25 Pet Friendly Houseplants For Indoor Gardens
Are you thinking of starting an indoor plant collection, but have pets in your home? Pets and plants can live together quite well if you've selected the proper plants. In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton looks at her favorite pet-friendly indoor plants for your houseplant colleciton.
When you love both animals and houseplants, the two worlds tend to clash. Many common houseplants are toxic to pets and can cause serious health issues when ingested. Older pets may not be interested, but curious pups and kittens known to chew everything in their path won’t stop at a houseplant.
Luckily, there are a number of houseplants considered non-toxic to pets and safe to keep around your home. That’s not to say they can be chewed on without any adverse effects – many will cause upset stomachs when ingested. But these are not toxic and often safe in small amounts.
As a general rule, it’s best to keep plants away from your pets anyway. Not only does this keep your pets safe, but the plants themselves too. If large parts of any plant in your home are ingested by your pets, make sure you consult a vet with the name of the plant ingested. But a small nibble on any of these indoor plants accidentally is unlikely to do any harm to your furry friends.
If you’re looking for a plant that is super easy to grow and safe for your pets, the spider plant is the answer. Scientifically known as Chlorophytum comosum, spider plants have recognizable strappy leaves ideal for cascading over the sides of pots where they can be enjoyed from all angles.
They are named spider plants after the small pups – tiny versions of the parent plant – that look just like little spiders. These appear on the ends of long and arching stems that give spider plants their unique look.
Spider plants are great for hanging baskets and are typically kept far out of the way of prying paws. But, if you want to propagate more of these plants to add to your countertops or shelves, you won’t need to worry about them bothering any of your pets.
While spider plants are more traditional and common houseplants, the next entry on this list looks completely different from other favorites you may have encountered. In fact, they don’t look like many houseplants at all. These whimsical trees, commonly known as ponytail palms, are better suited to a children’s book than reality.
This interesting plant has an equally interesting botanical name – Beaucarnea recurvata. Confusingly, it is sometimes placed in the Nolina genus, named Nolina recurvata. To add to the confusion even further, they are not actually palms as the common name suggests (but certainly look like one).
You can add these trees safely to your indoor garden without worrying about trouble with pets. Larger trees are ideal for filling out corners of your home and don’t need much attention to thrive.
Calathea orbifolia recently became a social media sensation due to its large and oval-shaped leaves striped with green. This beauty is one of the favorites of the entire Calathea genus, and is likely to become your favorite too if you own pets.
Although their look matches many tropical houseplants that are not safe for pets, these plants are not at all problematic. In fact, there are many other members of the Calathea genus also safe for pets, making orbifolia the ideal start for avid collectors.
The rounded leaves of this species are great for softening more structural areas of your home. They also feature a brighter green hue that lightens spaces and instantly catches the eye. Make sure you don’t miss out on this houseplant essential if you have pets around (or even if you don’t).
The Peperomia genus is another collectible completely safe for pets. And, similar to the previous entry on this list, the watermelon peperomia is a favorite for its standout leaves. They may be smaller than Calathea orbifolia, but have the same rounded shape and stripy leaves that look just like the exterior of a watermelon.
Watermelon peperomias used to be quite tricky to find when they first exploded in popularity. Houseplant owners snatched them up so quickly that sold out signs became the norm. Luckily, now that they are more well-known and widespread, they are much easier to find than they used to be.
Despite their popularity, these plants can be quite tricky to care for. Make sure you match the conditions closest to their native habitats to keep the leaves looking their best. If you notice any signs of distress like curling or brown patches, address them straight away to stop your plant from looking scraggly.
If you’re looking to add a tropical feel to your indoor space, you can’t go wrong choosing a palm. Many palms are pet friendly, but my favorite choice for its arching leaves and dense look is the areca palm.
The scientific name of this palm is Dypsis lutescens, and you may also see it called butterfly palm. What makes it stand out is the arching stems packed with leaves all the way down, cascading over to create a light but full look.
While these plants are safe for pets, you may find them frequently knocked over in high-traffic areas. The long leaves can be very tempting to curious pets. But there is no harm in letting them interact with these palms if you don’t mind the occasional dirt spill.
