There’s no better way to infuse your home with a sense of color, texture, and healthy energy than by adding houseplants. Besides the aesthetic benefits of trailing green leaves or bursts of color in bloom, they also purify the air and add oxygen, so they positively benefit our health, too.
Unfortunately, not all of them are good for your pet’s health—many of them cause dangerous side effects, and some can even be deadly. Here’s a roundup of the most poisonous houseplants you need to avoid for your cat or dog, as well as some safer, nontoxic alternatives to make you and your furry friend happy.
Aloe plant (also known as medicine plant or Barbados aloe): It’s great to have on hand for sunburns and soothing skin, but certain parts of this common succulent can irritate your dog or cat’s digestive system, causing vomiting and urinary problems.
A safe (nontoxic) alternative: African violet
Asparagus fern (also called emerald fern, emerald feather, plumosa fern, lace fern, or sprengeri fern): This frilly favorite is actually poisonous for dogs and cats and can cause not only diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, but skin irritation, too.
A safe (nontoxic) alternative: Air plants
Corn plant (also known as Dracaena Fragrans, cornstalk plant, dracaena, dragon tree, or ribbon plant): This tropical beauty is easy on the eyes, but it’s ugly news for your dog or cat. With symptoms of vomiting—often with blood—as well as appetite loss and depression, this is one plant you’ll definitely want to skip.
A safe (nontoxic) alternative: Ferns (Maidenhair, Boston, and Bird’s Nest)
Cyclamen (also known as sowbread): This perennial flowering plant sure is pretty—especially when lining the ledges of your windows—but beneath the blooms lie toxic roots, which can cause your dog or cat heart rhythm abnormalities, seizures, and even death.
A safe (nontoxic) alternative: Orchids
Dumb cane (also known as dumb cane, tropic snow, or exotica): If you’ve got one in the house, trash it fast: ingesting this plant can cause your cat or dog severe swelling and burning of the mouth, difficulty swallowing and/or breathing, and even death.
A safe (nontoxic) alternative: Spider plant
Elephant ear: (also known as caladium, taro, pai, ape, cape, via, via sori, or malanga): Forget the pink-centered pretty leaves—this colorful plant results in a toxic reaction for pets: difficulty swallowing, swelling and burning of the mouth, excessive drooling, and vomiting.
A safe (nontoxic) alternative: Zebra plant
Ivy (also known as pothos, hunter’s robe, ivy arum, money plant, silver vine, Solomon Islands ivy, and taro vine): The trails of ivy may be pretty for your wall, but they can be deadly for your furry friend—this plant can cause oral irritation, vomiting, difficulty swallowing and breathing, and can even lead to paralysis or a coma.
A safe (nontoxic) alternative: Peperomia or Ponytail palm
Jade (also known as baby jade, dwarf rubber plant, jade tree, Chinese rubber plant, Japanese rubber plant, or friendship tree): This popular plant may be well-loved among black thumbs for its hardiness—but it’s not meant for households with pets. Known symptoms of jade ingestion include decreased heart rate, vomiting, lack of coordination, and depression.
A safe (nontoxic) alternative: Prayer plant
Philodendron (also known as horsehead or heartleaf philodendron, cordatum, fiddle leaf, panda plant, split-leaf philodendron, fruit salad plant, red emerald, red princess, or saddle leaf): It’s one of the most common indoor plants, but it’s toxic to dogs and cats. If ingested, it can cause burning and swelling of the mouth, tongue, and lips, which can lead to difficulty swallowing, vomiting, digestive issues, and even seizures.
A safe (nontoxic) alternative: Areca or Golden Palm
Sago palm (also known as Cycas Revoluta): Beware of this exotic plant, because every part of it—roots, leaves, seeds, and all—is poisonous to your furry companion. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, potential liver failure, and even death.
A safe (nontoxic) alternative: Haworthia succulents
Lilies (also known as Mauna Loa): Most plants of the lily family are poisonous for cats, and many are toxic for dogs, too—so when in doubt, avoid all lilies. Side effects will include vomiting, severe pain of the mouth, difficulty swallowing, and possible kidney failure, which can result in death.
A safe (nontoxic) alternative: Bamboo
via Ben White Florist
ZZ plant (also known as Zamioculcas): Popular because it survives in low-light conditions, this glossy-leaved houseplant causes toxic symptoms in cats and dogs, including vomiting and diarrhea.
A safe (nontoxic) alternative: Burros tail succulent
Now that you’ve got some pet-friendly, safe alternatives to these toxic plants, you can have a livelier, more colorful home—and, best of all, the peace of mind that your favorite feline or mutt is healthy and happy.
About the Author: Lauren Pezzullo is a writer, editor, and musicophile who’s passionate about vegetarianism and sustainable eating. As an editor for Modernize, she writes about energy-efficient living in the home. She’s currently writing her debut novel.