Five Pet Safe Houseplants for Spring

Pet Safe Houseplants

I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who has read my blog so far! I have gotten super duper feedback on how I’m helping people identify pet safe plants – that is my goal after all. This is my first comment ever and it came via Facebook, “I was just reading your blog, thank you for the info! I am that person who will stand in the store for half an hour googling plant names before I bring anything into my house! My kitties and I are grateful for this quick reference.” Thank you Cathleen from Canada, you seriously made my week!

Here is yet another installment of the plant safe houseplants. While my kitties and I are insanely excited for spring, we haven’t gone all out shopping yet for new plants. My plant family, most of who made the winter, except my Echeveria, RIP, are happy to see the sun and are just starting to come out of the dormant stage. Naturally, I’ve been whipping out my camera to give everyone their 15 minutes of fame.

Tillandsia : Pet Safe HouseplantsIt’s important to mention that not all of my plants are perfect. If you have a cat or dog, some of your plants have most likely taken a beating. Mine have fallen off shelves, been taste tested (by cats), knocked over (by sun bathing cats), and been personal scratching posts (unnecessary). I do like to keep my blog photos swanky and professional, but, I feel like post-winter and cat-cohabitation plants should be shown in their, ahem, natural state. After all, we don’t garden for the glamour.

Maranta

The Prayer Plant has been one of my favorites for some time. My cats won’t eat them and they love low light areas, I have one in almost every room of my house. And those leaves! They are just really pretty, like Emma Watsons of the plant world. Easy to take care of, Marantas just like to be kept moist and out of direct sun. And no dry heat (like radiators), which will dry them out.

 

Haworthia

Ok, so my cats likes spiny things. Cactuses, snake plants, you name it and no matter how dangerous, their face is being rubbed on it. My Haworthia, although doing well, is a bit exhausted. One of my oldest plants, Harlequinn has chewed on the tiny spines, leaving ugly dry bits and stunted leaves. If I had a nickel for every time Harvey has pushed it over onto the floor, I’d be able to buy another one. I must be doing something right, though, since there are tiny Haworthia pups growing, and she is still going strong. How? I don’t know.

Haworthia : Pet Safe Plants
My poor Haworthia. She’s still pretty, despite the teeth marks.

Spider Plant

Spider Plant : Pet Safe Plants
Harvey, snacking.

I actually just got this spider plant around Christmas. Since I love spider plants, I am determined to actually have mine grow this time. They tend to get eaten. Every single time. The plan is to move it to a hanging planter, avoiding cat mouths, and will one day look like the bottom photo. Spider plants are completely pet safe but they usually result in upset tummies later. I actually just read this article about why cats love these plants, and why they keep coming back for more. As far as care, these guys just need to be kept moist, in the sun, and away from felines.

http://www.veranda.com/outdoor-garden/g1647/benefits-of-houseplants/?slide=5
….how my spider plant should look…..

Peperomia

Peperomia : Pet Safe Houseplants
This baby’s got white, pink, and green leaves.

Because of my love for rubber trees, thus began my collection of Peperomia. 100% pet safe and almost always variegated with some kind of colors, these are one of my favorites of 2017. Unlike rubber trees which are considered mildly toxic because of the funky sap, peperomias are non toxic. Peperomia stay petite and just require low indirect light and moist bottoms. They make great quiet office mates, actually, and don’t eat smelly lunches.

Peperomia : Pet Safe Houseplants
Jelly Peperomia and Golden Gate

Air Plants

Air Plant : Pet Safe Houseplants
Air plant in its natural habitat.

In the near future, I’m planning on creating this faux moss wall that I saw in my Rooted in Design book. They mix in a bunch of air plants, so in preparation, I’ve begun to acquire them. Despite being spiny and stringy, my cats won’t eat them, but if they did they are completely pet safe. The only care they need is a good soak in a lukewarm water bath for a couple hours once a week. However, spritzing will work too. I’ve had luck purchasing Tillandsia locally, as well as this threesome through Hirts on Etsy.

Air Plants : Pet Safe Houseplants
Tillandsia can actually be hot glued to things! I don’t recommend doing that to other plants….

Birds Nest Fern

Birds Nest Fern : Pet Safe Houseplants
So green!

Ferns can be annoying to take care or, but not this one. My Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium antiquum) has been with me for a couple years now. It’s the curly variety, which is cooler I think, than the typical one with sword leaves. Ferny likes his plastic pot, no drafts, and damp soil to keep him happy. Both Harvey and Harlequinn like him purely for the jungle effect. Luckily, not for snacking.

