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8 Interesting, Low Maintenance Indoor Plants that are Completely Safe for Pets

by VC Patel 6 months ago in list · updated 6 months ago
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By VC Patel

8 Interesting, Low Maintenance Indoor Plants that are Completely Safe for Pets
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Attractive, Easy, and 100% Cat and Dog Safe Plants for the Home

1. Stromanthe Triostar or Stromanthe Sanguinae

Stromanthe Triostar. Photo credit VC Patel

The Stromanthe Triostar is a tropical plant indigenous to Brazil. The plant is visually striking with large spear-shaped leaves that are variegated with verdant green, cream, and soft pink. The underside of the leaf is a magenta to plum shade, quite a vivid contrast when it lifts up. When treated properly, the Stromanthe can grow to 2-3 feet across and larger.

A member of the Calathea family, the Stromanthe is not nearly as finicky as its cousins - the bane of many plant lover’s existence. Did I mention this tricolored beauty changes position? The Stromanthe’s leaves move with shifting water levels and the sun, similar to other Calathea “prayer plants”, folding up or down, yet it delightfully lacks its Calathea cousins' high maintenance demands for constant humidity, varying light conditions, and only the finest distilled or fresh water. Stromanthe is a straightforward and hardy plant.

I recently learned this tropical stunner boasts a reputation for not being a beginner’s plant, which surprised me. I’m glad I didn’t know that when I bought it. I would have missed out on one of my favorite plants! This hasn’t been my experience with the Stromanthe Triostar at all, and I’m not exactly the greenest thumb in town. In fact, I find it’s a very easy plant to keep.

Care:

While direct hot sun should be avoided, bright indirect light is optimal for this plant’s happiness in your home.

Water once a week or when the top inch of soil is dry. Don’t oversaturate the soil or let it become soggy.

Find a good spot near a window. Mine enjoys an elevated perch on a credenza positioned about four feet on the diagonal from a large northeast facing floor-to-ceiling atrium window. It blissfully sits in sunlight all day.

The Stromanthe Triostar appears to enjoy being somewhat root-bound or snug in its container, so re-potting may occur every 2 to few years.

As long as you give this tropic beauty brightness and don’t let it get too thirsty, it should continue to flourish.

One piece of advice, especially if just starting out with indoor plants, buy relatively well-established plants. This equates to plants that have graduated to 6 inch, 8 inch, or if you’re ambitious like I was with the Stromanthe Triostar, 10 inch pots. Avoid starter plants in 2 or 4 inch pots. They’re much too delicate and unforgiving with the exception of perhaps the curly spider plant baby you propagate yourself.

While I did buy the Stromanthe Triostar in a 10 inch container, it has grown so much in 1.5 years. Here’s what it looked like then so you can see for yourself how well it flourishes and that a well-established plant doesn’t equate to finished growing or huge.

Triostar First Day. Photo credit VC Patel

2. Curly Lipstick Plant or Aeschynanthus Radicans

Curly Lipstick Plant in bloom. Photo credit VC Patel

The Curly Lipstick plant is a fascinating and whimsical looking semi-succulent vine. Especially exotic when it blooms its phallic looking cherry red namesake atop cascading dark green waxy leaves that resemble ribbon candy. One may catch themselves staring at this lush eye-candy often and for great lengths of time. It’s easy to fall in love with it.

Originating from the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia, this tropical plant loves sun and humidity requiring only conservative watering. While it’s perfect for hanging, avoid chilly drafts if you live in a colder climate. Mine sits on the water cooler directly up against an unobstructed Southern facing window and is so happy in all day sun; it blooms all Summer and sporadically in the Fall and Winter, too.

When Winter sets in and the draft from the door (with the dogs going out and coming in) grows much too chilly or downright frigid, this lovely Curly Q relocates to a bright Northeast window away from all the doors. The Curly Lipstick isn’t fussy or needy. Give it a bright warm spot and healthy doses of mindful neglect.

Care:

Light to moderate watering. When in doubt, give it a sip rather than a guzzle.

Needs fertilizer occasionally during the warmer months. A diluted fertilizer is best.

Overwatering is it’s greatest concern followed by shade. This is not a shade-seeking plant. The brighter the better.

It likes height or being hung. Not a plant for low or obstructed places.

3. Rope Plant or Hoya Carnosa Compacta aka Tortellini Plant

Hoya Carnosa Compacta. Photo credit VC Patel

All Hoyas are deemed safe for pets which is great news for pet owners because there are approximately 300 varieties of Hoya including this semi-succulent, easy-keeping and cool-looking ropey vine above that enjoys nothing more than bright indirect sun and neglect, making it an excellent choice for any home.

Hoya Carnosa Compacta are native to Australia, India, and Asia. This one below loves hanging from a modular wall planter located somewhere in the Southeastern US. When it was planted 1.5 years ago, it was only 6 inches long on one side, 1 inch on the other (the longest rope currently), and the piece in the middle maybe grew 1 inch the entire time. Wild!