I even placed one of these palms next to my parrot’s cage so he can have fun stripping the leaves (although he does completely decimate the plants if I don’t swap them out).
The Platycerium genus is packed with fascinating plants that are both a great addition to your houseplant collection and a wonderful statement piece in your home. As they attach themselves to trees in their native habitats, this indoor fern is ideal for mounting to wooden features and hanging up on the wall.
Even though they will likely be far out of reach when you’re choosing to grow them this way, they are still completely safe for your pets. If you have a particular flexible cat or a few chaotic dogs, you can keep your staghorn with no issues.
Because they are so different, it can be difficult to know how to care for them. However, they have similar requirements to other houseplants. When mounted, they can be tougher to water, but they aren’t difficult to care for otherwise.
Another tropical beauty that adds a touch of brightness to any space, bromeliads are also surprisingly safe for pets. They can be quite sharp, so your pets may naturally stay away anyway. But if they are within reach, you won’t need to worry about turning your back at any point.
Bromeliads aren’t usually the first plants to come to mind for indoor growth. But they do enjoy the same tropical conditions as other houseplants and don’t require any special attention. They are great colorful options if your home is already filled with leafy green and you want something a little different.
Be careful though – once you grow one bromeliad, it’s hard not to want another one. There are so many different varieties with captivating patterns and colors that there is bound to be something for every houseplant lover.
When you picture houseplant ferns in your mind, the Boston fern is likely the first one to pop up. Their classic full look with fluffy fronds that fall over the ends of the pots was a staple in the 1970s, back in fashion once again.
Boston ferns are great for hanging baskets. They fill vertical space incredibly well without making it feel restricted and heavy. Just make sure once you’ve hung them up you don’t forget them up there – ferns need regular watering and high humidity to maintain their thin leaves.
If you don’t have space to hang your Boston fern, you can keep it on your desk or countertop with ease. As long as your pets don’t mind being tickled by the many fronds, they can interact with these plants with no problems.
Another 1970s classic, the African violet is once again becoming a collector’s item. These plants were once so beloved that they spawned appreciation societies around the world. Houseplant growers are once again recognizing their benefits, with some even caring for older African violets passed down through generations.
My favorite part of these compact houseplants is their adorable fluffy leaves. The tiny hairs on the green foliage make them soft and give them a grayish tinge. But, most people appreciate them for their flowers most, blooming reliably indoors. They come in a number of colors, with classic violet a must-have.
African violets are also safe around your pets. But be careful – the smaller pots are easily knocked over and are best kept out of reach anyway.
Polka Dot Plant
The polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) is another compact option for those who don’t have much space for plants. Although they may be small, their leaves certainly capture large amounts of attention. They feature splashes of color in a dotted or mottled pattern.
The most popular color – especially if you frequently check houseplant pages on social media – is pink. Several cultivars have variegation with spots of pink or red that contrast well with the green base. But there are many other colors to choose from across the different cultivars, allowing you to match the plant perfectly to your interiors.
Polka dot plants make wonderful terrarium plants where they can be protected behind glass and put on display. But, if you have pets, you can also place these safe plants in pots around your home.
Orchids are instantly recognizable for their alien-like flowers on long stalks, surrounded by long strappy leaves. You may have received one as a gift (the moth orchids are often used in gifting) or picked one up at your local nursery, wondering if it is safe to keep around your pets.
Luckily, it is considered non-toxic to pets. But, that doesn’t mean they should be kept within reach. Orchids are specialized plants that can drop flowers if they are roughly disturbed. Damage to the leaves can also attract pests and diseases that may end up killing your plant.
Orchids can also be quite pricey, especially when growing some of the rarer species. If you want to keep yours safe and looking stunning, I would suggest keeping it far away from your pets. But, if they happened to come into contact with it and knock a few blooms off, you won’t have to worry about the pet – just the plant.
Purple Velvet Plant
Not many people grow the velvet plant, scientifically known as Gynura aurantiaca and commonly known as purple passion. They have quite a different look from other leafy houseplants and may be harder to find in some areas. However, if you do get your hands on one, they are great additions to any collection.
