Houseplants 101: Plants and Pets

Houseplants 101: Plants and Pets

Did you know? Many common houseplants are at least mildly toxic, and while this doesn't typically pose a problem for people, the same can't always be said for our pets! Our beloved Farm pup, Cami, has been known to take a bite out of the odd houseplant from time-to-time, and we know that plenty of other pet parents can relate to that moment of panic when you come home to find a pot tipped over and its occupant missing a few leaves.

The good news is that keeping your pets safe from the potential consequences of their sneaky snacking doesn't have to mean sacrificing your houseplant collection! There are plenty of pet-friendly plants that the ASPCA has identified as non-toxic to cats and dogs, and we even have a few tips and tricks for discouraging unwanted nibbling on other specimens.

Pet-Friendly Houseplants

When you hear that a houseplant is "pet-friendly" or "pet safe," that generally means that it is known to be non-toxic to cats and dogs — and that is certainly how we use these terms at Cornell Farm. Sometimes, however, a plant may be toxic for one and not the other. That's why it's always a good idea to do a bit of research before bringing any plant home, even if it bears the "pet-friendly" label. (This is especially true if you know that your cat or dog is prone to treat new houseplants as their own personal salad bar!)

We have over 100 pet-friendly plants in our typical houseplant inventory to choose from, and they come in a wide variety of textures, colors, and growth habits. If you are looking to make your houseplant collection pet-friendly, a trip to our Houseplant Shop is definitely a lot more fun than a trip to the vet!

Check out our quick reference sheet of pet-friendly varieties that we use here at the Farm below. (Clicking on the image will take you to our online collection of pet safe houseplants!)


Pet-Proofing Your Collection

Some commonly-encountered plants that are definitely not safe for pets (or people!) to chew on include philodendrons, euphorbias, aglaonemas, dieffenbachias, anthuriums, asparagus ferns, dracaenas, sansevierias, begonias, tradescantias, ficuses, and zz plants. While this doesn't necessarily mean that you can't have these plants, appropriate caution should be taken when they share a space.

Even if a plant is non-toxic, it still may not be safe to let your pet have access to it unattended. A plant might present a choking hazard, for instance, or a heavy pot could cause injury if knocked or pulled over. Of course, the inverse is also true, as a particularly tasty-looking non-toxic plant might not survive an encounter with a pet that is bored and/or hungry. Even if plants are safe for pets, pets might not be safe for your plants! And sometimes it's best to keep them away from each other. It all comes down to knowing your pet and your own comfort level.

Sturdy plant stands, tall bookshelves, or hanging planters can be great ways to keep your plants and pets out of each other’s way. And if you have the space, a dedicated plant room where unattended pets are not allowed can be an even better solution.

Sometimes pets are attracted to plants because of the soil. Cats may confuse your pots with the litter box, or dogs might be looking for a place to bury something. In this case, there are a few ways to deter animals from the soil. Sometimes covering the surface of the soil with river pebbles is enough. In other cases, some people have used up-pointed forks or sticks to make the soil surface uncomfortable for guests. A piece of rigid plastic or coated cardboard  laid on top of the soil with a space cut for the plant to poke out from might also do the trick. There are some spices that are repellent to pets, such as cayenne pepper, and others have reported good luck using commercially available mixes created for this purpose, but if you are in this position, physically separating your pets and plants in space is probably your best bet!

Our amazing team at Cornell Farm is always happy to help you pick out houseplants that we would feel comfortable keeping with our own pets at home, but we always recommend you do your own research and take the precautions you feel necessary to protect your pets. We consider the official ASPCA list to be authoritative reference on all matters of pet safety when it comes to houseplants and defer to their judgment. They even have a mobile app you can use to help you out! By bringing any plant home, you assume all associated risks.