Are you a cat lover as well as gardener? It’s possible to have both healthy indoor cats and living houseplants in the same home if you use cat-friendly plants. Many people think it’s an either/or situation, but cats and green plants can thrive in the same indoor environment with a little pre-planning and safety precautions. Before bringing a new plant or new kitten home, look up the scientific names of the plant and use the ASPCA’s list of plants that are non-toxic to determine if the plant is safe for cats. Here are some cat-friendly plants you can grow at home.
These plants (Tillandsia) thrive without having their roots in the soil and are ideal for growing in a home that is shared with a cat that likes to dig in the dirt. Air plants can be grown in a terrarium, on a piece of wood, or a hanging planter. Easy-care and cat-friendly, you can simply spray them with a water mister bottle every 4-5 days. Remember not to plant them in any soil; they are called air plants for a reason!
In their native habitats, bromeliads (related to cacti) grow on tree branches and have adapted themselves to absorb moisture from the air and storing it in their leaves. The Scarlet Star Bromeliad (Guzmania lingulata) is drought-tolerant and cat friendly. These plants love plenty of direct sunlight and will produce long leaves and a show-stopping bloom on top of the plant. Bromeliads are native to the tropical Americas and consist of numerous species, many of which flourish in the rainforests of the Amazon. By growing them in your home, you can also have some of that tropical splendor!
These colorful little plants (Impatiens) are great for growing on a sunny patio, balcony, or window sill. Requiring part to full sun, they are easy to grow in pots and to propagate from cuttings. They are also called Touch-me-not plants and go well with your pets. Cats can nibble on them or nap on top of them without worry. Pinch off the tops of stems after the blooms have faded to encourage new flowers.
This plant (Calathea orbifolia) has attractive striped leaves that close at night, resembling the folding of hands in prayer. Prayer plants prefer a humid environment and are ideal for placing in the bathroom.
This low-maintenance plant (Calathea lancifolia) has crinkly, striped leaves and is cat-friendly. Great plant for a busy household – it will forgive neglect and thrive in low-light situations. Just make sure to keep the soil moist (but not wet).
A perennial favorite choice for indoor houseplant the world over. Ideal for growing in a hanging basket that is out of Kitty’s reach. The plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is safe but sometimes Kitty can be a little rough on houseplants. Spider plants produce long hanging stems on which new spider plants develop.
Also known as Sword fern, the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) originates from tropical countries in South America and is a fine graceful plant for indoor planting, especially for hanging baskets. During frosty weather, it may appear dead, but it always comes back when the weather turns warmer. It doesn’t need frequent watering, but keep a water spray bottle nearby to mist it when the humidity is low. It grows well in moist, nutrient rich soil.
No description of cat-friendly plants would be complete without mentioning catnip (Nepeta cataria). This is the most well-known of all the cat-friendly plants, and has long been used to calm cats and induce a “high” in them. But not all cats react to catnip.
Catnip is also good for humans and has been used as an herbal remedy to treat anxiety, insomnia, and depression in human patients. It grows best outdoors, as it needs lots of sunlight, when it also can repel mosquitoes and flies. But you can certainly grow them indoors provided you place them in a bright, sunny spot.
Catnip can be harvested once they reach about 6 to 8 inches tall. Snip the leaves, dry and crush them, and put them in a small cloth bag for their aroma therapy or to make a herbal tea.
Silver vine (Actinidia polygama) is another one of the cat friendly plants worth mentioning. Native to Japan and China, this plant has leaves with white or silvery markings on them, thus its name. Its effects are similar to catnip, although some say it cats have a stronger response to it. Also, cats that are indifferent to catnip may still react to silver vine. Like catnip, silver vine is also a mosquito repellent, and has healing herbal properties for humans, not just for cats alone. It’s believed to be good for heart problems, arthritis, kidney problems, etc.
Grow silver vine in well drained soil, and full to partial shade. Grown indoors, you can plant it in a hanging basket near your cat’s regular spot. It is a deciduous and vigorous growing plant, so prune as needed.
The ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvate) is a cute and elegant plant that is perfectly safe for cats. Native to Mexico, where it is threatened by habitat loss, the ponytail palm has now gained popularity worldwide for its fine characteristics and easy upkeep.
Contrary to its name, it’s not a true palm but is instead a succulent. It can tolerate long periods of no watering as it stores water in its swollen trunk. Also being slow growing and able to tolerate cold (but not freezing) temperatures, what is there not to like about the ponytail palm?
You can grow it indoors as long as it gets good light. Infrequent watering is best. The soil should be well-drained and dry most of the time. If repotting it, make sure to transfer the entire plant with its roots intact.
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