True to their common name, purple passion has green leaves with fuzzy purple hairs. This makes the entire leaf look purple in some lighting or gives off a purple glow in others. This plant also produces colorful flowers, although most choose to cut these off before blooming for their strong and unpleasant smell.
Velvet plants are usually grown in hanging baskets out of reach, but are also safe for pets if you want to place them anywhere else. The hairs may be slightly irritating, so your pets may stay away from them anyway.
This native from Brazil is scientifically known as Goeppertia insignis. Rattlesnake plant is a great descriptor though, describing the eye-catching foliage. The leaves are long, narrow and slightly wrinkled at the edges. Where they really shine is in their color, spotted with dark green on the tops and a contrasting maroon or purple on the undersides.
Rattlesnake plants are often grouped with members of the Calathea or Maranta genera due to the colorful and patterned leaves. In fact, it was previously scientifically part of the Calathea genus. But this species was moved to the Goeppertia genus, blending in well with other colorful and leafy plants.
Remaining relatively compact, rattlesnake plants are ideal for countertops or home offices where their leaves can truly shine. Here, you won’t have to worry about them with your pets either, as they are considered non-toxic.
Chinese Money Plant
The Chinese money plant is one of the most popular houseplants on social media. Part of the Pilea genus (Pilea peperomioides), it remains quite compact when grown indoors, although it can get much larger in the right conditions.
Chinese money plants have many other common names, such as pancake plant or ufo plant, that describe the rounded shape of the leaves. These leaves emerge from the central stem in a circular group that give the entire plant a soft and delicate look.
Pilea peperomioides are considered non-toxic to pets. They are also easy to propagate if you fall in love with these houseplants and want to add many more to your collection.
When you hear cactus, pet-friendly is not likely to be the first thought in your mind. But this cactus is quite different from others in the cactus family. Scientifically known as Disocactus anguliger, it is actually an epiphyte that grows along trees in the jungles of Mexico.
The lobed leaves with their interesting zig zags may appear dangerous from afar, but these houseplants are harmless to pets. In fact, they are harmless to humans too. In the right conditions, they will even produce fruits that appear similar to a kiwi that are completely edible.
As epiphytes, fishbone cactuses can be mounted to a piece of wood or other structure to be hung up indoors and out of reach. But for those who prefer to grow in containers, you can keep them within reach of your pets without a problem.
The Hoya genus is another collectible, featuring many species with interesting waxy leaves.
They are commonly known as wax plants for their semi-succulent waxy foliage, or wax flower after the clusters of flowers that emerge in the right conditions. These flowers are scented, with notes or chocolate, honey or vanilla appearing depending on your chosen species.
Vining hoyas are great for hanging baskets where their stems can be left to hang down and fill vertical space. But they can also be trained up supports and kept lower to the ground. Luckily, when they are here, you can have peace of mind regarding your pet’s safety as the genus is considered non-toxic.
Scientifically known as Soleirolia soleirolii, baby tears is a cute groundcover that has become more popular as a small houseplant in recent years.
It features fine and delicate rounded leaves on compact vines that form a mat across a container. It is often confused for a type of moss due to this soft and dense look, but it is actually part of the Urticaceae family, related to nettles.
This houseplant can be quite needy, needing consistent moisture to keep the small leaves happy. Vines can quickly become thin and diminished without water and sunlight. But if you are willing to put in the work, this pet-safe plant is an adorable addition to your indoor garden.
The common name prayer plant is shared across several species, including several calatheas and even the previously mentioned rattlesnake plant. However, this time I am referring to a member of the Maranta genus, specifically Maranta leuconeura.
This plant is so eye-catching and interesting it almost looks unreal. Each leaf has an intricate combination of dark green, a light green center, and bright pink thin stripes that emerge from this center traveling outwards to the edge of the leaf. These patterns look almost painted on rather than realistic, but they are 100% real.
Luckily, prayer plants are also non-toxic to pets, like some other relatives that share the common name. Make sure you place this plant in a prime spot in your home where it can be appreciated by all.
Native to tropical regions where warm weather is consistent, banana trees aren’t suitable for growing outdoors in many parts of the US. However, the conditions they prefer do largely match the ones in our home where they can be protected from cold, making them interesting and unique options for houseplants.
