best

The new senior water scientist for the Royal Horticultural Society, Dr Nicholas Cryer, has advised people to give their houseplants a holiday outside while it’s raining.

This is because many houseplants, including spider plants, are sensitive to the fluoride in tap water, which makes them turn brown at the tips. A regular rain shower could benefit their appearance.

Just make sure the rain is not too heavy and it’s not too windy, as this could damage more delicate indoor plants.

7. Orchids

For delicate, striking blooms

white orchid, a safe houseplant for pets, on a coffee table next to a teapot and mugCredit: Shutterstock / brizmaker

Though most of the plants on our list have consisted of foliage, rather than flowers, you’ll be pleased to hear that orchids are safe houseplants for pets. If you’re worried about how to care for orchids, fear not, it’s easier than you probably think.

A common mistake people make with orchids is overwatering them. It can lead to root rot. When deadheaded properly and left in bright, indirect light, your delicate blooms should be quite content. Moth orchids are most likely what you’ll find on sale in many supermarkets and plant shops, and they’re thankfully non-toxic to dogs and cats (though to save the blooms, you’ll want to keep them out of reach anyway).

8. Venus fly trap

Keep the bugs away

Venus fly trap plant, displayed in a glass terrariumCredit: Shutterstock / sk947

Despite its notorious reputation, the Venus fly trap thankfully only has its sights (and jaws) set on flies and insects. It’s perfectly safe to keep around your larger pets and is also great at keeping flies out of the house.

Of course, if your pets are tiny, and include amphibians or arthropods, do make sure they’re kept well away from carnivorous plants. A small nibble from a cat or dog won’t be a problem, but it’s always wise to keep plants you want to protect away from prying paws and curious teeth.

Rosanna Spence

Written by Rosanna Spence she/her

Published:

Rosanna Spence has been a journalist for nearly 10 years, reporting on a huge array of topics – from microwaves to cocktails, sustainable buildings, the Caribbean islands and beyond. She’s interviewed chefs at the helm of Michelin-starred restaurants and chatted to countless CEOs about their businesses, as well as created travel guides for experienced travellers seeking life-changing adventures. Throughout her career, she has created content for Business Traveller, i-escape.com, Pub & Bar, BRITA, Dine Out and many more leading titles and brands.

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