What Does "Toxic" Really Mean?


One of the common concerns plant owners often have is whether certain plants are toxic for their pets. Houseplants often get labeled toxic without actually explaining the degree of toxicity, or what toxic really means.

While some plants are truly toxic and should be avoided if you have a curious pet, most plants that are considered toxic only give a mild stomachache, if that, when eaten in large amounts.

Read on to find out which houseplants are completely safe, which ones might irritate your pet (and precautions you can take to make your curious friends less likely to chew), and which ones should be avoided if your pet can't help themselves.


Completely Safe Plants

Some houseplants, no matter how much your pet likes to chew, are completely safe to ingest. Plants such as ferns, peperomias, pileas, air plants, calatheas, spider plants, hoyas, and most succulents are safe for your pet to nibble on.

non toxic - calathea, tillandsia (airplant), hoya, pilea

non toxic - calathea, tillandsia (airplant), hoya, pilea


Slightly Toxic Plants

Most houseplants are considered slightly toxic to pets. However, this label can be misleading. It would take your pet eating an incredibly large amount to do any harm. Houseplant favorites such as Pothos, Philodendrons, ZZ plants, Sansevierias, Monsteras, Dracaenas, and Ficus trees are all considered slightly toxic. If your pet is extra curious, there are a few things you can do to discourage your pet from playing with them.

  • Steer clear from seaweed or kelp-based fertilizers. Pets love the smell from the fertilizer, and this encourages them to dig in the soil and munch on the leaves.

  • Lightly apply cayenne pepper spray on the leaves of plants your pet is likely to reach. The negative feedback from the taste of the cayenne pepper will make your pets less likely to chew on your plant.

  • Spray peppermint oil around the soil - it's thought to make pets less likely to play around your plant.

slightly toxic - zz plant, philodendrons, snake plant

slightly toxic - zz plant, philodendrons, snake plant


Truly Toxic Plants

Some plants are genuinely toxic for pets to ingest, and they should be avoided if your pet is a little more eager than most. Euphorbia, Dieffenbachia, and Sago Palms all contain toxins in them that cause serious abdominal issues, tongue swelling, and more.

toxic - euphorbia

toxic - euphorbia


If you’re ever not sure about a certain plant and its toxicity, or one that you have that we didn't mention, feel free to ask!

Written by: Egan Thorne
Photos by: Emily Kellett

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