Fern : Pet Safe Houseplants
Jungle cat. Well, kinda.

More installments to come as I acquire more pet-friendly plant friends. Thanks for reading!

Pests: What to Look for on Indoor Plants

Leaf&Paw.com

It’s time! Finally, the weather is warm and you can open your windows after a long, cold winter. However, winter is harsh on indoor plants, and usually leaves them with pests problems. I’ve listed the typical pests I look for on my plants, complete with photos of my once infected friends. My plants are just as excited about spring as I am, and they deserve a makeover before their favorite time of year.

Monstera Deliciosa sun damage.
Some damage may be caused by winter conditions, like dry heat.

In New York, winter can be horrible, but I’ve embraced it after my indoor plant collection has grown. It gives me a time to get in touch with them, check for pests, learn their watering patterns and sunlight tolerance, and how they like their coffee. Come summer, they spend most of their time on my enclosed porch or outdoors. My house becomes empty and a bit pale without the jungles in every room. To be honest I love having everyone in my house, but know they are much happier in a humid porch. On the plus side, my house  suddenly becomes much bigger.

Plants on porch
Everybody outside for the spring.

Pest problems are common in winter though; harsh heat, dry conditions, and cold drafts do a number on them. I usually loose one or two every year just because I live in an historic house with irregular heating spots. Keeping plants alive all winter is hard. My hedgehogs need a warm temperature, so most of my rooms are a toasty 69-71 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it dry for indoor plants that love humidity. And that’s like, all plants.

Cats and plants sunbathing.
Cats and plants sunbathing. Typical all day affair.

Speaking of temperature, it gives pests a breeding ground. All winter and, especially once the weather warms, I check for bugs. I search undersides of leaves, stems, tops of the soil and all crevices. They’re are sneaky little bastards and can be anywhere. ANYWHERE. So bring out your best Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass and go bug hunting.

What you see: Tiny white fluffy things on stems and leaves.

The Pest: Mealybugs

Mealybug pests
Mealybugs on my Jade.

These are mealybugs and the most common indoor plants problem. They offer nothing to the world and only suck plants dry of energy leaving them to slowly die a horrible death. They are small and fluffy, usually surrounded by some kind of webbing and are a bloody mess if you squish them. That being said, destroy them upon first sight. They’re most commonly under leaves and along the stems. If there are only a few (and look at the WHOLE plant), take a cotton swab/ball drenched with rubbing alcohol and place over bugs. This will suffocate them. Either wipe them off or remove with tweezers until all visible bugs are gone. If there is any white fluff  embedded in leaves, dredge the section in alcohol as well. Place plant in quarantine until there’s no sign of the devil creatures.

Mealybug pests on Bird of Paradise
Mealybugs on Percy my Bird of Paradise.

If it looks more like a house party of mealybugs, use your best judgment. Try the alcohol method as many times as you need, but if there’s a lot of bugs you will need to go to your nearest garden center for their best systemic pest removal. A systemic is a pesticide that gets absorbed into the roots and stem and continues to work even after the initial applications. This will have to be applied outside, and always follow pesticide directions thoroughly.

Mealybug pests on Bird of Paradise
More on Percy, he didn’t have a good winter.

What you see: Brown or white flecks on leaves

The Pest: Scale

Scale pest damage on Staghorn fern.
You can see the light green spots where the scale was. Also, a fern hand!

I’ve never had a problem with scale until I blindly purchased a Staghorn fern from a garden center. He was covered in little white and brown specs, which I didn’t notice until I got home. It wasn’t mealy bugs, but scale pests, and they were slowly sucking life out of my new plant. My fern above shows where each scale bug was, you can actually see the chlorophyll depleted. So, so sad. I actually used a combination of dish soap and water to get rid of them, about 2 Tbsp per gallon of water. I submerged the top of the plant and left it for a few minutes. Anything left on the plant I handpicked off slowly, and, hours later, he was good as new. Ferny is on the mend, but the scale scars are still around. Lesson learned-  always, always check plants for bugs before buying.

White Scale on Staghorn Fern
Bit of white scale on my fern.

What you see: Tiny gnats flying around the soil

The Pest: Fungus Gnats

While the name “fungus gnats” is enough to make be barf, these are the worst pests of the bunch because they are incredibly annoying. The don’t just buzz around plants, but food, pets, people, your mouth, eyes, computer screen, sugary drinks, coffee, dear lord make it stop! So I did and here’s how.

