Nontoxic Houseplants for Kids, Cats and Dogs

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Which houseplants are safe for kids and pets?

Finding out exact information about poisonous plants is very difficult, largely because it’s something you simply can’t test. You’re not going to give a leaf of an unknown plant to someone and say, “Here, eat this and we’ll see how it goes.” Nor would you want to try a similar experiment on a family pet.

20160109AInstead, much of the evidence is anecdotal. Someone or something ate the plant and got sick. Fine, but was it because of the plant or some fungus or bacteria on the plant? Or had the planted been treated with a pesticide? Are we really sure it really was the plant cited? (Emergency room doctors aren’t botanists after all and can easily mistake one plant for another.) Maybe the person had an allergic reaction, and that really isn’t toxicity. After all, a lot of people are allergic to shellfish and peanuts, but we don’t consider them to be poisonous.

And how much was consumed? A lot of plants are only toxic if prodigious amounts are eaten, but if so, again, should they really be considered toxic? If you eat too much spinach, for example, you could end up in the hospital, as it contains oxalic acid (toxic when consumed in large quantities), yet almost no one considers spinach poisonous. Rice and kale are other examples of common foods that are poisonous if eaten in large quantities.

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Cats like to nibble on grasslike leaves!

Whether a plant is poisonous or not can also depend what part is eaten. Potato leaves, stems and flowers are poisonous, but humans can safely eat the tubers. The fleshy fruits of cherries, plums and peaches are edible, yet their leaves and pits contain deadly cyanide. Tomatoes, rhubarb, apples, asparagus, elderberries, almonds, etc. are just a few other examples of plants that have both edible parts and poisonous parts.

Also, a plant can be inedible without being poisonous. Plant parts can be very bitter or cause stomach upset or diarrhea without necessarily containing any notable levels of toxicity.

And yes, what is poisonous to humans may not be to other animals. And vice versa. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs, onions and garlic to cats. And horses have a whole range of plants they can’t eat, but that other animals can.

Better Safe Than Sorry

You may also be surprised to learn that many plants appearing on lists of toxic plants have never actually poisoned anything or anybody. They’re simply “under suspicion”.  They appear there because they are related to plants that are known to be poisonous and just might have the same effect. After all, under the circumstances, better safe than sorry is the wisest attitude to take. However, once a plant has been listed as poisonous, it is very unlikely it will ever be dropped from the lists of poisonous plants. Note the 100 year struggle of the poinsettia (proven non poisonous to humans) to reestablish its good name!

People, Cat and Dog Friendly Plants

What follows is a list of houseplants that are safe for three different species: humans, cats and dogs. A sort of a typical household, in other words. The idea is to reassure parents and pet owners, or people who might occasionally have children over or care for someone else’s pets, to choose safe plants to grow in their home.

And do note that this list does not necessarily apply to canaries, hamsters, potbelly pigs, goldfish or any other pet: for information on how another creature might react to any plant, you’ll have to do some digging on your own.

The plants listed below are considered nonpoisonous for humans, cats and pets: touching these plants or eating moderate quantities of them is unlikely to cause illness. That said, a warning: any plant might cause a reaction in certain sensitive individuals. Also, a child or pet can choke on even nontoxic plant parts. Finally, plants with thorns and other spines might also cause physical injury. It’s therefore best to keep all plants out of reach of cats, dogs, and small children.

  1. Acalypha godseffiana (copperleaf)
  2. Acalypha hispida (chenille plant)
  3. Adiantum spp. (maidenhair fern)
  4. Aechmea fasciata (silver vase plant)

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    Lipstick plant

  5. Aeschynanthus spp. (lipstick plant)
  6. Aphelandra squarrosa (zebra plant)
  7. Aptenia cordifolia (baby sunrose)
  8. Ardisia spp. (coralberry)
  9. Aspidistra elatior (cast iron plant)
  10. Asplenium nidus (bird’s nest fern)
  11. Beaucarnea recurvata (elephant-foot tree, ponytail palm)
  12. Begonia (begonia) [begonias do contain oxalic acid, not enough to harm people under normal circumstances, but they could harm dogs or cats, especially if the tuber is consumed]
  13. Bromeliads
  14. Cactus (there are a few rare exceptions, like the peyote cactus, Lophophora williamsii)
  15. Calathea spp. (peacock plant)
  16. Camellia spp. (camellia)
  17. Canna spp. (canna)
  18. Cattleya spp. (cattleya)
  19. Chamaedorea elegans (parlor palm)
  20. Chamaedorea seifrizii (bamboo palm)