Unfortunately, your banana tree probably won’t produce fruit when placed indoors. They won’t receive enough light and don’t have enough space in containers for fruits to develop. But, their large and tropical leaves are great for their ornamental value alone.
And, they are also safe for pets, perfect for placing in any sunny spot in your home.
Bird’s Nest Fern
Asplenium nidus is an easier fern species to care for if you struggle with thinner types like the Boston fern. It also has an interesting look that separates it from other ferns and even other houseplants (although this may be my bias talking, as this was my first-ever houseplant purchase).
Bird’s nest ferns have long and glossy fronds that extend from a central point. They layer over each other in a cascading pattern that makes the plant look full and lush. They can also remain compact if kept in smaller containers or allowed to grow to impressive sizes to quickly fill empty gaps in your home.
Like the Boston fern, Asplenium nidus is considered non-toxic to pets. Thanks to that, you won’t have to hide this stunner away where it can’t be seen.
While there are a number of plants classified air plants, the name is generally used to refer to members of the Tillandsia genus. These interesting plants are attached to natural structures to anchor their roots and get most of the moisture they need from the air, with an occasional dunking in a bucket of water.
Air plants are luckily not toxic to pets if you want to give this interesting genus a try. But, it may be best to keep them away from your pets anyway. The ends of the leaves are often spiked – with the potential to poke an eye – and you also don’t want your air plant damaged by curious paws.
If you take good care of your air plants and keep them in the right conditions, you may be lucky enough to see them flower. But, if you don’t, you can still appreciate them for their interesting form.
Pachira aquatica is becoming more and more popular indoors each year. In fact, it is my predicated new houseplant staple for 2023. I predict it will replace well-known favorites like the fiddle leaf fig and delicious monster.
The money tree is a compact houseplant with narrow leaves and typically braided stems, depending on where you purchase your plant from. It is believed to bring luck and financial prosperity to its owner under the right care. And, it also adds great structural ornamental value anywhere it is placed.
The common name money tree should not be confused with the jade plant which is toxic to pets. While Pachira aquatica is non-toxic, it can cause some mild irritation if ingested and is better kept out of reach anyway.
One of few trailing succulents on this list, Sedum morganianum is a great non-toxic plant for sunny spots in your home. Like many of these entries, it will usually be far out of reach of pets regardless as they are best growing in hanging baskets, where the thick and juicy leaves can hang over the edges of baskets. But in case you bring it down, it is also non-toxic.
Burros tail is one of the more sought-after indoor succulent plants. It will require a little extra attention to grow well, such as gentle direct sun and far less watering to avoid the risk of rot. These plants are known for dropping their leaves and looking diminished, so optimal care is essential.
Even if the holidays have come and gone, there is no reason not to keep a Christmas Cactus in your home, especially if you have pets. When not in flower, these semi-succulent plants are still appreciated for their dense foliage. You may even see another round of blooms throughout the year with the right care.
The Christmas Cactus is not toxic to pets, covering both the leaves in the flowers. A small nibble here or there from a curious pet is no problem. However, as with other plants on this, large bites with confirmed ingestion require consultation with a vet, especially for smaller pets.
Cast Iron Plant
The final entry on this list is a plant not only safe for pets, but wonderful for humans too. True to the name, the cast iron plant is incredibly easy to grow (and some say, almost impossible to grow).
I grew up with a cast iron plant in my childhood home that is still growing strong today. A little water and some new soil every now and then is all they really need to thrive.
Part of the Aspidistra genus, the cast iron plant has wonderful deep green leaves that look similar to a peace lily. But they certainly don’t come with the same neediness as a peace lily, happy with a little neglect. Your pets are also free to brush past these carefree plants without worry thanks to their non-toxic nature.
So, now that you’ve seen just a few of our favorite pet-friendly indoor plants, it’s time to expand your houseplant collection! It’s important to remember that no matter how “pet-safe” a plant may be, it’s never a good idea to let your pets roam freely and eat things they shouldn’t.
Any of the plants we have mentioned here will make fantastic additions to your houseplant collection. Most of them are easy to grow, low-maintenance, and adaptable to a variety of indoor growing conditions.