Rope Plant. Photo credit VC Patel

The Rope Plant has a reputation for growing incredibly slowly but steadily producing thick glossy and crinkled wax leaves that drape down, ideal for any hanging plant. Both of mine grew quite steadily and readily since I acquired them. In ideal indoor conditions, the Rope Plant produces fluffy clusters of star-shaped flowers in pink or white. I’ve had two of these plants that are growing mightily and look fantastically healthy yet neither has hinted at flowering during the past year and a half, so what those ideal conditions are remains a mystery to this writer.

Care:

Soil should be well draining and infrequently watered, allowing it to completely dry out between waterings. Think desert and baked soil. Small sips every once in a blue moon equating to once a month or longer and only smaller sips then.

When in doubt, bottom water when possible for 30 minutes every 1.5 months unless there are evident signs the plant is struggling then run it under a gentle shower to wet completely through one time and allow to drain properly. Followed by ignoring it for at least another month.

Do not allow to sit in water.

Hoya needs bright sun however indirect sun is fine as well, as it is a highly adaptable and versatile plant.

Hoya is a light feeder and may need a diluted fertilizer once you twice a year.

The only downside to the Hoya Compact is due to the tortellini leaves it is prone to pests such as aphids, mealy bugs, scale insects, and spider mites. Should you notice any pests, place the plant in the sink if possible and gently wash the vines with Dawn and warm water until really soapy then rinse completely. Follow with Neem insecticide spray. You may need to repeat the spray several times.

4. The Ponytail Palm or the Beaucarnea Recurvata aka “Elephant’s Foot”

Be warned this plant will be catnip for your feline family and is guaranteed to elicit frequent joyful munching and chewing. Cats adore this plant and it’s completely safe (as long as you don’t spray it with anything toxic)!

Ponytail Palm. Photo credit VC Patel

This unique and super cute plant, despite initial appearances, is neither a tree nor a palm rather a member of the agave family which makes it a succulent. It looks exactly the way it’s named and has a strong following in recent years. I have two. One is all chewed up on one side because, well, as I mentioned: cats love eating it. It’s also a great conversation starter because it’s a fun plant that evokes good spirits.

It’s also super easy. The Ponytail hails from Mexico and requires very little care as it’s tolerant of minimal watering (the fat bulb at the base stores water like a camel’s hump), needs direct or indirect bright light, and grows rather slowly so don’t expect much for a long time. Expect it may double its current height every 5 years. However, The Ponytail does grow several feet high over decades, if cared for properly.

Low maintenance but not no maintenance.

Care:

Water once a month in Winter and about every 2-3 weeks in the growing season. Crispy brown ends tell you it needs more water. Be careful not to give it too much water or it’ll begin to look yellow.

Bright direct or indirect light.

Cactus or a sandy based soil.

Can withstand temperatures down to 50• F but prefer 60•F or above.

Prefers bottom watering.

I have one that I can’t bottom water and one I can. The one I can appears remarkably healthier than the one I can’t. This is anecdotal evidence at best but worth mentioning.

5. The Money Tree or Pachira Aquatica

Braided Money Tree. Photo credit VC Patel

In many cultures, it’s believed that this special low maintenance wetland tree brings good fortune and wealth to the household. Typically braided for commercial sale, this native South American tree isn’t toxic to pets which is good news because I once found one of my rescue hounds carrying around the large 6 pronged leaf like a prize before she ripped it to shreds and ate part of it. Not sure what my money tree did to her but she showed it who’s boss!

Leaves typically have 5 to 6 leafs. On occasion, you may find a leaf with 7 and this is considered extra good luck so go get yourself a lotto ticket pronto. What’s super lucky is the Money Tree doesn’t need much. It’s considered a low light, low requirement plant by many sources. In my personal experience, it needs regular indirect light yet it does tolerate being 6-8 feet from a window so perhaps despite the sunny appearance, the spot would still be deemed low light? Water it every so often when 50%-70% of the soil is dry. Water it well around the base every 10 days in the growing season and once every 2-3 weeks otherwise. Avoid water logging it and never leave the roots sitting in water. Despite being a swamp tree, it does not appreciate sitting in water and will let you know.

Care:

This prosperous tree does best if you talk to it a bit.

It’s so easy we already covered all the care above.

6. Rainbow Peperomia or Ginny Peperomia aka Tricolor Plant

Rainbow Peperomia. Photo credit VC Patel

A newer variety in the pet and child safe Peperomia family, this rainbow beauty stuns with its upright growth and thick waxy variegated leaves with pink edges in wall containers with demands similar to Hoyas: not much required. And, unlike Hoyas, this Rainbow plant does fine with moderate light, too.

Peperomia as a whole originate from subtropical and tropical regions in both hemispheres, regarded by many plant lovers as both quite attractive and easy to keep alive. A soil mix that drains well and less frequent to sparse watering, think cactus, are crucial to its happiness.

Care:

Well draining soil

Water infrequently

No direct sunlight as this will scorch the leaves

A good way to check if it needs water: If the leaf is limp and folds up easily when you gently squeeze it, it’s time to water.

