Whether you’re a seasoned interior designer or a bachelor in his first apartment, you could always use some plants around the home. Plants are an easy way to decorate and liven things up.
There are a lot of things to consider when deciding on a plant: what will go well with what you have, how much room you’ve got, and what level of effort you want to put in to make sure you don’t look like Famine of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Something else you should consider? Whether or not the plants you’re bringing into the house could have deadly consequences if your pets decide they’d make a good snack.
Why you should decorate with plants
Sure, I know what you’re thinking: if plants are so dangerous, why even have any in your house to begin with? After all, it’s the 21st-century. You should be decorating with 4K Ultra HD TVs and Nest thermostats and Amazon Echoes, not worrying about soil and leaves like some sort of farmer.
Well, you’re wrong. Plants are great, and there are a lot of benefits to having them in your home.
Do you work from home? Or do you just want to be more productive? Studies have shown that working in an environment with plants can reduce stress and increase productivity by up to 12%.
They’re also good for your health, beyond the whole "creating oxygen" thing. NASA’s Clean Air Study looked at chemicals that have negative health impacts – benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia – and what plants are best for removing them from the air. If they’re good enough for space stations, they’re good enough for you.
Plus, they just look nice.
A lot of the decisions you’ll make about indoor plants depend on personal preference, but here are some popular plants your pet shouldn't eat.
Also called the mother-in-law’s tongue by someone with a good sense of humor, the snake plant helps remove toxins and is relatively sturdy, meaning it’ll survive even if you’re not the nurturing type.
Unfortunately, it’s also toxic to both cats and dogs. It can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if it’s ingested. So while snake plants are good for your health, they might make things worse for your pets.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and Christmas trees aren’t the only popular plants this time of year. Poinsettias will soon be adorning mantles and doorsteps across the country, bringing some of that classic red and green to homes everywhere.
But poinsettias can cause irritation to your pets if they’re eaten. Luckily, the ASPCA says that poinsettias are "generally over-rated in toxicity." Don’t let the presence of pets deter you from getting into the Christmas spirit, but if you notice your cat or dog having an upset stomach or vomiting, you might know what the culprit is.
Aloe vera is sort of a miracle plant. It cools our sunburns. We put it on our tissues. It’s even in drinks. It’s easy to care for and good for cleaning the air, and you can use the gel for all sorts of DIY tasks.
One thing it doesn’t make better? Pets.
Cats and dogs can suffer from a number of symptoms after ingesting aloe vera, ranging from the usual vomiting and diarrhea all the way up to change in urine color, anorexia, tremors, and even depression.
In short, it might be worth for your pet’s sake to keep buying aloe by the bottle instead of trying to make it yourself.
There are a lot of different types of ivy out there. If you’re keen on decorating with it, be sure you know what you’re getting yourself – and your pet – into.
English ivy and devil’s ivy are both toxic to cats and dogs. Both can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, excessive drooling and hypersalivation, and irritation. With English ivy, as the ASPCA points out, the leaves are more dangerous than the berries.
If you have your heart set on ivy, look into grape or Swedish ivy, which are non-toxic to pets.
Madagascar dragon tree
If you want to get a plant that makes your home sound awesome, you should definitely go with a dragon tree, right? Plus, they’re low maintenance and they can grow to five to six feet tall, so you’ll look like you know what you’re doing.
Your pets won’t think you’re very cool, though. Not when they’re vomiting blood, dealing with depression, and your cat is worried about its dilated pupils. Don’t try to impress your pets. Stay clear of Madagascar dragon trees. They’ll love you anyway.
Chrysanthemums are an incredible popular houseplant. If you’re looking for flowers, you’d be hard-pressed to find something that says "flower" more definitively than the brightly-colored, many-petaled chrysanthemum.
Sadly, chrysanthemums are, of course, toxic. How toxic? You should keep your cats and dogs away from them, and if you have any horses, make sure they steer clear, too. Aside from stomach-related issues like vomiting and diarrhea, the ASPCA also notes incoordination and dermatitis as symptoms of chrysanthemum ingestion.
So think of the horses and if you need flowers, try non-toxic orchids on for size.
Like ivy, a rubber plant’s toxicity will depend on its type. Although they look nice and aren’t a lot of work, you should know which type of rubber plant you’re getting. American rubber plants are typically safe, while Japanese and Indian rubber plants aren’t.
Typically symptoms of toxic rubber plants are mild vomiting and depression, but can occasionally escalate to bradycardia – slowed heart rate.
In the end, it’s important to consider everyone who’s living in your house before you satisfy your green thumb. Do your research before settling on any plants. There are a lot of resources out there, so if you’re looking for a particular plant the ASPCA’s toxic and non-toxic plant database is a good place to start.
If your pet does ingest something it shouldn’t – whether a plant or not – call your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. And make sure you have pet insurance in case your pet's snack time turns dangerous.
Remember: if you still want to liven up your place but don’t care much for the health benefits of a live plant, you can always go plastic.