Hello pet lovers! In this article we will discover which houseplants may be hazardous to our pets and which can be safely enjoyed by us and our furry companions. You wouldn't buy houseplants for your home that trigger your allergies, would you? Our pets deserve the same type of consideration.
The stress of having a pet incessantly scratching is sometimes too much to handle. Seeing your favorite companion suffering from these conditions is never fun and vet bills can get expensive. My hope is you can find tips and strategies in this article that will help your individual situation.
Although I never had any issues with my houseplants causing allergic reactions to my cat(she loves to use Yucca plants as scratching posts), I have lived with several dogs which exhibited symptoms of allergic reactions.
At the time I was ignorant to the fact certain house plants can trigger those symptoms in a pet. If I knew what I know now, perhaps I could have been able to identify any plants that could have caused the symptoms my parents Lhasa Apso (Cookie) was experiencing. Her constant scratching and irritated skin didn't seem to respond to any treatments or medicine because unfortunately there is no cure for allergies in dogs and cats, only temporary relief treatments.
However, certain treatments can have a long lasting and profound effect. I came across a comprehensive guide for treating pet allergy symptoms that are the result of irritants other than toxic plants. The methods in the guide take into consideration various elements and factors your pet is exposed to every day. You can purchase the extensive guide for treating dog skin problems if you cannot find the information you need in this article.
Also referred to as allergic inhalant dermatitis, hay fever and atopy, inhalant allergens can be blamed for most of your dog or cats allergy symptoms. These are triggered much the same way they are triggered in humans, but instead of inflamed respiratory passages and sneezing we experience, dogs and cats develop irritated skin.
Since pets are constantly sniffing, they become more susceptible to substances such as pollen, mold and dust. This allergen lineup of usual suspects causes your pets to scratch, bite, chew their feet and lick with no control. Certain dogs and cats have a hypersensitivity to these allergens so before bringing your new friend home consider how that breed is predisposed to certain allergens and how you can accommodate their individual situation.
First I will provide you with a list of breeds which are more inclined to develop inhalant allergies, secondly we'll examine houseplants to avoid, and conclude with a list of houseplants which are safe for your pet and your family. However, I realize houseplants are only one of many possible allergy triggers so for more tips on how to alleviate your pets symptoms read this article, titled 15 Tips to Help Avoid Allergens.
DOG BREEDS PRONE TO INHALANT ALLERGIES
- Terriers - West Highland Terrier, Skye Terrier, Scottish Terrier, Boston Terrier
- Golden Retrievers
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepard
- Chinese Char-Peis
- Bichon Frise
- lhasa Apsos
- Irish Setters
- Shih Tzus
1.) Lucky bamboo - Dracaena braunii
This particular house plant is a good example of why it is important to be knowledgeable about the plants you purchase for your home. Some Dracaena species can be toxic to your pets, while others in the Dracaena genus are perfectly safe.
Also know as lucky bamboo, curly bamboo, friendship bamboo, among other names, this species of Dracaena is a popular houseplant which may be toxic to pets when ingested. Despite the belief that this plant brings good fortune to your home, err on the side of caution if you still want a bit of positive feng shui in your home. The lucky bamboo is better suited for your place of work, where pets are absent from the equation.
Native to West Africa, this plant can reach heights of 5ft in its natural environment while growing to a maximum height of 3ft indoors. The hardiness of the lucky bamboo is exemplified by its versatile growing methods. They can be grown for fish habitats in aquariums or more typically with the shoots just above the water. However, the plant will do best when grown in soil and away from direct sunlight. For more growing and maintenance tips visit the house plant experts.
2.) Poinsettias - Euphorbia pulcherrima
The Poinsettia was first introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico. Since its introduction, Poinsettias have been widely used in floral arrangements during the Christmas season.
Due to their popularity, Poinsettias are often bought to add Christmas spirit and joy by many pet owners. However, caution must be taken if you would like to enjoy these plants in your home. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, Poinsettias are mildly toxic to cats, dogs, horses and birds.
