Nontoxic Houseplants for Kids, Cats and Dogs

Which houseplants are safe for kids and pets?

Finding out exact information about poisonous plants is very difficult, largely because it’s something you simply can’t test. You’re not going to give a leaf of an unknown plant to someone and say, “Here, eat this and we’ll see how it goes.” Nor would you want to try a similar experiment on a family pet.

20160109AInstead, much of the evidence is anecdotal. Someone or something ate the plant and got sick. Fine, but was it because of the plant or some fungus or bacteria on the plant? Or had the planted been treated with a pesticide? Are we really sure it really was the plant cited? (Emergency room doctors aren’t botanists after all and can easily mistake one plant for another.) Maybe the person had an allergic reaction, and that really isn’t toxicity. After all, a lot of people are allergic to shellfish and peanuts, but we don’t consider them to be poisonous.

And how much was consumed? A lot of plants are only toxic if prodigious amounts are eaten, but if so, again, should they really be considered toxic? If you eat too much spinach, for example, you could end up in the hospital, as it contains oxalic acid (toxic when consumed in large quantities), yet almost no one considers spinach poisonous. Rice and kale are other examples of common foods that are poisonous if eaten in large quantities.

Cats like to nibble on grasslike leaves!

Whether a plant is poisonous or not can also depend what part is eaten. Potato leaves, stems and flowers are poisonous, but humans can safely eat the tubers. The fleshy fruits of cherries, plums and peaches are edible, yet their leaves and pits contain deadly cyanide. Tomatoes, rhubarb, apples, asparagus, elderberries, almonds, etc. are just a few other examples of plants that have both edible parts and poisonous parts.

Also, a plant can be inedible without being poisonous. Plant parts can be very bitter or cause stomach upset or diarrhea without necessarily containing any notable levels of toxicity.

And yes, what is poisonous to humans may not be to other animals. And vice versa. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs, onions and garlic to cats. And horses have a whole range of plants they can’t eat, but that other animals can.

Better Safe Than Sorry

You may also be surprised to learn that many plants appearing on lists of toxic plants have never actually poisoned anything or anybody. They’re simply “under suspicion”.  They appear there because they are related to plants that are known to be poisonous and just might have the same effect. After all, under the circumstances, better safe than sorry is the wisest attitude to take. However, once a plant has been listed as poisonous, it is very unlikely it will ever be dropped from the lists of poisonous plants. Note the 100 year struggle of the poinsettia (proven non poisonous to humans) to reestablish its good name!

People, Cat and Dog Friendly Plants

What follows is a list of houseplants that are safe for three different species: humans, cats and dogs. A sort of a typical household, in other words. The idea is to reassure parents and pet owners, or people who might occasionally have children over or care for someone else’s pets, to choose safe plants to grow in their home.

And do note that this list does not necessarily apply to canaries, hamsters, potbelly pigs, goldfish or any other pet: for information on how another creature might react to any plant, you’ll have to do some digging on your own.

The plants listed below are considered nonpoisonous for humans, cats and pets: touching these plants or eating moderate quantities of them is unlikely to cause illness. That said, a warning: any plant might cause a reaction in certain sensitive individuals. Also, a child or pet can choke on even nontoxic plant parts. Finally, plants with thorns and other spines might also cause physical injury. It’s therefore best to keep all plants out of reach of cats, dogs, and small children.

  1. Abutilon spp. (flowering maple)
  2. Achimenes spp. (achimenes, hotwater plant, Cupid’s bower)
  3. Adiantum spp. (maidenhair fern)
  4. Adonidia merrillii, syn. Veitchia merrilli (Christmas palm)
  5. Aechmea fasciata (silver vase plant)

