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This article was first published on November 17, 2017, and was updated on March 12, 2020.
When I adopted my beagle mix Marzipan, one of the most surprising things I learned as a new pet parent was that some house plants, while being perfectly safe for humans, are poisonous and even deadly to dogs.
This goes for certain outdoor plants such as azaleas, tulips, oleander, and amaryllis, for example, as well as some indoor plants. It’s also worth noting that some plants that are safe for dogs are toxic to cats, so if you have a cat at home, check out this list, and definitely stay away from lilies.
So, before you go out and buy a new plant for your home or garden, know before you grow. You can consult Rover‘s handy and exhaustive guide on the subject, Poisonous Plants to Dogs and Cats, as well as this article, which profiles 15 popular house plants poisonous to dogs, along with photos for quick identification, and suggested alternatives that are safe for dogs, cats, and children.
15 Common House Plants Poisonous to Dogs
- Aloe vera
- Dumb cane
- Sago palm
- ZZ plant
- Elephant ear
- Corn plant
- Asparagus plant
- Desert rose
- Bird of paradise
- Peace lily
- Chinese evergreen
1. Aloe Vera
Some parts of the aloe plant are safe for dogs: the juice and gel found inside the leaves can be used as a topical treatment for skin abrasions, and dogs can safely drink aloe juice. But chewing on the plant can expose a dog to toxins called anthraquinone glycosides which can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Aloe is considered moderately toxic to dogs.
Aloe plants can be replaced with safer succulents such as haworthia, also known as the zebra plant. You’ll get a similar soft spiny look, without the risks.Discover Haworthia on Amazon
Ivy sure looks pretty tumbling out of a planter or cascading down a brick wall, but things will not be pretty if your dog eats its leaves. Several varieties of ivy contain toxins, including triterpenoid saponins and polyacetylene compounds, which cause excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
Alternative: Swedish Ivy
For something that can still cascade beautifully from a bookshelf or hanging pot, try Swedish ivy instead. It’s easy to care for and grows quickly with little maintenance.Discover Swedish Ivy on Amazon
3. Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)
A rubber plant popular for its hard-to-kill properties and ability to live for up to 100 years, Crassula ovata, commonly known as jade, is toxic to pets, although the toxic compounds are not well understood. Jade plants can cause vomiting and a slow heart rate in addition to a harder-to-identify symptom: depression.
Alternative: Christmas Cactus
With plump leaves and a slight shine, Christmas cactus serves as a good stand-in for jade. Christmas cactus is hardy and easy to care for. In ideal conditions, you’ll see more good growth and a yearly set of red or bright pink flowers (not always on Christmas).Discover Christmas Cactus on Amazon
4. Dieffenbachia, or “Dumb Cane”
This common houseplant has a type of toxicity that you’ll see in some other tropical plants, such as Philodeondron. The leaves contain tiny, sharp calcium oxalate crystals which can irritate a dog’s mouth and cause severe swelling and burning of the mouth and tongue. Rarely, this irritation can lead to difficulty breathing and in severe cases, death.
Alternative: Prayer Plant
For a safer variegated leaf, try the prayer plant, which can tolerate low-light conditions and infrequent watering.Discover Prayer Plant on Amazon
Like Dieffenbachia, Philodendron is a popular pick for its low maintenance needs, but if ingested, sharp calcium oxalate crystals in the leaves can irritate a dog’s mouth and cause severe swelling and burning of the mouth and tongue. Rarely, this irritation can lead to difficulty breathing and in severe cases, death.
Alternative: Areca Palm
If the tropical style of the philodendron is what attracted you in the first place, consider an areca palm instead. With proper care, you can expect an areca palm to reach a height of six to seven feet and live for up to a decade.Discover Areca Palm on Amazon
6. Epipremnum aureum, AKA “Pothos” or “Devil’s Ivy”
Like its close cousin philodendron, pothos is a hard-to-kill house plant with very few needs. Unfortunately, that means it can also cause the same symptoms as philodendron if ingested. Tiny, sharp calcium oxalate crystals contained in the leaves can irritate a dog’s mouth and cause severe swelling and burning of the mouth and tongue. Rarely, this irritation can lead to difficulty breathing and in severe cases, death.
Alternative: Spider Plant
Replace pothos with a spider plant, which also looks great from a hanging basket. Like pothos, spider plants are easy to grow (and difficult to kill).Explore on Amazon
7. Cycas revoluta, or “Sago Palm”
Sago palm lends an instant exotic look to your home, but every single part of the plant—from the seeds and the roots all the way to the leaves—is poisonous to dogs and cats. This plant has such a bad reputation as being a house plant poisonous to dogs that it’s listed in the Pet Poison Helpline’s Top Terrible Toxins list. The toxin cycasin can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and in some cases, seizures, lethargy, and liver failure.