Even though they will not kill your pet, when the white sap from their stems is ingested, chemicals called diterpenoid euphorbol esters and saponin-like detergents will produce symptoms such as mild vomiting, drooling, and occasionally diarrhea. When skin contact is made, dermal irritation such as redness, itching and swelling may develop.
3.) Calla Lily – Zantedeschia aethiopica
This herbaceous perennial plant should be admired for its beauty from a distance. The Calla Lily has large clumps of dark-green, broad and arrow shaped leaves while producing a pure white spathe during the flowering stage. Despite this charming exterior, the Calla lily contain calcium oxalate crystals that will cause multiple adverse symptoms.
If your pet exhibits symptoms such as; pawing at the face, drooling, vomiting, foaming, swelling of the lips or unusual breathing, they might have ingested a calla lily. In addition to the calla species, other lilies like the Asiatic, Tiger and Day lily are also dangerous to consume and will potentially cause kidney failure.
To help alleviate these symptoms at home, wipe out the mouth with a clean, cold and wet cloth in addition to rinsing any area that came in contact with the oxalic acid. Milk will also soothe some symptoms, but it is not advised to consume when your pet or child is vomiting or having difficulty swallowing. Taking preventive measures is your best option.
4.) Flamingo Lily - Anthurium andraeanum
Although this lily species is from a different genus, the leaves still contains oxalic acid that make this plant toxic for pets as well as you. When ingested, symptoms will be very similar to the ones exhibited from consumption of the Calla lily.
Despite their danger, Anthuriums are among the most popular tropical houseplants due to their long vase life, air filtering abilities and colorful spathes, or leaf-like bracts. Take care of your Anthuriums by placing them in a bright area away from direct sunlight. This plant is native to Columbia so it will require a humid indoor environment, but it’s nothing a humidifier or humidity tray can’t fix.
Repot your Flamingo Lily during the spring months when new growth begins. During the repotting process you can propagate your Flamingo Lily by dividing the root structure. Make sure you leave at least two rhizomes on each division. Between repotting, keep your container moist during the warmer months and slightly dryer in the winter. Your plant is ready for watering when the soil starts feeling slightly dry. Use a mister to improve humidity and prevent dust from accumulating on the leaves.
5.) Elephant Ear – Colocasia
Named after their distinct foliage, Elephant ear has heart shaped leaves which can grow 5’ in length while the plant itself can reach heights of nine feet. Needless to say, reserve adequate space depending on the variety you go with (11sq ft. is recommended for most species). For best indoor results, replicate its natural tropical environment by providing ample humidity, watering, nutrients and amount of sunlight.
If using Elephant year to add interest to your landscape, you will need to dig up the corms before the cold weather sets in and store them indoors until next spring. Elephant ear is not only cultivated for its ornamental landscape features. Many Asian cultures use this toxic plant in their cuisine.
Otherwise known as Taro, Elephant ear is the main ingredient in poi, a Hawaiian favorite. Cooking Elephant ear breaks down the oxalic acid, which is the same toxin found in rhubarb and Dieffenbachia leaves. If eaten raw, your pet will experience an array of unpleasant symptoms, such as burning and itching of the eyes and mouth, swelling of the lips and digestive issues you as a pet owner want to avoid.
6.) Dumb Canes - Dieffenbachia
The Dieffenbachia genus consists of tropical flowering plants that produce their flowers on an inflorescence called a spadix. Although the flowers and attractive spotted foliage will draw you in, the raphides (calcium oxalate crystals) will ensure you or your animal admire its beauty with care. These needle like crystals are commonly found in members of the Araceae family, which the Dieffenbachia genus is part of and if ingested will produce several unpleasant symptoms.
One of these symptoms is the inability to temporarily speak, where the moniker ‘Dumb Cane’ or my favorite, ‘the mother-in-law plant’ is derived from. If it can prevent your mother-in-law from speaking, just think of the damage it will do to your pet! All jokes aside, your pet will experience significant discomfort and might make your life more miserable than a visit from the in-laws if they ingest any part of the plant.
