Six Poisonous Plants to Pets

Corn Plant

It is handy to have a list of plants that are safe for pets, but it is actually more important to know which plants are a no-no to Mittens and Fido. These are the top six plants that are the MOST poisonous to pets. Whether you have cats or dogs (or even babies for that matter), these should be off your plant list. Photos are a great way to identify a plant, but always go by the latin name on the label, that ensures that similar-looking plants do not get mixed up.

Sago PalmSago Palm

The Sago Palm is really dangerous. In warmer climates (not here in NY, because, snow) these are found in backyards, but they are popular office and indoor plants too. Let these stay in your office and not in any location where there are pets. Cats take fancy to the fronds and dogs may like to chew on the woody root. Ingesting the Sago leads to hemorrhaging, liver damage, resulting in death. Name to look for: Cycas revoluta

Lily

Lily
Pic by Kaz Andrews

Generally speaking, lilies are not a great choice for furry friends. They are more toxic to cats than dogs, but either way should be avoided if you have one or the other. Peace lilies are toxic to both pets, Liliaceae lilies (the kind you get in bouquets and bundles from the florist) are primarily toxic to cats, and Calla lilies (the kind typically seen at funerals and in bouquets) are poisonous to both. Ingestion leads to difficulty swallowing, breathing and can be fatal unless medical attention is immediate. The most common ER visit related to toxic plants is ingestion of some kind of lily. For me, I’m not a fan of them anyway, but having a home of curious cats, I do not invite anything in the Liliaceae or Araceae family into my home.

Asparagus Fern

Asparagus Fern

I include the Aparagus Fern precisely because it is called a fern.  Most ferns are pet-friendly and lovely, but not this one. It’s label name, Asparagus densiflorus cv sprengeri, is also called Plumosa Fern or Lace Fern, so I urge you check out the label. These are really pretty and delicious looking to your curious cat. Little do they know it can lead to stomach upset and vomiting, which doesn’t make it worth keeping around for its looks.

CyclamenCyclamen

Cyclamen come around the holidays and winter-time, at least in the Northeast. They make appearances as guest and party gifts for hosts. Unfortunately, they aren’t welcome in my house….I prefer wine anyway. If any part of these are consumed, symptoms are gastric upset and, if the roots are eaten, seizures and death. Nobody wants a sick pet for Christmas.

Dieffenbachia Dieffenbachia

Popular in doctor’s office and malls, Dieffenbachia or giant dumb cane, unfortunately make the toxic list. They grow quickly and look gorgeously prehistoric, but they can be poisonous for paws. If nibbled, dogs and cats may develop irritation of the mouth, leading to difficulty swallowing and vomiting. I guess we should just keep these in Dr. Krentist’s office instead.

Dracaena

Dracaena

Most of the houseplants you can think of are Dracaena. This Von-Trap plant family includes indoor plant standbys: Janet Craig Dracaena, Lemon Lime, Corn Plant,  Marginata or Dragon Plant, Reflexa (which looks like a spider plant), and Lucky Bamboo are all siblings. It is in this family I encourage label reading – anything with Dracaena in the name, gently put back. They tend to be cat and dog magnets and if they are eaten can lead to a number of uncomfortable things such as vomiting, lethargy, and most likely a vet visit that could have been avoided.

Five Stylish Pet Safe Houseplants

Staghorn Fern

It is possible to have lush and stylish houseplants that are pet safe. It just takes a bit of know-how and label reading. The main reason I began leaf&paw was because I spent years researching safe non-toxic plants that wouldn’t send my cats to the ER.  In the realm of the internet with so much misinformation, it was somewhat difficult to find a consistent list. Many trendy blogs and websites that recommend plants for your home don’t specify toxicity to animals or children. So I’ve made my own list of five plants to get you started as you begin to build your indoor jungle. And rest assured, they are all safe for Mittens and Fido.

Boston Fern

Boston Fern
Keep ferns watered and fertilized to achieve a lush, jungle look.

This classic summer outdoor plant can actually be brought inside and made an indoor plant. It looks best suspended from the ceiling. 100% safe for pets, these are stunning in a dining room or bathroom. Cat consumption level is medium – my cats haven’t eaten my fern but they do eye it surreptitiously. Basic care is to keep the soil moist (checking about 1-2x a week) and spritz with a spray bottle to keep the air humid. Perch in a mildly sunny location.

Fittonia

Fittonia
Fittonia looks best in a planter pigment opposite their leaf color and grouped together.

I think Fittonia are underrated. More recently marketed at “fairy garden plants,” they are really a unique speciman and perfect for low light areas. They don’t stay small, but instead grow quickly if they like the conditions you offer them. What makes these stylish is their appearance grouped together. Single, they are a tad sad-looking, but bunched together they look stunning in a contrasting planter, such as mine. My cats also don’t touch this plant – probably because the leaves are crinkly, almost paper-like (not that that has stoped them before). Fittonia come in a variety of colors, too. They prefer lower light areas that are warm. They benefit from being misted a few times a week and always like to be kept moist – don’t let these guys dry out.

 

Grafted Cactus

Grafted Cactus
Cacti in all colors – just remember to replant them using a cactus soil blend.

These tutfy cacti look so bright and cheerful (ideal), and they are convenient scratching posts for my kitties (not ideal). I like these because they aren’t dangerously spiny (so cat head scratching is fine, I guess), they’re super cute, and look best in a planter with other pet safe succulents (see this post) or grouped together. Basic care is pretty, well, basic. Let dry out completely and water once a week at most. Remember, these usually live in a desert.

Staghorn Fern 

Staghorn Fern

Staghorn ferns can either stay in pots or hang on the wall. And they’re fuzzy!Mount this fern on a wall as a vegan alternative to antlers or hang from the ceiling using kokedama. They’re pretty neat ferns, and are completely safe for pets and really stunning. This is a really great tutorial from Gardenista about mounting a fern. As far as care, they are actually related to air plants (see my post here) so they respond best to misting 1-2x a week and watering (if in a pot) once a week. If you wish to mount your Staghorn Fern, you’ll need to use different watering methods. They also like high humidity and medium light, not direct sunlight.

Majesty Palm

Majesty Palm
Giant palms are easy to find in big box stores – just make sure you have room!

The ability to make any room look like it is out of a spa, the Majesty Palm is the most common palm seen at big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. They are relatively easy to care for and make a great houseplant. Be warned – cats are obsessed. Both ate my first palm almost down to the stump, which looked awful and made me sad. You can always place them on a pedestal out of cat-paw reach or make a simple repellent to spray on the fronds. Keep palms in medium sunlight, not in bright direct sun, which will turn the leaves brown. As far as watering, I soak my palm once a week (less in winter), let it drain, then return it to its saucer. They also like temperatures above 70 degrees, generally. Look for the name Ravenea rivularison the plant label.