    Lipstick plant
  6. Aeonium spp. (tree houseleek)
  7. Aeschynanthus spp. (lipstick plant)
  8. Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger)
  9. Alsobia spp., syn. Episcia spp. (lace flower)
  10. Alternanthera spp. (Joseph’s coat, calico plant)
  11. Aphelandra squarrosa (zebra plant)
  12. Aptenia cordifolia (heartleaf iceplant, baby sunrose)
  13. Ardisia spp. (coralberry)
  14. Aspidistra elatior (cast iron plant)
  15. Asplenium nidus (bird’s nest fern)
  16. Azolla caroliniana (mosquito fern)
  17. Beaucarnea recurvata (elephant-foot tree, ponytail palm)
  18. Begonia spp. (begonia) [begonias do contain oxalic acid, not enough to harm people under normal circumstances, but they could harm dogs or cats, especially if the tuber is eaten]
  19. Billbergia spp. (billbergia, queen’s-tears)
  20. Breynia disticha (snow bush)
  21. Bromeliads
  22. Bulbophyllum spp. (bulbophyllum)
  23. Cactus (there are a few potentially toxic cacti, like the peyote cactus, Lophophora williamsii)
  24. Calathea spp. (peacock plant)
  25. Calceolaria spp. (slipper flower, lady’s purse, pocketbook plant)
  26. Callistemon spp. (bottlebrush)
  27. Camellia spp. (camellia)
  28. Camellia sinensis (tea plant)
  29. Canna spp. (canna)
  30. Cattleya spp. (cattleya)
  31. Celosia spp. (celosia, cock’s comb)
  32. Cephalocereus spp. (old man cactus)
  33. Ceropegia woodii (rosary vine, sweetheart vine, hearts-on-a-string)
  34. Chamaedorea elegans (parlor palm)
  35. Chamaedorea seifrizii (bamboo palm)

    Spider plant
  36. Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant)
  37. Cinnamomum zeylanicum (cinnamon)
  38. Cissus discolor (rex begonia vine)
  39. Cissus rhombifolia (oakleaf ivy)
  40. Clerodendrum thomsoniae (glory bower, bleeding-heart vine)
  41. Columnea spp. (goldfish plant)
  42. Crossandra spp. (firecracker flower)
  43. Cryptanthus bivittatus (earth star)
  44. Ctenanthe spp. (calathea, never-never plant)
  45. Cymbidium spp. (cymbidium)
  46. Cyrthanthus elatus, syn. Vallota speciosa (vallota, Scarborough lily)
  47. Cyrtomium spp. (holly fern)
  48. Darlingtonia californica (California pitcher plant, cobra plant)
  49. Davallia spp. (hare’s foot fern, rabbit’s foot fern)
  50. Dendrobium spp. (dendrobium)
  51. Dichorisandra spp. (blue ginger)
  52. Dionaea muscipula (Venus flytrap)
  53. Dizygotheca elegantissima, now Pierandra elegantissima (false aralia)
  54. Dypsis lutescens, syn. Chrysalidocarpus lutescens (Areca Palm)
  55. Dracaena reflexa, syn. Pleomele reflexa (pleomele, song of India)
  56. Echeveria spp. (echeveria)
  57. Echinopsis spp. (Easter lily cactus, hedgehog cactus)
  58. Ensete spp. (ornamental banana)
  59. Epidendrum spp. (epidendrum)
  60. Epiphyllum spp. (orchid cactus, leaf cactus)
  61. Episcia spp. (episcia, flame violet)
  62. Exacum affine (Persian violet)
  63. Fatsia japonica (Japanese aralia)

    Nerve plant
  64. Fenestraria spp. (babies’ toes, window plant)
  65. Fittonia spp. (nerve plant)
  66. Frithia pulchra (fairy elephant’s feet, babies’ toes, window plant)
  67. Fuchsia spp. (fuchsia)
  68. Gasteria spp. (ox-tongue, cow-tongue)
  69. Gerbera jamesonii (gerbera)
  70. Graptopetalum spp. (ghost plant)
  71. Guzmania spp. (guzmania)
  72. Gynura aurantiaca (purple passion plant)
  73. Haworthia spp. (haworthia)
  74. Hemigraphis exotica (waffle plant)
  75. Hibiscus spp. (hibiscus)
  76. Howea spp. (Kentia palm, Belmore palm)
  77. Hoya spp. (wax plant)
  78. Hylocereus undatus (Queen of the night)
  79. Hypoestes phyllostachya (polka dot plant)
  80. Impatiens spp. (impatiens)
  81. Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato)
  82. Iresine herbstii (chicken gizzard)
  83. Ixora coccinea (flame of the woods)
  84. Jasminum spp. (jasmine)
  85. Justicia brandegeeana, syn. Beloperone guttata (shrimp plant)
  86. Justicia carnea, syn. Jacobinia carnea (jacobinia)
  87. Kohleria spp. (kohleria)
  88. Lachenalia spp. (lachenalia)
  89. Leea guineensis (West Indian holly)
  90. Lithops spp. (living stone)