Therefore, give some thought to the placement of Dumb Canes. Don’t make them too accessible to curious cats and dogs, but ensure your Dieffenbachia has the proper sunlight exposure. These hardy houseplants will survive in darker areas of your home, however, growth will slow or stop so a happy medium is filtered sunlight. In addition, use well draining soil, keep the soil slightly moist and rotate your plant to keep your plant happy. Since those are general growing instructions for the entire genus, check each cultivar for optimal growing conditions.
7.) Nerium oleander
As a monotypic taxon, Nerium oleander is a taxonomic group consisting of only one subordinate taxon. Although oleander is the only species in the Nerium genus, I’d say the estimated 400 cultivars of oleander warrant its own taxon.
Oleander is a warm climate loving type of plant that is widely used in mild winter states (USDA zones 8-10) along roadsides, in parks and in other various landscape applications. These plants will tolerate poor growing conditions like drought, nutrient deficient soil, pollution, salt spray and reflected heat from roads and buildings. In fact, oleander is so hardy it was named the official flower of Hiroshima, having been the first to bloom after the atomic bombing of the city in 1945.
One thing they will not tolerate is temperature below 20° F. Unfortunately, us Pennsylvania folks will have to grow these evergreen, sweetly fragrant shrubs in containers or tubs which can be moved indoors during our frigid winters. When overwintering, reduce watering and place in a slightly cooler room with indirect sunlight.
Although oleander cannot protect itself from frosty weather, it does possess chemical compounds that protect it from curious critters looking for a meal. These compounds are called cardiac glycosides and when any of the plant is ingested, the cardiac glycosides such as oleandrin and oleandrigenin will produce adverse symptoms. Despite the poisonous label placed on this plant, there have only been three deaths reported in the United States since 1985 by the Toxic Exposure Surveillance System. However, oleander is still a danger in the home especially if you have pets or young kids. Mitigate the risk by educating your children about the dangers of oleander and keeping your pets away.
To no surprise, another member of the Araceae family makes its way into the toxic houseplant list. Philodendron is a diverse genus of flowering plants that contain calcium oxalate raphides. Many species are grown as houseplants; P. cordatum, P. burgundy, while others are grown in warmer climates as evergreen shrubs; P. bipinnatifidum.
You can also grow the lacy tree philodendron (P. bipinattifidum) indoors as a houseplant, but give it adequate elbow room as this species will spread twice as much as it will grow. While on the subject of plant placement, be conscious of where you locate your heartleaf philodendron due to its vine like growing habit.
Cats are curious creatures with a propensity to cause trouble. The hanging vines of a heartleaf philodendron might be too hard to resist if they are easily accessible to your furry critter.
9.) Chinese Evergreen - Aglaonema
Despite its toxic houseplant classification, the Chinese Evergreen is an ideal plant for indoor environments. Not only has it been considered a good luck charm for centuries in China, Aglaonema has air purifying qualities, is low-light tolerant and requires little maintenance.
Because of these characteristics, the Chinese Evergreen is often used for interior landscaping in buildings, classrooms and businesses. Among the most popular cultivar of Aglaonema is 'Silver Queen', having earned the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. With beautiful variegated leaves and the above mentioned benefits, this houseplant deserves a spot in your home if you do not have pets or children.
Even if you do, strategic placement will offset that issue. Ensure you don't place your Chinese Evergreen in direct sunlight; keep the room temperature above °55 F, the soil moderately wet and you should have no problems with this award winning houseplant.
10.) Umbrella Tree - Schefflera actinophylla
This outstanding houseplant cultivar has also gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. Despite its accolades, the Umbrella tree or Octopus plant does possess calcium oxalate crystals that are contained in the sap of the plant, earning its toxic houseplant classification.
Since pruning is usually required, wear gloves when working with Schefflera actinophylla to avoid irritated skin. The Umbrella tree needs occasional pruning to contain its size and to stimulate new growth, which keeps the umbrella tree looking full.
To keep your plant from having drooping leaves, place it in a location with adequate sunlight. The variegated cultivars need more sunlight than a species like Schefflera actinophylla so place accordingly if you choose to bring this toxic houseplant into your home.
