Guest Blog Post: Best Beginner Plants for Pet Owners

The Houseplant Girl

As a broke college student, my decorating budget is pretty limited. Fortunately, I’ve found that sprucing up your space with houseplants can be a cheap, easy way to make your living space more inviting. Plus, you can find tons of inspiration online. There is just one problem: many plants are deadly to cats and dogs. Pet owners must watch out for toxic plants that could harm their animals and potentially cost an arm and a leg in vet bills. But nobody wants to live in a bland, boring apartment.

So what can you do if you want to accent your home with natural flora but don’t want to risk jeopardizing the health of your hairy companions? Well, I have solutions for you. I myself have four amazing cats at home, and as a self-proclaimed “houseplant connoisseur”, I have managed to grow a variety of plants all over my apartment. Below, I’ve compiled a list of some beginner-friendly, ASPCA approved houseplants (with care instructions) that are both charming and non-toxic to your furry friends.

(Disclaimer: Even plants listed as non-toxic may cause temporary digestive trouble. The items in this list are approved by the ASPCA and are not fatal to pets if eaten, however, if ingested may cause mild stomach cramps, diarrhea, or other intestinal issues.)

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Spider plants are a fantastic way to get into houseplants and ensure your pet’s safety. If you want to take a simple, minimalistic approach to decorating your home, these plants are the perfect choice to match your style. They look especially great in hanging baskets or macrame-style holders.

One thing to keep in mind is that although it’s non-toxic to pets, your cat may love it a little too much. My own cat especially enjoyed chewing up the leaves and rubbing her whole body all over the entirety of the plant. Spider plants produce a compound similar to opium, so when cats ingest it, it gives them a feeling similar to that of catnip. This is why I’d recommend keeping these in hanging fixtures or out of reach.

Care

Taking care of this plant is extremely easy and beginner-friendly. Just place the Spider Plant in a well-lit room out of direct sunlight (this can damage and crisp the leaves). Watering once a week should be sufficient to keep the plant healthy and thriving, but only water if necessary. Spider Plants prefer to dry out between waterings, so don’t overdo it because root rot is a pain to get rid of.

Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)

Bamboo Palms can make a gorgeous addition to a living room or bedroom. If taken care of, this plant can reach a height of almost seven feet! I have personally owned one of these and it made the space so much more welcoming and I got compliments from everyone who came over. This is definitely one of my favorite indoor plants due to its size, and the profile of the leafy fronds is a great accent to wood furniture and bright colors.

Care

Like the Spider Plant, these palms prefer indirect sunlight (I’ve made the mistake of burning too many leaves in the past) and moderate watering. Bamboo Palms prefer room-temperature environments, but are quite versatile and can tolerate small fluctuations. I even kept mine outside on the balcony during the summer! However, if you live in a colder area, just make sure to keep this plant in an area above 55℉.

Peperomia (Peperomia obtusifolia)

Also called the Baby Rubberplant, this variety of peperomia has stunning variegation in its leaves, and can make even the smallest of spaces more inviting. These plants are generally small to medium sized and don’t require much. Luckily, I haven’t had any issues with my critters trying to munch on the leaves, even though it sits on the floor. This plant would be best suited on a shelf or countertop, as the structure of the stems and leaves would look awkward in a ceiling hanging.

Care

Peperomias prefer brighter, indirect light, but can also tolerate lower light levels. If you keep this plant in dimmer areas, however, just make sure to move it out into more well-lit areas for a couple hours every once in a while. Through experience, I’ve found that this helps keep the stems perky and the leaves a bright, healthy green color. Allow the soil mix to dry out between each watering, only giving water maybe once or twice a week. 

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

With full, delicate leaves, the Boston Fern, typically planted in a peat-moss potting mixture, creates an attractive atmosphere wherever it is planted. I think it pairs nicely with rustic interiors, as the leaves remind me of the wild ferns in the woods where I’m from. These plants love a cool environment with indirect sunlight, perfect for a kitchen or living room accessory.

Care

In my opinion, Boston Ferns are one of the more difficult beginner plants to care for, as their leaves will turn yellow if the humidity is not high enough. This requires the ability to control the humidity in the air, so I’d recommend purchasing a humidifier if you live in a dry area. If a humidifier is out of your price range, or you simply don’t have enough space, you can try misting the leaves a couple times a week to give it the humidity it needs. You also have to watch out for dry soil with these, because dry soil is the number one reason for the death of indoor Boston Ferns. Check the soil daily, and if it feels dry to the touch (or there is no dirt stuck to your finger when you touch it), it’s probably a good idea to give it some water.

Money Tree (Pachira aquatica)

The Guiana Chestnut, commonly known as the Money Tree, makes a great accent to larger, open areas. It can give any room a tropical vibe with its beautiful, shiny leaves. Place these in a larger pot on the floor, as they can get quite sizeable. It will be one of your cheaper indoor tree options, so it’s also great for when you don’t have a lot of extra room in your budget. 

Care

Money Trees, like the Boston Fern, thrive in more humid environments, especially in winter. These plants are easy to care for, and infrequent waterings are the best way to ensure its health. Money Trees do best in bright, indirect light, like most of the other plants on this list. 

Polka-Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya)

Similar to the Peperomia plant, Polka-Dot plants stand out with their brightly variegated leaves. Although the most common variety features pink variegation, there are many other varieties that showcase other colors as well, like purple, red, and white. This means there’s a color to match everyone’s taste and decorating style!

Care

These plants like warmer temperatures and a bit of extra humidity, so they do best in warm climates. Polka-Dot Plants require frequent watering and nutrients. You will also have to take off their blooms in the summer in order to focus growth in the leaves and foliage.

Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)

Another tropical specimen, the Prayer Plant, livens up any space they are put in. With velvety leaves, this plant is distinguishable and unique from other houseplants and would make a great addition to your interior. I love these, particularly in spaces with warm tones and accents. 

Care

Because it’s considered tropical, the Prayer Plant likes warm, moist air, similar to that of greenhouses. These plants prefer brighter lighting conditions, but they can also tolerate lower light levels. Prayer plants hate dry soil, and will struggle if you let the soil dry out for too long. When watering, make sure to never let the soil dry out completely, but be wary of overwatering your plant as well. 

Hopefully this helped you get a better idea of some beginner-friendly plants that are also safe for cats and dogs. Houseplants are such an easy way to make your living space more welcoming and friendly, and by growing any of the plants on this list, you won’t have to sacrifice the health of your furry companions. You can also find loads of inspiration on decorating techniques from other indoor gardening bloggers (The Houseplant Journal and The Houseplant Guru are great resources for beginners), Pinterest, and more!

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