    Prayer plant
  91. Livistona chinensis (Chinese fan palm)
  92. Ludisia discolor, syn. Haemaria discolor (jewel orchid)
  93. Mammillaria spp. (mammillaria, pincushion cactus)
  94. Maranta leuconeura (prayer plant)
  95. Medinilla magnifica (showy medinilla)
  96. Mikania ternata, syn. M. apiifolia (mikania, plush vine)
  97. Miltonia spp. (miltonia)
  98. Muehlenbeckia complexa (maidenhair vine, lacy wire vine)
  99. Musa spp. (banana)
  100. Nemathanthus spp., syn. Hypocyrta spp. (guppy plant)
  101. Nepenthes spp. (tropical pitcher plant)
  102. Neoregelia spp. (neoregelia, fingernail plant, blushing bromeliad)
  103. Nephrolepis exaltata (Boston fern)
  104. Ocimum basilicum (basil)
  105. Odontoglossum spp. (odontoglossum)
  106. Oncidium spp. (dancing lady orchid)
  107. Opuntia spp. (prickly pear)
  108. Orchids (most are non toxic)
  109. Osmanthus spp. (fragrant olive, false holly)
  110. Pachira aquatica (money tree, money plant, Malabar chestnut)
  111. Palms (most are non toxic with the exception of the fishtail palm, Caryota spp.)
  112. Pachystachys lutea (lollipop plant, golden shrimp plant)
  113. Paphiopedilum spp. (slipper orchid)
  114. Passiflora spp. (passion flower)
  115. Pellaea spp. (button fern)
  116. Pellionia (trailing watermelon begonia)

  117. Pentas lanceolata (pentas, Egyptian star cluster)
  118. Peperomia spp. (peperomia)
  119. Phalaenopsis spp. (moth orchid)
  120. Phlebodium aureum, syn. Polypodium aureum (golden polypody)
  121. Phoenix spp. (date palm)
  122. Pilea (aluminum plant, friendship plant, artillery plant)
  123. Pisonia umbellifera (pisonia, birdlime tree)
  124. Pittosporum tobira (Japanese pittosporum, mock orange)
  125. Platycerium spp. (staghorn fern)
  126. Plectranthus scutellarioides, syn. Coleus blumei (coleus)
  127. Plectranthus spp., other than P. amboinicus (plectranthus, spurflower)
  128. Pleiospilos spp. (split rock, mimicry plant)
  129. Polypodium spp. (polypody fern)
  130. Portulacaria afra (elephant bush, dwarf jade plant)
  131. Primulina spp., syn. Chirita spp. (primulina, chirita)
  132. Pseuderanthemum spp. (pseuderanthemum, eranthemum)
  133. Pterandra elegantissima, syn. Dizygotheca elegantissima (false aralia)
  134. Pteris spp. (brake fern)
  135. Punica granatum ‘Nana’ (dwarf pomegranate)
  136. Radermachera sinica (baby doll)
  137. Ravenea rivularis (majesty palm)
  138. Rhapis excelsa (lady palm)
  139. Rhipsalis spp. (mistletoe cactus)
  140. Rosa cvs (miniature rose)
  141. Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary)
  142. Saintpaulia spp. (African violet)
  143. Salvinia spp. (salvinia, water moss, floating fern)
  144. Saxifraga stolonifera, syn. S. sarmentosa (creeping saxifrage strawberry saxifrage, strawberry begonia)
  145. Schlumbergera spp. (Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus)
  146. Sedum morganianum (donkey’s tail)
  147. Selaginella kraussiana (club moss)
  148. Sempervivum spp. (houseleek, hen and chicks)
  149. Serissa foetida (serissa, snowrose)
  150. Sinningia speciosa (gloxinia)
  151. Soleirolia soleirolii (baby’s tears)
  152. Sophronitis spp. (sophronitis)
  153. Stapelia spp. (carrion plant, starfish flower)
  154. Stephanotis floribunda (Madagascar jasmine)
  155. Stevia rebaudiana (stevia, sweet plant)
  156. Streptocarpus spp. (Cape primrose)
  157. Stroblianthes dyerianus (Persian shield)
  158. Tibouchina spp. (princess flower, glorybush)
  159. Tillandsia spp. (air plant, tillandsia)
  160. Tolmiea mensziesii (piggyback plant)
  161. Trachelospermum jasminoides (Confederate jasmine, star jasmine, Confederate jessamine)
  162. Tripogandra multiflora, syn. Gibasis geniculata (Tahtian bridal veil)
  163. Vanda spp. (vanda)
  164. Vriesea spp. (vrisea)