When the leaf is firm, thick, and offers resistance when you gently (very gently) attempt to fold it, it’s all good! Don’t water it, as the leaves of this pretty plant are designed to store water. When leaves look and feel like tacos in your palm, then it does NOT need water.

7. Purple Passion Bromeliad or Neoregelia Bromeliad aka Blushing Bromeliad

Purple Passion Neogrelia. Photo credit VC Patel

There are thousands of different Bromeliad and close to a hundred varieties of Neoregelia yet they all have one thing in common: a distinctly alien, otherwordly appearance. Is it from Earth? Is that an alien city in its cup? Bromeliad thrive in deserts, mountains, and rainforests. It’s non toxic and considered an easy keeper needing full indirect to moderate light. It blooms only once and when the bloom dies, eventually, which could be a year or more later, the plant does not bloom again and completely dies off after a time.

Don’t despair, healthy bromeliads typically produce a pup at the base, which can be repotted as a new plant, before the Motherplant dies.

Then the cycle to bloom begins again.

Since this unusual African alien plant-forms takes water and nutrients through a central cup, not the soil, it can be grown as an air plants. It doesn’t need any soil at all. The Neoregelia are serrated so watch your fingers! Fortunately, the only consistent care they require is a regular quick change of water in the cup of the plant (its center) so it doesn’t develop odor from bacteria.

This alien plant clearly enjoys warm and humid environments. When I went to The Dallas World Aquarium in 2019, I took pictures of the crocodile exhibit. One day recently, while swiping through old pictures I spotted a series of pictures (see below) of a plant in the exhibit, reinforcing the power of the subconscious. A couple years later I was drawn to buy two different Neoregelia - the same plant that enamored me in Dallas. I recall experiencing a memorable deja-vu at the time of purchase that I now understand.

Dallas Aquarium. Photo credit VC Patel

Care:

Water in plant’s central cup only. Dump and refill often to keep fresh.

Picking and choosing what to feature from a number of very interesting plants I adore that tick all the boxes for this piece wasn’t easy. Some were left off. Some were touted to be easy and were not. Note: Voice changed my cover picture and I’m not yet able to fix it. The intro picture is of an African violet that is reputed to be an easy keeper but did not make the list...yet. It ticks two boxes: non toxic and pretty with its delicate and sweet pink blooms. The African violet has a reputation for being easy so you may want to give it a try. All I know for certain is it likes to be bottom-watered with tepid to warm water and seems to be enjoying a spot directly on the window sill in filtered light beneath some outdoor trees. I didn’t include it because it’s much too soon for me to know firsthand if it’s an easy or finicky plant. (Pretty blooms in Winter are hard to resist in my book.) All of the plants featured here actually live in my home and have for quite some time. Here’s to hoping I can keep the African Violet happy so I may add it to this list in the future, too.

African Violet. Photo credit VC Patel

I can’t believe I almost forgot…

8. Hoya Carnosa ‘Krimson Queen’

Krimson Queen. Photo credit VC Patel

Another fascinating member of the pet safe Hoya family, this green and white variegated (with an occasional pop of pastel pink) eye-catching beauty makes for an ideal set-it-up and forget-it (mostly) plant. Unlike many other plants, it doesn’t mind placement a foot or so off the ground in a corner by a bright East facing window, even though it is traditionally hung as it is a vine designed to grow and drape.

Highly amenable and adaptable, the Queen reveals she’s truly humble and will make things work in her favor. If you’re not sure where to start, this plant is about as easy as they come, on both the eyes and in terms of care.

Care:

Place in indirect or filtered light but it’s okay with direct light as well. Heck, it does fine with shade I’ve heard but never placed it in the shade myself.

Hang it high up or set it down lowish, it’s all good.

Give it a sip or two whenever the soil is very dry. Thrives on some neglect.

Let it live in a tiny house; it appreciates being root-bound and doesn’t like larger containers.

Say “Hi” to it when you walk by.

That’s pretty much all you need to do with this tricolored Queen! It’s the perfect dog, cat, child safe starter plant for a brown to green thumb-bearer And definitely not boring to look at either.

Note: Please, always research any plant you plan to bring into the home here to ensure it’s safe for your pets, your children, and yourself. Good practice dictates cross-checking with at least another source and/or your veterinarian. Pets and children tend to get into everything, so it’s better to know what’s in your home than not. Some commonly sold plants aren’t just toxic they’re outright deadly for pets like the Sajo Palm, Dieffenbachia, and Lillies but carry no commercial warning label when they are sold to the unsuspecting consumer.

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Thank you for your support. Hope you found this article informative and helpful. It comes from the heart. The only intention being to share what brings me joy with others. I’m no expert in plants. Quite the opposite, so why waste the labor of love when I can share what I’ve learned! All reads and likes are sincerely appreciated. If you enjoyed this, you may like to take a look at my other articles.

Be Well & Stay Safe out There,

Vania

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About the author

VC Patel

There are many worlds inside me. I spend a lot of time there exploring.

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