Grow healthy houseplants while keeping pets from harm

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Pets and houseplants are beloved by their owners, but it can be challenging to safely raise them together in the same house.

“Reduce the risk by selecting pet-safe plants and safely managing houseplant pest problems,” says Melinda Myers, host of The Great Courses’ How to Grow Anything DVD series.

Myers suggests the following steps to keep pets and houseplants thriving:

  • Selecting plants suited to a home’s growing conditions and gardening style. Then narrow the list to plants that are non-toxic specifically to the type of pets. Consult with a veterinarian and visit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) website for a list of pet-safe and toxic plants.
  • Match the pet-friendly plants selected to their preferred light conditions. An east- or west-facing window provides enough light for most indoor plants. Keep those that need brighter light within two feet of the window. Those that prefer lower light can be grown near a north-facing window or up to six feet back or off to the side of an east- or west-facing window.
  • For low light situations, consider cast iron plant, Lady palm, and parlor palm or add artificial lights when growing other pet-friendly plants in lower light situations.
  • Grow grape ivy, spider plants, baby tears (Soleirolia), peperomias, prayer plants, Boston ferns, ponytail palm, and hoyas in brighter locations. Save the brightest locations for Norfolk Island Pine, lipstick plant and haworthia.
  • Add some color to indoor gardens with popular flowering plants like African violet, Christmas cactus and moth orchid. These are also listed as non-toxic on the ASPCA website.
  • Water plants thoroughly as needed. Tropical plants prefer slightly moist soil, while cacti and succulents like it drier. Always pour off any excess water that collects in the saucer. Allowing plants to sit in water can increase the risk of disease and lead to root rot.
  • Regularly groom and wipe dust off the leaves of indoor plants to help reduce the risk of insect damage. Remove spotted leaves when they appear and adjust watering. This is often enough to correct fungal disease problems.
  • When pest problems require control, always select pet-friendly options. Start with a strong blast of water to dislodge pests like aphids and mites. Follow with an application of a lightweight horticulture oil such as Summit Year-Round Spray Oil ( This organic spray controls aphids, mites, immature whiteflies and all stages of scale and mealybugs.
  • And if those tiny fruit-fly-like gnats are too annoying to tolerate, consider treating the potting mix with a product such as Summit Mosquito Bits labeled for controlling fungus gnat larvae. Just sprinkle it on the soil surface and this naturally occurring soil bacterium kills the fungus gnat larvae in the soil. It’s an organic insecticide safe for people, pets and plants.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including “Small Space Gardening.” She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program.

Myers’s web site is


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