Non-Toxic House Plants For Children, Cats, and Dogs

Updated on February 28, 2017

Houseplants Should Be Chosen With Care

Any plant can be dangerous when it is brought indoors, where it can be accessed by children or pets. Even plants that are considered non-toxic have the potential to cause reactions in certain individuals.

A plant that isn't necessarily dangerous to eat might still cause a skin reaction in a child or pet with a sensitivity. However, the health benefits of having houseplants far outweighs the risks, as long as you choose your plants with care and establish a few household rules regarding the foliage. Plants can:

  • Purify the air
  • Provide oxygen
  • Enhance your décor

In another article, I listed 10 plants that are toxic to both children and pets. Some readers and friends contacted me about a list of safe plants to use instead. Here are some safer alternatives, that can still provide you with lovely, living décor.

Houseplant Safety

Do you research your houseplants before buying?

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Safe House Plants

Although there are many house plants that are considered safe, I will focus on varieties that are popular or common, including:

  • Christmas Cactus
  • Coleus
  • Boston Fern
  • Spider Plant
  • Jade Plant
  • African Violets
  • Miniature rose
  • Wandering Jew

Many of these are plants you may already have, or you may know someone who has a few. If you have toxic plants, consider a "plant swap" with a friend who may have pet or child-safe plants, but who has no pets or children.

This is much kinder than simply throwing plants out in the trash to die, and you and your friends will all have the chance to experiment with new plants.

Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus | Source

Christmas Cactus

Perhaps the safest of all houseplants, the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) has a scary name, but poses no threat. Not only is it non-toxic, the fronds have no stickers.

  • Like many other succulents, the Christmas cactus can be easily propagated from a stem cutting.
  • Unlike other plants, they bloom November through January, bringing much needed color to the winter home.
  • They can be moved to a semi-shady location outside during the summer, but remember that they are not as heat and drought tolerant as other cacti.

These plants are also known as "Thanksgiving Cactus" and "Holiday Cactus".

Scarlet coleus is safe for children, but not recommended for pets.
Scarlet coleus is safe for children, but not recommended for pets. | Source

Coleus

Coleus is only safe for humans. It is listed by the ASPCA as toxic to dogs and cats.

Although coleus (Solnostemon) is more commonly regarded as a colorful annual for flower gardens and borders, it can be easily grown indoors as well.

Although the coleus will bloom, they are usually chosen due to their vibrant leaves, which are available in colors such as purple, yellow, orange and green. There are even variegated varieties.

These plants can be grown from seeds, or they can be propagated from a plant owned by a friend. If someone has extra seedlings, they can be transplanted to a pot and moved indoors. If you don't want more coleus, be sure to pinch off the flowers before they go to seed, as one plant can parent hundreds of babies!

NOTE: Although coleus is listed as toxic for animals, I have hundreds in my yard and the pets never mess with them. Perhaps they are bitter. However, in the house, where animals become bored, it is best to take precautions and keep these plants in a safe area.

Never Assume!

Boston Fern

Ferns are beautiful plants. Unfortunately, they can be very difficult for some people to grow. (I've never had any luck with them!) If you are good with plants though, you might try a Boston fern. They are a favorite with cats, who love to nibble and play with the long fronds.

According to the ASPCA, Boston ferns are non-toxic to both cats and dogs. The University of Nebraska lists the Boston fern as non-toxic to humans as well.

Boston ferns prefer a humid environment, and non-direct sunlight. They look hanging from baskets, and can be summered on your porch.

Boston fern
Boston fern | Source

Spider Plant

This plant (also known as airplane plant) is great for many reasons. It produces beautiful, grass-like leaves that can range from pale to emerald green. It also puts out "vines" or "legs", making it a lovely selection for a hanging basket. The vines will begin to grow baby spider plants that can easily be transplanted.

The spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is one of the top recommendations for all homes. It is an excellent choice for air purification. It is also easy to grow, even in low light conditions. It doesn't need a lot of love, so if you forget it for a few days, it will forgive you.

It is also safe for children and all pets. However, cats and dogs do love the taste of spider plant, and will sometimes eat enough to make them sick. This is not a toxic reaction, just a little tummy upset from over-indulging. If it is a problem, place your spider plants in high places, such as on top of a refrigerator or dresser.

Jade plant is safe for children and pets
Jade plant is safe for children and pets | Source

Jade Plant

The jade plant, (crassula ovata) is a thick, meaty succulent with beautiful glossy leaves. It is evergreen, which makes it pleasant as a year-round houseplant.

