Jennifer Wilber is a life-long animal lover. She currently has two black cats and has had many dogs and small pets throughout her life.
Succulents for Pet-Loving Homes
It is possible to have both pets and succulents living together peacefully in the same home. While you should try to keep your succulents and other houseplants out of your furry friend’s reach, it is always possible for accidents to happen despite your best intentions. To keep your fur babies safe from possible poisoning, keep only pet-safe succulents (and pet-friendly plants in general) in your home if you have pet cats or dogs
Echeveria are one of the most popular types of succulents, and most species are completely non-toxic to cats and dogs. Echeverias are characterized by their thick leaves that form in a rosette pattern. These plants are native to Central and South America. Some popular varieties of echeveria include Echeveria Perle von Nurnberg and Echeveria Black Prince.
Elephant bush (Portulacaria afra) is a slow-growing, shrubby succulent plant native to South Africa. Though it looks similar to the Jade plant (which is toxic to cats and dogs) the elephant bush is completely safe to have around your furry friends. In fact, this succulent is a favorite food source of elephants and tortoises in its native environment and is often referred to as “elephant’s food.” This plant can even be eaten by humans in soups and salads!
Haworthia is another succulent plant that is safe to have around pets. Some species of Haworthia look similar to the popular aloe, which is not pet-friendly, making Haworthia a great alternative to aloe if you have pets. One of the most popular types of haworthia is the zebra haworthia, which looks a lot like a zebra-striped aloe.
Sempervivum, commonly known as Hens and Chicks, is a popular hardy succulent that can be grown outdoors even in places with colder winter climates. It gets its name from its habit of prolifically producing babies, which grow right around its base, like a mother hen with a nest full of baby chicks. These plants tend to do better when grown outdoors, as opposed to indoors as houseplants. Hens and chicks are completely safe to have around pets including cats and dogs.
Holiday cacti, including Thanksgiving cactus, Christmas cactus, and Easter cactus, are all safe to keep indoors around pets. These easy-to-care-for succulents are excellent pet-friendly houseplants to add a bit of color to your holiday decor. They are a great alternative to other holiday plants that can be extremely toxic to pets, such as lilies, poinsettias, and holly. Despite their name, holiday cacti are not actually cacti, but rather, epiphytes native to humid, tropical regions.
Most species of both hardy and tender sedum are safe to have around pets. Hardy sedums can be grown outdoors even in colder climates, much like hens-and-chicks. Cold-hardy sedums, or stonecrop, make excellent ground-cover in gardens and yard. Examples of cold-hardy stonecrop include sedum golden moss and plants from the Sedum Sunsparkler series. Tender sedums make excellent houseplants. Popular pet-safe tender sedum species include Burro’s tail and pink jellybeans.
The ghost plant, also called “mother of pearl plant” is another popular succulent that is completely harmless to cats and dogs. This succulent has thick leaves that form rosettes and looks similar to some echeveria species. The leaves can appear pinkish-grey, yellowish-pink, or bluish-grey, depending on how much sunlight it is exposed to. It grows natively in Mexico.
Moonstones, or Pachyphytum Oviferum, are a type of pet-friendly succulent plant with extra chubby egg-shaped leaves. It is also sometimes referred to as the “sugar almond plant.” Moonstones can be found in a variety of pastel tones including pink, blue, purple, grey, yellow and orange. This plant is delicate and won’t tolerate a lot of handling, but it is completely non-toxic and won’t harm your pets if they happen to get ahold of it.
Aeonium is another pet-friendly succulent with leaves arranged in a rosette pattern, similar to echeverias. The flower-like rosettes form at the end of long stems, making this succulent look like a long-stemmed flower. Popular examples of aeoniums include aeonium kiwi, which is easily identified by its distinctive green, white, and pink leaves, and aeonium black rose, which gets its name from its leaves’ black rose-like growth pattern.
Lithops are a unique succulent that are non-toxic to pets. These strange succulents look like small rocks and are often called “living stones.” These plants are adapted to the extremely hot, dry environment in South Africa. In fact, they are so adapted to their arid native climate that they cannot handle even a little bit of extra water. These odd plants can only tolerate being watered about twice per year and are one of the most commonly killed and difficult to care for succulents.
Though many species of cacti are technically non-toxic and are often included in lists of pet-safe plants, I did not include them here. Because many cacti species have sharp spines, they can pose a safety risk to pets, despite being non-toxic. I would err on the side of caution and keep cacti away from pets, even if they are technically considered pet-safe, non-toxic succulents.
Toxic Succulents to Avoid if You Have Pets
If you have pets, keep them away from the following poisonous succulent plants. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it lists the most common toxic succulents you’ll find:
- Jade plants (crassula)
- Fire sticks / Pencil Cactus
- String of pearls, any other “string of…”
- Desert Rose (Adenium obesum)
- Mother-in-Law’s tongue / Snake Plant
- Blue Chalk Sticks / Mermaid’s Tail
A Final Word
This list is by no means exhaustive. If you have just brought home a new succulent be sure to know exactly what plant you are dealing with and research it to be completely sure that it is safe for your pets. Though it is common for succulents to be sold with less-than-helpful labels that don’t properly identify the plant, especially if purchased as a big-box home improvement store, there are online communities and mobile apps that can help you to identify the succulent in question. It is always a good idea to keep plants where your pet can’t access them. Even if a plant is known to be non-toxic, you should still try to keep it away from your pets, for the plant’s sake.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Jennifer Wilber