Poisonous Houseplants

For a list of list of potentially poisonous houseplants, go to 200 Poisonous Houseplants.20160109B

16 comments on “Nontoxic Houseplants for Kids, Cats and Dogs

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  3. So many of these are actually poisonous to pets, including the baby sun rose plant.

    • Actually, the belief that the “baby sun rose” (Aptenia) is toxic is false: a fairly common urban myth. It is perfectly safe for pets. If you have other examples from trustworthy sources of information, I will gladly make the necessary corrections.

    • Actually, Aptenia cordifolia (which you called baby sun rose) is often listed as poisonous, but that information is incorrect. It is, in fact, perfectly safe. It’s toxicity is a fairly common urban myth. However, if you have information about other errors on the list from a trustworthy source (based on scientific testing), I will gladly update.

    • yeah, cass, i have been unable to find a single instance online of poisoning by Aptenia cordifolia in any research paper online. cite your sources or silence yourself.

  4. Are you sure aboutPlectranthus scutellarioides?
    I have so far only seen mentions of Coleus as toxic to cats and dogs, but it always refers to only one type. I just received one, and wouldn´t like to endanger my cats.
    Thank you!

    • The confusion comes from a total misunderstanding about what a coleus is. In the eyes of the average gardener, it’s the multicoloured plant with thin leaves and it is harmless to pets. It was called Plectranthus scutellaroides, but was recently moved to a different genus and is now called Coleus scutellaroides.

      However, poison sites (not experts on plant identification) keep confusing the true coleus with Plectranthus amboinicus, also called Coleus amboinicus, which is indeed toxic to pets. But they’re two different plants, no more closely related than tomatoes and deadly nightshade. It has thick leaves, a strong scent (often a sign of toxic properties and looks nothing like a coleus, which is scentless. It’s unhfortunate that the false information about the “true” coleus is so confused on pet poison websites.

      • Thank you SO MUCH for your fast reply.
        I went through about a dozen lists, and it did seem the case, but obviously, I had to make sure.
        The plant I got is indeed (I hope, through looking at photos and checking the German name my friend gave me) the pink-leafed one; It is scentless, and looks very different from the plant mentioned on the poisonous-for-pets lists.

  5. Stating that all cacti are nontoxic seems a bit dangerous. Euphorbia, a family that includes many species of cacti, are poisonous as well as producing a sap that’s an eye and skin irritant. Other than that, thank you for this list!

    • Yes, but euphorbias aren’t cactus! Cactus (Cactaceae) are one family of plants, euphorbias another (Euphorbiaceae). It’s like comparing cats and dogs.

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  8. jennnifer

    you need to update your list

    With over 1,000 species, begonias are a familiar indoor plant. If you have a cat, you will want to keep begonias well out of your pet’s reach because they are toxic to cats. IssuesBegonias, especially their tubers, contain oxalates. When a cat chews on a begonia or ingests any part of it, the oxalates cause tissue damage and pain.
    SymptomsA cat that ingests portions of a begonia will display symptoms such as excessive drooling and signs of extreme irritation around its mouth. The cat could vomit and have difficulty swallowing.
    TreatmentAt home, you can treat your cat by washing out its mouth

    from ASPCA

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