Jade plants can be easily propagated by places a trimmed stem in water until roots form. This makes it easy to extend your plant collection. Jades can also be used for bonsai.

Under optimum conditions, certain species of the jade plant can grow close to 6 feet tall. This might make it less desirable to someone with limited space, but most of the jade plants I have ever seen only reached about 1 foot tall.

Source

African Violet

As it's name implies, the African violet (Saintpaulia) is native to Africa. More specifically, Eastern Africa, where the climate is tropical. This makes the African violet a little trickier to grow than many houseplants.

In some homes, these plants may require special lighting before they produce their blooms. However, some people have luck in regular lighting too. The violets can be propagated from leaf cuttings, and root rather quickly. You really only have to buy one or two plants, and the leaves will soon provide you with a whole collection.

African violets are also rich in history and symbolism. They are associated with motherhood, and are often given as Mother's day gifts. After their discovery in the 1800's, they were in high demand in Europe, and had to be grown in hothouses.

Source

Miniature Rose

Probably the trickiest plant to grow indoors, the miniature rose is definitely worth the trouble. This plant is safe for children and pets, and the miniature varieties are thornless, so no ouches! Keeping a rose indoors requires a lot of light, and a regular room temperature.

They may lose their leaves in winter, leaving you with a pretty unattractive plant. Some species only lose some of their leaves (partially deciduous), so if conditions are right, you could retain some foliage. A rose is still a good choice if you have big south-facing windows, and plenty of extra time to devote to pampering it.

Tradescantia comes in many varieties, and is an excellent vining plant.
Tradescantia comes in many varieties, and is an excellent vining plant. | Source

Wandering Jew

If roses aren't your thing, consider the Wandering Jew (Tradescantia). This plant probably requires the least amount of care of any of the houseplants mentioned in this hub. This plant will vine uncontrollably if left untrimmed.

Be careful where you toss those plant cuttings too. Wandering Jew will take root wherever it falls, be that in another pot, a glass of water, or in your yard. it can quickly become invasive too. I knew someone who made the mistake of throwing the cuttings in the compost heap. A month later the heap was covered with these plants!

Still the ease with which it can be propagated and grown is part of it's attraction. It is a great friendship plant too. You can share cuttings with anyone who wishes to build up their houseplant collection. For those with pets and children, Wandering Jew is an ideal alternative to the toxic pothos ivy.

Don't forget that this plant grows well outdoors too. Add a few cuttings to outdoor containers for a lovely cascading addition to your flower beds.

More Safe Plants

Plant
Safe for children
Safe for cats
Safe for dogs
Aluminum Plant
Yes
Yes
Yes
Parlor Palm
Yes
Yes
Yes
Prayer Plant
Yes
Yes
Yes
Bamboo
Yes
Yes
Yes
Begonia
Yes
Yes
No
Draecena
Yes
No
No
Lipstick Plant
Yes
Yes
Yes
Peperomia
Yes
Yes
Yes
Remember that gardening supplies can be dangerous too. Keep tools and chemicals locked away.
Remember that gardening supplies can be dangerous too. Keep tools and chemicals locked away. | Source

Plant Safety

Ensure that everyone lives with plants safely by implementing a few rules and practices:

  • Teach children which plants can be touched from an early age.
  • Always insist on handwashing after handling plants or their debris
  • Use red pepper around plants to deter curious pets.
  • If you are still concerned, use hanging pots, baskets, indoor window-boxes, shelves, or tall plant stands to keep plants out of reach.
  • Regularly trim plants and clean up leaves, stems and other debris to prevent a choking risk.
  • Keep large, heavy pots in a stable location so they cannot be tipped over easily, causing injury.

Herbs and Outdoor Plants For House Plants

You don't have to limit your indoor plants to just those marketed as house plants. There are many outdoor plants that enjoy living inside.

Here are some herbs, flowers, and other outdoor plants that make safe, attractive house plants:

  • Catnip
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley (may cause digestive upset in large quantities but is not fatal)
  • Lemon Balm

In addition to being lovely, child and pet friendly plants, herbs can be used to make natural cleaners, insect repellents, breath fresheners, grooming products and more.

Rosemary is non-toxic, and be grown in containers. Rosemary can also be used for bonsai.
Rosemary is non-toxic, and be grown in containers. Rosemary can also be used for bonsai. | Source

Safe Plants Make Happy Homes

As long as you practice plant safety and choose suitable non-toxic plants, everyone can enjoy your houseplants. Just remember that even a non-toxic plant (even grass) can make a pet appear sick if they eat too much. They may experience vomiting or diarrhea, but the the ingestion of non-toxic plants will not be fatal.

