Five Houseplants That Will Hurt Your Pets

Dieffenbachia
Despite their attractive leaves, these Dieffenbachia will cause a nasty trip to the vet if your pet eats them. VanLap Hoang/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Lots of houseplant gardeners have watched their prized plants get destroyed by hungry dogs and cats…anyone who’s ever lost a specimen to Fido knows how infuriating it can be. But not only is it bad for your plant collection, it can be fatal for your pets, and few things are more devastating for families than to see their pet killed in such a preventable mistake. The following houseplants do offer lots of advantages and are commonly grown by many gardeners, but they are poisonous to your animals and if you keep pets you should exercise caution.

Should you choose to cultivate these plants in your home, make sure and keep them out of the reach of anything furry and you’ll keep your animals safe.

Dieffenbachia

Commonly known as dumb canes, diffenbachia plants are wonderfully variegated with green and white patterns all over their large leaves. There exist several different cultivars of diffenbachia, including D. picta (“Camilla”) and D. amoena (“Tropic Snow”), and they’re not overly difficult. These hardy plants can thrive with only minimal treatment: the most important thing is to keep them in warm and humid conditions. But despite their advantages, diffenbachias are poisonous if eaten. They cause irritation and swelling around pets’ mouths if ingested, along with some vomiting and lots of pain, because they’re embedded with small crystals called calcium oxalate. Though they shouldn’t be deadly, diffenbachias can really cause you a lot of grief: make sure not to keep them where your dog might eat some.

Peace lily

Distinguished by their white flowers, these tropical plants grow best in shade and can really add some flair to your home during their blooming period. These plants bloom twice a year; when fed regularly during the growing season and given a warm and humid environment, they will flourish. Note, however, that the peace lily is poisonous to dogs and cats, especially the Mauna Loa variety.

This large cultivar, which can grow up to two feet, causes irritation around the contacted area and will induce vomiting in animals if ingested. They’re particularly dangerous to cats, and can even cause kidney failure, so definitely make sure to keep them in a protected area of your home.

Cyclamen 

This brightly colored genus of tropical plants blooms vibrant displays; the upper and lower sides of their leaves are different colors, and their usually pink and purple flowers are quite lovely. The flowers and roots of cyclamens grow from tubers, mostly spherical in shape, and it is these tubers that make cyclamen plants dangerous to pets. If a dog or cat eats part of these tubers, they’ll have digestive problems like vomiting or diarrhea. In large quantities, they’re especially dangerous: they can even cause fatal seizures.

Aloe plant 

Aloe, which has lots of positive medicinal uses, can paradoxially be quite toxic if your pets eat it. Extracts from aloe are typically used to fight irritation or heal injured tissue. This small succulent, with its serrated leaves and distinctive smell, makes a great ornamental houseplant as well. But the healing properties of aloe are matched by its danger: pets who consume aloe experience stomach trouble and vomiting.

Caladium 

The small, sharp crystals in diffenbachias are also present in the caladium, also known as the elephant ear, a flowering plant with large, wide leaves. These heart-shaped leaves can be quite showy and make the plant ideal for a corner or as a centerpiece, but if ingested they will cause severe irritation and pain in any contacted areas, as well as digestive trouble. Native to South and Central America, these are tropical plants that like lots of light and humidity. Just make sure they’re not accessible to anything that won’t know not to eat them.