Animals have been lifesavers during lockdown, with 41 per cent of UK households now owning a pet. But with house plants an increasingly popular feature of the interiors landscape, it’s important to know which ones won’t harm our non-human housemates.
‘Pets and plants have both played a huge role in the wellbeing of the nation over this past year, especially with so many of us stuck at home,’ says plant expert Chris Bonnett, founder of online garden centre, GardeningExpress.co.uk.
‘So if you have animals, you need to check whether or not your house plants could potentially be toxic to them.’
Here are Chris’s top house plant picks that are safe for your pets:
Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides)
A member of the stinging nettle family, Chinese money plant is a real air-purifying plant. With flat, round, shiny leaves, it is very easy to take care of and can cope with strong, bright light.
The central stem will turn to the light source, so rotate the plant weekly to avoid a wonky specimen. This plant likes water — but let it almost dry out between watering.
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum)
This popular house plant is very easy to look after and grows fast. Its name comes from the little spider-like plants that grow from the main plant. These ‘babies’ can be replanted in pots of their own.
A spider plant will grow just about anywhere — all it needs is light, well-drained soil and water (water well but don’t allow the plant to become too soggy). Prune when needed.
Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana)
If you want to create a ‘jungle’ feel for the creatures in your home, the Kentia Palm is a great choice. Originating from the South Pacific, it’s very easy to grow, and reaching heights of 150cm, it can be a real focal point in the room.
It doesn’t like direct sun, so a spot with bright, indirect light to dappled shade is perfect. It won’t tolerate temperatures below 10 degrees. Water regularly and feed monthly during spring and summer.
Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
This lush, evergreen plant exudes a sense of calm and is a great choice if you have pets, as it helps purify and filter the air. The best growing conditions are a cool location with indirect light and high humidity — mist a Boston fern every week.
The soil it’s in needs to remain damp, so check daily and if it feels dry, water it. A quick grower, a Boston fern could reach a metre high in the right conditions.
African Violet (Saintpaulia)
These beautiful indoor plants are packed with masses of flowers coming from the deep green leaves. They’re available in a multitude of colours including white, pink, red and purple, and grow best on a sunny windowsill.
African violet is easy to look after, but it doesn’t like cold draughts or sudden changes in temperature. Keep the compost moist and avoid watering too often. Try not to get water on the leaves as this can mark them.
Beautifully decorative Echeveria are easy to look after. These evergreen succulent plants are native to the semi-desert areas of Central America, Mexico and northwestern South America.
They have fleshy, ghostly coloured leaves that grow as a rosette and develop a lovely, purple sheen, which becomes more intense in bright light. Echeveria can also produce a spike of orange-red flowers. The plant can tolerate full sunlight and only needs watering when the soil dries out completely.
Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)
This lovely plant got its name from the leaves, which tend to fold together at night, like praying hands.
Most types have variegated foliage and they do have flowers, but they’re not large or particularly showy. Grows best in bright, indirect sunlight and high humidity. It needs to be kept moist but well drained — and the water needs to be warm.
Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis)
One of the most popular indoor orchids, the moth orchid flowers twice a year and likes bright light but shade it from direct sunlight and move it to a shadier spot in summer. It enjoys warm temperatures — up to 30C by day is fine.
Water when the compost feels dry and give it an occasional orchid bath — soak the clear pot in water for 15 minutes, then drain.
Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
This strange-looking plant has a bulbous trunk and a base that retains water. Slender leaves cascade from the trunk like a ponytail.
It copes well in centrally heated homes, so it’s perfect for modern living. Ponytail Palm enjoys bright light. Let the soil dry out between waterings.
… AND THREE TOXIC PLANTS TO AVOID
‘If your pet shows any sign of having ingested poison, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness or confusion, seek veterinary assistance straight away,’ says Gardening Express’s Chris Bonnett.
Aloe Vera/Aloe barbadensis Miller
Known for its healing properties in humans, this plant can cause diarrhoea in your pets if ingested.
All lilies can be dangerous to pets. Cats can be poisoned or suffer sudden kidney failure by eating or chewing the leaves, stems or flowerheads.
Peace Lily/Mauna Loa
Toxic to both dogs and cats, ingestion of these plants can irritate tongues and lips and cause salivation, vomiting and difficulty swallowing.
Find out more at gardeningexpress.co.uk.