PET FRIENDLY HOUSEPLANTS
Despite most houseplants being safe for adults, most children and pets are too curious to take chances. Sure, there might be an adult here and there that might consume a poisonous plant for no apparent reason, but for the most part we just have to be conscious of our pets and kids safety.
Selection and placement of the plant are the primary methods for minimizing risk. Choosing a plant with low pollen count is also a good counter measure for preventing pet allergies. Below is a list of 10 house plants that are safe for pets. The common name is listed first, followed by the genus and the name of the specific species.
1.) African Violets - Saintpaulia ionantha
Good thing this plant is pet and kid friendly. The fuzzy leaves are just begging to be touched! Be careful with excessive touching though. The oils from your fingers will inhibit growth! Besides that, African violets are a great hardy indoor plant that is perfect for beginner gardeners.
The Saintpaulia genus is comprised of about 20 species, which come in thousands of varieties. Ionantha is a species which can bloom throughout the year if provided with enough sunlight, however be mindful of exposing them to direct summer sunlight. For more detailed care instructions visit the Easy Bloom page.
2.) Donkey Tail - Sedum morganianum
This trailing succulent originated from Mexico and is distinguished by fleshy blue-green leaves and pink to red flowers during the summer months. The rows of tear-dropped shaped leaves look beautiful hanging from a container basket or in a small pot. Branches of a mature specimen can grow up to 2ft.
Despite being able to survive in 40 degree weather, Donkey tail plants prefer full sun and mild summer temperatures. Water regularly in the spring and summer while reducing watering to monthly in the winter months. Ensure the drainage is excellent as succulents and cacti do not thrive very well in moist soil.
3.) Platinum Peperomia - Peperomia hederifolia
Peperomia is a genus in the Piperaceae family and includes about 1,400 species. Most of the Peperomia species are perennial herbs with succulent and non-succulent members. Although some Peperomias can be considered a succulent because of their thick, somewhat succulent leaves, their tropical origins indicate they do not need to store water like succulents must to survive extreme drought.
Deemed to be safe for pets by the ASPCA, the Platinum Peperomia is an excellent choice for your home when pets are present. Their wide variety of growing habits will produce various foliage, but typically the leaves are heart shaped, corrugated, with a pale green underside and reddish stems.
4.) Prayer Plant - Maranta leucoreura
The Prayer plant is ideal for amateur indoor gardeners, however it does require specific growing conditions. It prefers bright indirect sunlight, but will also survive in low light environments. To ensure the Prayer plant thrives, water with warm water and place in a fairly humid area. The soil should be kept moist, but proper drainage is essential for a healthy plant.
Keeping the humidity up during the winter months can be a challenge, but there are a few methods for combating the dry winter air. One option is to mist your plant daily with warm water, or if you enjoy hot tea like I do, you can set a hot cup of tea next to your plant and let the steam naturally add moisture to the air. Despite the needed moisture in the air this plant requires, the soil should be kept fairly dry in the winter.
5.) Orchids - Phalaenopsis
Commonly know as the Moon Orchid, or Moth Orchid, the Phalaenopsis sp. of Orchid is non-toxic to dogs and cats according to the ASPCA. In addition to their pet friendly characteristics, Phals are also friendly for beginner indoor gardeners. The American Orchid Society recommends these maintenance practices.
Following a few simple growing requirements will ensure your Phalaenopsis will thrive and reward you with beautiful blooms for several months. Proper watering is crucial for optimal health. Water your plant in the morning with tepid sink water. The quantity depends on what kind of medium it is growing in, how much sunlight it receives, and what season it is. Bark tends to retain less water than moss and the warmer months will naturally require more frequent watering.
In regards to light and temperature, Phals prefer low-light conditions and temperatures in the range of 60-96°F. Placing them near windows facing east will result in the best results. If that is not an option for you, use sheer curtains in your south and west windows to protect the plant from too much sunlight.
