Houseplants can add life to any room. Colorful and fragrant, houseplants are like living sculptures that instantly add warmth to cold coffee tables and drama to even the drabbest décor. But did you know that plants also can add to the quality of your and your pet’s lives?
Plants, along with proper air circulation, can help remove chemical contaminants—like benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene—found in synthetic building materials, according to a study conducted by NASA in 1989. They also can help relieve burning eyes, breathing difficulties and associated symptoms. Here’s how it works: Plants give off water vapor, which works like a sort-of pump to pull the contaminants down into the roots where that are made into food for the plant, the study says.
Since we and our pets spend much of our time indoors, having air-purifying plants in our homes makes sense. But not all plants are pet friendly. Some are toxic and can cause illness, or worse, if ingested.
As long as you know which air-purifying plants are safe for your pet, and which ones you should avoid, you and your pet can breathe clean and easy.
Pet-Friendly Air-Purifying Plants
The scientist who conducted the NASA study, Bill Wolverton, who has a doctorate in philosophy – environmental engineering, turned his research into a book entitled, “How to Grow Fresh Air.” The book lists 50 varieties of houseplants that purify the air, but it doesn’t indicate which of them are pet friendly. So, we consulted Angelica Dimock, DVM, a veterinarian at Animal Humane Society in St. Paul, Minnesota, and compiled this list of air-purifying plants that are safe for dogs and cats.
Also known as the parlor palm, the bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) is a hardy, low-maintenance air purifying plant with a high shade tolerance.
Its waxy green leaves might be tempting for a plant-partaking pet, and that’s perfectly fine. Bamboo palm plants are safe for dogs and cats, Dr. Dimock says. It will happily, and safely, share the sunny window seat with your cat or provide the perfect canopy for your dog’s bed.
The humble spider plant, also known as chlorophytum comosum, is another air purifying plant that is safe for pets, Dr. Dimock says. Bonus: It’s easy to maintain and makes a great beginner’s plant. It actually thrives on neglect, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The spider plant prefers bright-to-moderate indirect light and will sprout clusters of small white flowers. Place it in a hanging basket or on a shelf near where you and your pet nap so you both can take in clean air while you snooze.
Bright and cheery, gerber daisies—or gerbera jamesonii, as they officially are called—are not only air-purifying plants, but Dr. Dimcock says they also are safe for pets. Plus, they produce beautiful, long-lasting flowers.
Gerbers require good drainage, so avoid overwatering them to prevent root rot. They also prefer morning sunshine and afternoon shade, according to the University of Florida, making them the perfect decoration for your pet’s favorite sleeping spot.
The prayer plant, or maranta leuconeura, gets its name from the way its green-and-yellow variegated leaves fold together like hands at night, similar to how your dog or cat curls up at bedtime. Prayer plants, which Dr. Dimock says are pet safe, prefer little indirect sunlight, making them an ideal way to purify the air in your pet’s favorite laundry room or basement hideaway.
The Boston fern, or nephrolepis exaltata, is a lush, low-maintenance plant that enjoys frequent misting and indirect light. This pet-safe plant’s love of humidity and air-purifying qualities make it the perfect addition to the bathroom or a shady porch where your dog and cat enjoy a bit of the outdoors.
Air-Purifying Plants to Avoid If You Have Pets
There are other air-purifying plants that do a good job of cleaning the air, but they can cause mild sickness to dogs and cats if nibbled on, Dr. Dimock says. These plants are:
- Snake plants
- Rubber plants
- Weeping figs
- English ivy
- Pothos plants
“[The above] plants can cause vomiting, diarrhea and/or excessive drooling,” Dr. Dimock says. “The level of sickness will likely depend on how much of the plant was ingested or which part of the plant was ingested. It’s best to keep these plants up on high shelves or in rooms where your pet can’t come in contact with them” if you decide to get them at all.
And then there are air-purifying plants that should be avoided completely, Dr. Dimock stresses. These include:
- Easter lilies: Toxic to cats only.
- Sago palms: Toxic to dogs and cats.
- Oleander: “Oleander is extremely toxic [to dogs and cats] and ingesting it can lead to organ failure, so it’s not a great idea to have these plants in your house,” Dr. Dimock says.
Air-purifying plants are a natural and beautiful way to help remove containments from the home you and your pet share. Reap all of the benefits of air-purifying plants by opting for those that are safe for cats and dogs.
Chris Brownlow has been writing about pets for over 10 years. As a writer who believes in immersing herself in her topic, she has tasted more than 20 different flavors of dog and cat food while working on an advertising campaign for PetSmart. Prior to her pet days, Chris was a print and digital journalist at The Tampa Tribune and The Virginian-Pilot.