Always monitor children when introducing plants. Some children may have skin allergies to certain plants. In these cases, plants can be kept out of reach, or children can be taught not to touch. If pets experience skin allergies, plants may have to be moved to a pet-free area or traded for a plant that doesn't produce a reaction.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Liz 7 weeks ago

        This is for children mainly not cats....

      • profile image

        Gardennerd 4 months ago

        The Jade plant is toxic according to ASPCA. I enjoyed the article and the pictures and I hope that you can update this. :)

      • profile image

        Tt 6 months ago

        Are JAPANESE JUNIPER poise to cats

      • profile image

        ocellot 9 months ago

        JADE PLANTS ARE VERY TOXIC TO CATS. My cat was recently ill for 2 weeks from eating the leaves of this plant. There is a lot of information on the web about the dangers of this plant, and it is listed as toxic to both cats and dogs by ASPCA. As others have noted, wandering jew is also toxic to cats and dogs. Please correct your list so animals are not harmed by misinformation.

      • profile image

        linda 14 months ago

        one list said catnip was toxic and another said was ok. Also orchids were listed both ways. help,

      • profile image

        Pat 15 months ago

        What about a Philodendron plant? Are they dangerous to pets? I have no small children, however, my son (31) has a dog and I have cats.

      • profile image

        Amanda 16 months ago

        Jade plant info is incorrect. The ASPCA says it is indeed toxic to pets. Here's the link: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-contro...

        And my neighbors have 2 jade plants, both over 3 feet tall.

        Where are you getting your information?

      • profile image

        Mia 18 months ago

        Wandering Jew can make the backyard an unpleasant place for dogs. ... Unfortunately for dog lovers, the ASPCA lists wandering Jew as toxic due to its tendency to cause dermatitis or allergies in dogs. In dogs, allergies usually affect the skin rather than the respiratory system.

      • profile image

        Mia 18 months ago

        Wandering due IS a problem for dogs

      • profile image

        Catowner 18 months ago

        Please make a correction, the jade plant or rubber plant is toxic to cats and dogs.

        http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-contro...

      • profile image

        Rachel 19 months ago

        Thank you for the post, but i just read that Jade plant is toxic.

        Crassula Ovata, or “Jade” A rubber plant popular for its hard-to-kill properties, crassula ovata, commonly known as jade, is toxic to pets and can cause vomiting and a slow heart rate in addition to a hard-to-identify symptom: depression

      • profile image

        ren 21 months ago

        thank you so much for this informative and non-confusing article! much needed!

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 21 months ago from Germany

        It is a very useful and informative hub. I learned a lot from this. Thanks for sharing.

      • profile image

        Biggi Franz 2 years ago

        ?good information. What larger plant for inside are safe for cats?

      • profile image

        Caz 2 years ago

        I am pinning safe plants for my fur babies and double checking the plants on the ASPCA Poison list and I am finding that several plants that people say are safe are actually on the toxic list. Such as Jade on this pin.

      • AnkitaSiddiqui profile image

        Ankita Siddiqui 2 years ago from India

        Informative hub. An eye opener infact. Keep writing.

      • profile image

        jay l 2 years ago

        I thought hibiscus might have been on the safe list

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Jaymie, this was another excellent hub from you. Very useful and voted up!

      • wabash annie profile image

        wabash annie 4 years ago from Colorado Front Range

        I learned a lot from your hub. Thanks for sharing this useful information.

      • seanorjohn profile image

        seanorjohn 4 years ago

        Very useful info. One of my cats keeps getting sick.A kindly neighbour has just uprooted a plant that she saw her chewing on.

      • aviannovice profile image

        Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

        My mother had a number of these plants around the house when i was young, and we grew coleus regularly in the summer outdoors. This will take the question out of houseplants for pets and children now.

      • Sharkye11 profile image
        Author

        Jayme Kinsey 5 years ago from Oklahoma

        @Melissa--thank you for reading and commenting! have a great day!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 5 years ago from USA

        Good information. I never had a problem with house plants and my cats until my last cat, Stella, was introduced to our household. She had been a feral kitty who lived in a factory environment and now is happily indoor only. I think because plants are such strange things to her she tries to eat them all. We've had to go through them and evaluate safe/unsafe and remove/leave on each of them. She is so worth it. Thanks for writing this. Anything to keep these angels safe in our homes.

      • Melissa A Smith profile image

        Melissa A Smith 5 years ago from New York

        This is useful information Sharkye11, thanks.

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