Phalaenopsis will indicate whether they are receiving too much sunlight by their leaf color. Shades darker than olive green tell us the plant needs more sunlight, while red tinges on the leaves indicate too much sun exposure. Once in bloom, Phals can be placed anywhere in your home away from direct sunlight.
6.) Crocodile Fern - Microsorium musifolium
Perhaps coined for the reptilian like leaves, the Crocodile Fern is a resilient evergreen houseplant which is easy to grow. The leaves, or fronds, of the Crocodile fern can reach 3ft. at maturity. Their interesting texture, coupled with the segmented patterning of light and dark green make this plant an ideal addition to your home.
Native to the tropics of South Africa, in the wild the Crocodile Fern will grow as an epiphyte that can sustain long periods of drought which translates in a hardy indoor plant. To keep it healthy, ensure the rich soil is well drained and keep it in a semi shady area of your home. The only thing left to do is to enjoy the crocodile like shaped leaves of this unique fern.
7.) Air Plants - Tillandsia ionantha
It doesn't get easier than this folks. The Tillandsia genus is a collection of about 650 species of extremely hardy plants. They absorb nutrients through the trichomes on their leaves while utilizing their roots as anchors to attach to other plants, rocks and other natural objects.
Despite the low maintenance characteristics of these Bromeliads, air flow and occasion moisture is crucial for their well being. Similar to the Crocodile Fern, Tillandsias are epiphytes that prefer warmer temperatures, yet shady somewhat moist areas. Thinner leaved Tillandsias are more suitable for humid environments, while thick leaved specimens can tolerate a more dry atmosphere.
If your Tillandsia is not blooming, you might have a young specimen. Blooming occurs when the plant reaches maturity at 3 years of age. They typically die when they reach 5 years, but before you throw them out you can propagate their seedlings, or pups, to have a continuous supply of air plants. For more specific information on how to divide the offset of the pups visit this step by step guide.
8.) Zebra Plant - Aphelandra squarrosa
Named for and grown primarily for its foliage, the Zebra plant has emerald green leaves and distinct white veins resembling a Zebra pattern. In addition to the attractive foliage, the Zebra plant produces a bloom of small yellow flowers that grow out of its bract.
Typically between 2 and 4 flower bracts will grow on each plant towards the end of the summer. The flowers will last for about one week while the bract will remain for up to six weeks. Although not a large specimen, it will grow up to 2ft and its leaves will grow to 9in long.
This plant is native to the Brazilian tropics and the care Zebra houseplants require reflect that. Grow your plant in a bright, warm and humid room for best results. The soil should be moist to the touch and mist the leaves regularly to prevent the tips from turning brown or even falling off. If you are not having any luck growing this plant, try adding a humidifier to the room or using a humidity tray with pebbles.
9.) Spider Plant – Chlorophytum comosum
According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) the Spider plant is non-toxic to animals. This flowering perennial herb is native to South Africa and is widely cultivated as a houseplant. Among the most popular cultivars are ‘Vittatum’ and ‘Variegatum’, having gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
The accolades can be attributed to the hardiness of the plant, its beneficial air filtering qualities, the beautiful flowers on its longed branched inflorescence and its friendliness towards kids and animals. In addition to these favorable characteristics, the spider plant is super easy to take care of. Just provide it with well drained soil in a bright room and it will flourish.
Succulents are plants with thickened parts that help them to retain water. Typically native to arid conditions, succulents store water in their fleshy leaves, roots or stems. They are among the most hardy houseplants you can find, making them an easy and hassle free plant to grow indoors.
Since succulents are drought resistant plants that developed a water-storing tissue around their leaves, stems or roots, they are scattered across 60 different plant families. The most obvious, the Cactaceae family contains almost all succulents. However, cacti are often excluded by botanists when grouping succulents.
These plants have unique ornamental features that are mainly a result of their succulence. Some are fat little balls while others consist of only a long stem. With so many species to choose from, I suggest visiting the ASPCA website and checking their database of pet friendly succulents, especially if you are thinking about growing a more exotic variety.
In case of emergency, contact The National Animal Poison Control Center 1.888.426.4435
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