Fungus gnat pests
DEAD fungus gnats. The best kind.

This took some digging. Literally. They live in the soil of houseplants so you can’t actually see them. The larvae feeds on fungi in soil, plant roots, or starter plants and seedlings. These then grow into the monsters you see flying around your head at night. Soggy wet plants are their favorite, so check your soggy plants without drainage holes first. Sometimes gnats leave a slimy trail on the top of the soil, but that’s not always visible. You really have to dig.

Fungus gnats
Getting rid of fungus gnats using sticky traps.

The first step, once you find the infected plant, is drying it out. The gnats can’t survive without sign fugusy water, so by drying the plant out you are killing the larvae. Next drain any extra water that is left after watering your plant (this includes water in saucers). Step two is to put the plant outside or in another location until the gnats have died down. If that isn’t an option (maybe it’s winter outside), secure some fly paper all around the top of the soil. Monitor how many get stuck everyday then rejoice when the paper is clean. If you want to go the extra mile, clean up any debris or dead leaves or roots around the plant.

Moisture meter!
I love my moisture meter for detecting water levels in big plants. This guy is a rescue on the mend, he suffered from severe under watering and mealybugs.

There are other pests of course I haven’t mentioned, but these three are the top offenders. Keep in mind that if a pet-friendly plant is infected, don’t use chemicals (such as insecticides) on them. If the plant is then ingested by a cat or dog, they can cause serious stomach issues. After all, chemicals are poison, even “organic” ones. The most natural approaches for pest removal I have listed above, using isopropyl alcohol, dish soap, and fly traps pose no threats to pets. Always be mindful of furry friends when destroying pest enemies. I hope this helps and happy spring!

Plant Portrait: Monstera Deliciosa

Monstera Deliciosa

One of the best parts of the IG plant community? #monsteramonday, featuring the exotic Monstera Deliciosa.

 

Out of all the social media platform, Instagram is my top. I use my personal account sparingly, mostly posting pictures of Henrietta. Once Leaf&Paw was born I was excited to create its own account. First off, every Monday is #monsteramonday. IGers present luxurious photos of these giant Jurassic Park plants that I had never seen before. Maybe it’s just NY, but Monstera Deliciosa, also called the Swiss Cheese Plant, is not a common one.  After seeing photo upon photo of green deliciousness (get it? like “deliciosa”), I had to have one of these. Since they are scarce in NY, so I was shocked, SHOCKED that weeks later I saw one, ONE in Wegmans for $15. It was fate since I have never seen one there again. Maybe the garden faeries left it just for me.

monstera deliciosa

So, now I have one of these monsters (get it? like “monstera”)  it has ultimately become my favorite plant child. Leaf&paw became active in #monsteramondays and I was surprised to receive a message asking why I own a toxic houseplant, despite my blog being safe plants for pets. Makes sense, so I’ll clear the air.

Monsteras are philodendrons – which is a vast plant family. It includes different types of monsteras, the heart shaped philodendron (above), and the elephant ear plant (below), as the most common. Part of the Araceae family, they are considered toxic, but less than its siblings, the Calla Lily and Dieffenbachia.  These two plants are more poisonous in general on the toxic scale, so I recommend avoiding those. Monsteras are only toxic in excess, causing stomach upset if consumed consistently.

In my Ficus Elastica post, I came across this similar situation – I have quite a few plants that are toxic to animals and I’ll explain why.

The main reason I possess these plants is leaf size. My cats, and it seems cats in general, fancy stringy, grass-like leaves that are easily chewable – like palms and spider plants. I have never had a problem with cats or dogs chewing, or even showing interest in large leaf plants, since they seem more like furniture than a salad. The Monstera is no exception with its plasticky leaves’ average size being 10″ in diameter. Honestly, leaf size is the key. So, to those wondering if it is ok to get one of these beauties, I say yes, as long as your pets aren’t destructive-consuming-plant-vacuums. In the end, you are the only one who knows your pet.

Monstera Deliciosa :: Leaf and Paw

Basic Care: Monsteras are super easy to take care of. The soil should stay moist in all seasons and they like a decent amount of filtered light and humidity. Mine is still in the plastic it came in and he seems just peachy. The photo below is when I first got him (plastic brontosaurus for scale), and the first picture in this post is his size now. Sniff, I’m so proud.

Monstera Deliciosa