A Guide to
Child and Pet-friendly Houseplants

There’s no doubting that bringing plants into our homes makes us feel great.

Whether it’s their beautiful leaves and overall shapes, or the knowledge they’re absorbing carbon dioxide and turning it into oxygen, they’re a worthwhile addition to any room.

Yet for those of us with pets or small children with a fondness for chewing, it’s worth undertaking a little research into whether plants are known to be toxic before introducing them to the family. At the very least, this knowledge helps us to know which ones we should be displaying on shelves or tall furniture, out of harm’s way, and those that can be left within reach.

Some plants, such as croton Codiaeum variegatum, are poisonous if eaten and their sap can cause irritation if it touches skin, and even Aloe vera, often described as the ‘first aid plant’, can lead to diarrhoea in pets.

Notwithstanding if a houseplant is deemed to be safe, it’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on animals or children who have nibbled a leaf, just in case.

For peace of mind, here are five child and pet-friendly houseplants that are known to be non-toxic:

Nephrolepsis exaltata (Sword Fern)

Sword fern, Nephrolepsis exaltata, brings a fountain of green foliage to rooms and especially loves bathrooms and kitchens where it can enjoy plenty of moisture. Whether it’s placed on a shelf or hung in a basket, it’s guaranteed to add a touch of the tropics to a space. Indeed, the Royal Horticultural Society likes it so much that it’s given it the Award of Garden Merit.

Also known as the ‘Boston fern’, this plant thrives in indirect light. Keep it away from radiators and make sure the temperature does not fall below 10C. Ensure its compost remains moist, but not waterlogged, and reduce watering over the winter months. Mist the leaves regularly and cut off any dead fronds.


Succulents are generally considered non-toxic and are pretty bomb proof to boot, with their built-in water storage systems providing a source of moisture when needed.

Echeveria ‘Grande Cinza’, with its eye-catching rosettes of silver-coloured, fleshy leaves, thrives in warm and dry conditions. Grow it in a bright room and allow it to get a breath of fresh air over the summer months.

Water it in spring and summer if its compost feels dry, but be careful not to overwater.

Pachira aquatica (Money Tree)

Money Tree, Pachira aquatica, is a real eye-catcher with its large palmate (handlike) green leaves that erupt over plaited woody stems.

Grow it in a light or partially shady room, avoid direct sunlight and keep it out of draughts and away from radiators. Keep its compost moist in summer but never allow it to become waterlogged.

Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’

Beautiful variegated shell ginger is great for bringing a tropical touch to a room with its beautiful large green and golden-striped leaves. Often this plant will produce pearly-white flower buds over the summer. Grow Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’ in a conservatory or bright room, including humid bathrooms and kitchens, but keep it out of direct sun and away from radiators or draughts. Make sure the temperature does not fall below 15C. Keep the compost moist and mist the plant regularly.

Howea forsteriana Kentia palm

Kentia palm Howea forsteriana brings real presence to a room, with its elegant arching leaves. This plant thrives in lower levels of light. Keep it in a room that’s bright or in partial shade, including humid bathrooms and kitchens. Make sure the temperature doesn’t fall below 10C and keep it out of draughts and away from radiators.

Most things in life come with an element of risk, but this shouldn’t prevent us from revelling in the beauty of plants in the home. If curious children and nibbling pets are a concern, take your time when choosing to ensure peace of mind.

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