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    Spider plant

  21. Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant)
  22. Cissus discolor (rex begonia vine)
  23. Cissus rhombifolia (oakleaf ivy)
  24. Columnea spp. (goldfish plant)
  25. Cryptanthus bivittatus (earth star)
  26. Davallia spp. (hare’s foot fern, rabbit’s foot fern)
  27. Dionaea muscipula (Venus flytrap)
  28. Dypsis lutescens, syn. Chrysalidocarpus lutescens (Areca Palm)
  29. Echeveria spp. (echeveria)
  30. Ensete spp. (ornamental banana)
  31. Episcia spp. (episcia)
  32. Exacum affine (Persian violet)
  33. Fatsia japonica (Japanese aralia)

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    Nerve plant

  34. Fittonia spp. (nerve plant)
  35. Fuchsia spp. (fuchsia)
  36. Gerbera jamesonii (gerbera)
  37. Guzmania spp. (guzmania)
  38. Gynura aurantiaca (purple passion plant)
  39. Haworthia spp. (haworthia)
  40. Hemigraphis exotica (waffle plant)
  41. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (Chinese hibiscus)
  42. Hoya carnosa (wax plant)
  43. Hylocereus undatus (Queen of the night)
  44. Hypoestes phyllostachya (polka dot plant)
  45. Impatiens spp. (impatiens)
  46. Iresine herbstii (chicken gizzard)
  47. Ixora coccinea (flame of the woods)
  48. Justicia brandegeeana, syn. Beloperone guttata (shrimp plant)
  49. Lithops spp. (living stone)

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    Prayer plant

  50. Maranta leuconeura (prayer plant)
  51. Mimosa pudica (sensitive plant)
  52. Musa spp. (banana)
  53. Nemathanthus spp. (guppy plant)
  54. Neoregelia spp. (neoregelia)
  55. Nephrolepis exaltata (Boston fern)
  56. Ocimum basilicum (basil)
  57. Oncidium spp. (dancing lady orchid)
  58. Opuntia spp. (prickly pear)
  59. Orchids
  60. Palms (most are non toxic with the exception of the fishtail palm, Caryota spp.)
  61. Paphiopedilum spp. (slipper orchid)
  62. Pellionia (trailing watermelon begonia)

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    Peperomia

  63. Peperomia spp. (peperomia)
  64. Phalaenopsis spp. (moth orchid)
  65. Phoenix roebelenii (dwarf date palm)
  66. Pilea (aluminum plant)
  67. Pittosporum tobira (Japanese pittosporum)
  68. Platycerium bifurcatum (staghorn fern)
  69. Plectranthus australis (Swedish ivy)
  70. Pterandra elegantissima, syn. Dizygotheca elegantissima (false aralia)
  71. Ravenea rivularis (majesty palm)
  72. Rhapis excelsa (lady palm)
  73. Rhipsalis spp. (mistletoe cactus)
  74. Saintpaulia (African violet)
  75. Schlumbergera spp. (Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus)
  76. Sedum morganianum (donkey’s tail)
  77. Selaginella kraussiana (club moss)
  78. Sinningia speciosa (gloxinia)
  79. Soleirolia soleirolii (baby’s tears)
  80. Stephanotis floribunda (Madagascar jasmine)
  81. Streptocarpus spp. (Cape primrose)
  82. Tillandsia spp. (air plant)
  83. Tolmiea mensziesii (piggyback plant)

 

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3 thoughts on “Nontoxic Houseplants for Kids, Cats and Dogs

  1. jennnifer

    you need to update your list

    With over 1,000 species, begonias are a familiar indoor plant. If you have a cat, you will want to keep begonias well out of your pet’s reach because they are toxic to cats. IssuesBegonias, especially their tubers, contain oxalates. When a cat chews on a begonia or ingests any part of it, the oxalates cause tissue damage and pain.
    SymptomsA cat that ingests portions of a begonia will display symptoms such as excessive drooling and signs of extreme irritation around its mouth. The cat could vomit and have difficulty swallowing.
    TreatmentAt home, you can treat your cat by washing out its mouth

    from ASPCA

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