The best houseplants to buy if you have pets

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Even with a curious dog or cat in your home, it’s still possible to parent both pets and houseplants simultaneously. It just requires a little extra research.

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Some types of plants should be avoided at all costs in a home with animals.

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Leopard lilies, for example, “contain calcium oxalate crystals that look like needles under the microscope,” and can lead to vomiting, oral pain and drooling in both dogs and cats, says Tina Wismer, senior director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

True lilies (which include leopard lilies) are especially dangerous to cats. “It only takes a bite of leaf or grooming of pollen off the hair coat to cause kidney failure,” she says.

Still, there is a world of safe houseplant options for the conscientious pet owner. We asked plant experts to recommend their favourites.


Succulents are relatively easy to care for, and many varieties are harmless to dogs and cats. Echeverias, a broad, low succulent, and burro’s tail, a trailing succulent perfect for hanging planters, are both nontoxic options that thrive in high light. Haworthias, which come in a range of shapes and sizes, are another great pick. They do best in sunny conditions but can also thrive in partial shade.

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Tom Knight, founder of, recommends Christmas cactuses for their pink flowers. Plus, unlike many other varieties of cactus, they do not have sharp spines. Knight advises pet parents to always take into consideration “does the plant have physical characteristics like thorns that could hurt my pet?”


In general, most ferns – all of which prefer humidity and plenty of water – will probably be a good fit for a pet-friendly home. Mike Davison, general manager of Platt Hill Nursery in Bloomingdale, Ill., recommends holly ferns, which are more tolerant of lower humidity than other varieties, and silver lace or silver table ferns, which have thick silver stripes along their foliage. If you have a smaller space, Boston ferns remain more compact, he says.

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One type of fern that should be off-limits for homes with animals: Asparagus ferns, also known as emerald ferns or lace ferns, whose berries contain a toxic steroid that can cause gastrointestinal issues in dogs and cats.


Like ferns, most palms are a good bet. Among Davison’s favorites is the bamboo palm, a leafy, low-maintenance plant that tolerates low light and can grow up to six feet tall indoors. The parlor palm and lady palm similarly do well in lowlight spaces, while the phoenix palm thrives in medium light.

Because they’re tropical plants, many palms are sensitive to dry air and prefer moist soil. An exception is the areca, or butterfly palm, which Christopher Griffin, known on Instagram as @plantkween, recommends for its “long, graceful feather-shaped fronds.”

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This palm prefers bright, natural light and “thrives in humid environments, but I have found that mine is adaptable and doing well with well-drained soil [and] a standard humidifier,” Griffin says via email. “She prefers her soil dry in between waterings.”

Flowering plants

While flowering plants are generally more likely to be toxic, there are nonetheless plenty of pet-safe options that showcase beautiful blooms. Gerbera daisies, star jasmine and Madagascar jasmine are nontoxic to cats and dogs, as are most orchids – including the popular tiger orchid, pansy orchid and tailed orchid. For orchid novices, moth orchids can be a great place to start, as they’re easy to find and difficult to kill, Davison says.

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Goldfish plants are another pet-safe way to brighten up a space. In spring and summer, they feature dozens of orange and yellow flowers that look like tiny goldfish suspended in the air. Unlike other perennials that need to be in direct sun for much of the day, goldfish plants can do well with any bright light source and can survive with indoor lights alone during darker months.

Davison also suggests Zebra plants, or Aphelandra – which grow bright yellow flowers and have white stripes on their foliage – and hoyas, which feature clusters of small, porcelain-like flowers. (In both plants, however, flowers can be rare or short-lived.)

Davison favors brightly colored guzmanias – a type of bromeliad – for their widespread availability, ease of care and tolerance for low light.

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“It’s pretty much my favorite bromeliad,” he says.

Other favourites

The peperomia plant family, also called radiator plants, includes a wide range of leaf shapes, colors and care needs. Some are vining, others grow upright, and all are relatively low-maintenance and safe for animals.

“They’re really tough plants: easy to grow and hard to kill, unless you overwater,” Davison says.

Spider plants are another resilient, nontoxic option. They prefer well-drained soil; bright, indirect light; and don’t mind becoming a bit root-bound, says Griffin, “so it is recommended to repot her only when she has visibly outgrown her planter.”

Griffin also recommends rattlesnake plants, whose long, wavy leaves sport dark green dots and deep purple undersides. They like warmth, humidity and bright, indirect light. Peacock plants and nerve plants, two more of Davison’s favorites, similarly bring color to a pet-safe plant collection. The leaves of nerve plants feature a tangle of pink, white or red stripes. Peacock plants flaunt purple and dark-green details, although their finicky humidity needs can make them difficult to maintain.

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Keep in mind

Even nontoxic plants, especially when consumed in large quantities, can make your pet sick because they’re hard to digest.

“Eating any plant material can cause stomach upset, including vomiting and diarrhea,” Wismer says.

So, if you know your pet likes to chow down on foliage, it’s best to keep all house plants out of reach. Placing them on shelves, inside terrariums or in hanging planters are all possible solutions.

If you’re unsure about the safety of a specific plant, Knight recommends visiting your local nursery or garden store to talk to an expert in-person. “The owners are typically very knowledgeable and happy to assist,” he says.

Pet owners can also turn to the ASPCA’s database of toxic and nontoxic plants for additional information.

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