When preparing to adopt our kitty, I learned from the folks at the rescue organization that a few of our houseplants were toxic to cats and dogs — and since this particular furry friend enjoys chomping on plants, it was vital we remove these from our home beforehand. (And even though some pets pay no attention to plants, it’s always better to be on the safe side.) But many of the most popular design-friendly houseplants, including split-leaf philodendron and fiddle-leaf fig, are toxic to cats and dogs. So what’s a design-loving pet owner to do? Live without houseplants? No way. We’ve found 10 cool houseplant options that are all nontoxic to cats and dogs.
1. Tillandsia. Air plants are tailor-made for modern spaces, and they need very little care. Because these petite plants don’t require soil, you can place them just about anywhere — on a piece of driftwood, in a seashell, in a hanging glass vessel. However, their small size can prove problematic if you have a nibbling pet: A lot of damage can be done to the plant in a short amount of time, so watch your pet and be prepared to move the plant out of reach if this becomes an issue.
2. Boston fern. Most true ferns are nontoxic to cats and dogs, including the classic Boston fern. This fern has lush, full foliage, is easy to care for and looks equally at home in traditional and modern spaces.
3. Staghorn fern. This unique plant has sculptural appeal when mounted on the wall and — major bonus for plant-chomping pets — can be kept up high and out of the way of those sharp little teeth. Cluster several on a wall and create your own living art installation.
4. Maidenhair fern. Delicate and romantic, the light-as-air foliage of a maidenhair fern is a beauty to behold. This plant is a bit fussier than most houseplants, preferring a humid environment (or frequent misting) to stay healthy. The ultra-tender leaves may be tempting for pets to nibble — and while it won’t harm your furry friend, the plant itself is quite fragile and can easily be destroyed by a curious cat. If you want to keep a maidenhair fern but it keeps getting chewed up, try placing it in a hanging planter.
5. Dwarf olive tree. Dwarf olive trees can do well indoors in a large pot with good drainage, but they do need a very sunny spot with at least six hours of full sun each day. If you live in a cool, cloudy region, it probably won’t thrive
6. Rosemary. Like the olive, this is another attractive Mediterranean plant that will look right at home in interiors of any style. Grow a pot of fresh rosemary in a kitchen window and enjoy snipping fragrant sprigs to add to your cooking.
7. Ponytail palm. This wacky plant looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Ponytail palms are well suited to modern interiors — starting with a smaller plant is easier on the budget, and you can always transplant it into a larger pot as it grows. A full-size specimen makes a dramatic statement, as seen here.
8. Echeveria. This succulent has rosettes of leaves in shades that range from green to blue, depending on the variety. They do best in well-drained soil, in a spot that gets morning sun.
9. Orchid. With their elegant, long-lasting blooms, it’s no wonder that orchids are a decorator favorite. Thankfully, according to the ASPCA, phalaenopsis and dendrobium orchids (two of the most popular varieties) are nontoxic to cats and dogs. Plant a single orchid or group several in one large vessel for more drama.
10. Cat grass. Pets nibbling houseplants, even nontoxic varieties, can get tummy aches. For cats, you can encourage healthier green eats by planting a container of cat grass and placing it in an easily accessible spot. Not to be confused with catnip, which is in the mint family, cat grass will not give your cat the crazies. It’s usually grown from oat or wheat seed. If growing your own cat grass from seed, keep the container out of reach of your pet until the grass grows in, to protect the tender sprouts.