Alternative: Parlor Palm
For a similar aesthetic, try the parlor palm, which also grows upright and brushlike. You can count on it to stay roughly the same size, making it a fun and predictable design element.Discover Parlor Palm on Amazon
8. Zamioculcas zamiifolia, or “ZZ Plant”
Attractive for its ability to thrive in low-light environments, the ZZ plant can cause adverse reactions such as vomiting and diarrhea. Like Philodendron, ZZ plant contains calcium oxalate crystals that can cause irritation and swelling in the mouth and respiratory issues.
Alternative: Cast Iron Plant
Instead of the ZZ plant, try a cast iron plant, which also tolerates low light and has a similar size and deep green shade.Explore Cast Iron Plant on Amazon
9. Caladium, or “Elephant Ear”
Whatever you call it, caladium is a favorite for its colorful leaves. However, it’s a house plant poisonous to dogs if ingested. Like Dieffenbachia and Philodendron, Caladium contains sharp calcium oxalate crystals in its leaves that can irritate a dog’s mouth and cause severe swelling and burning of the mouth and tongue. Rarely, this irritation can lead to difficulty breathing and in severe cases, death.
Alternative: Peperomia caperata
For a similar size and heart-shaped leaf, try Peperomia. This plant also blooms annually, with interesting flowers that look like tails.Explore Peperomia on Amazon
10. Dracaena fragrans, or “Corn Plant”
Vomiting—sometimes with blood—is the main symptom when the corn plant is ingested, but it can also lead to loss of appetite and depression. This reaction is caused by compounds called steroidal saponin, which are dangerous for both dogs and cats.
Alternative: Money Tree
If you’re looking for a similar small tree look, without the ill effects, try a money tree instead. It’s hardy, needs very little care, and according to Feng Shui experts, might bring luck if you put it in the right spot.Explore Money Trees on Amazon
11. Asparagus Fern
Asparagus fern is so feathery you wouldn’t expect that it’s a relative of lilies. Unfortunately, it carries a similar toxin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested, along with skin irritation if your dog is exposed to it repeatedly.
Alternative: Boston Fern
If you’d like a pet-safe fern, try the Boston fern. Boston ferns are easy to care for if you know what they like: cool temperatures, high humidity, and indirect light.Explore Boston Fern on Amazon
12. Desert Rose, Adenium obesum
Nothing beats the desert rose’s ancient-looking trunk and gorgeous blooms, but if your dog gets a bite, it’s not going to be pretty. Desert rose contains a toxin called cardiac glycoside, which can cause symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, depression, irregular heart rhythm, and even death.
Alternative: African Violet
While it’s a sacrifice in the height department, the African violet will delight you with beautiful blooms in a variety of colors, without the worry.Discover African violets on Amazon
13. Bird of Paradise
The bird of paradise is an exquisite house plant, named after the flamboyant plumage of its namesake. If your dog finds it appealing enough to eat, you can expect nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness within 20 minutes or so.
Alternative: Mini Phalaenopsis Orchid
For an exotic flower that’s just as colorful, try the Phalaenopsis orchid instead. Like the bird of paradise, orchids like tropical conditions. And their compact size makes them a perfect fit for a favorite habitat: a bathroom windowsill.Explore Phalaenopsis Orchids on Amazon
14. Peace Lily
The Peace lily is a choice house plant for those who want to create an elegant, minimalist look. But if your dog eats it, it’s not worth it. The Peace lily is another plant that contains calcium oxalate crystals, which cause intense oral irritation, excessive drooling, and difficulty swallowing.
Alternative: Moth Orchid
For an indoor flower in the same sophisticated white, try the moth orchid. Like most orchids, moth orchids prefer warm and humid conditions, with plenty of indirect sunlight.Explore Moth Orchids on Amazon
The Chinese evergreen (pictured in the back of the basket above) is a great plant for people who want to add a splash of green to a room without much light. But this easygoing plant is hard on dogs who eat it. A relative of the Peace lily, Chinese evergreen also contains calcium oxalate crystals which can cause oral pain and swelling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing and breathing.
Alternative: Wax Plant (Hoya)
For a safer variegated leaf, try a wax plant, or Hoya. A Hoya might need a little more light, but they’re still low maintenance, and, unlike the Chinese evergreen, might bless you with some star-shaped blooms.Discover Hoya on Amazon
- Always keep a pet first aid kit on hand, whether you assemble it yourself (Pet Poison Helpline has a handy list) or buy a pre-made one.
- On your fridge or somewhere convenient, keep a list of emergency phone numbers: your veterinarian’s phone number, the number of a local 24 hour emergency vet, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435, and the Pet Poison Helpline (855) 764-7661.
Have a house plant that’s not covered here, or something in the garden you’re not sure about? Looking for a more comprehensive primer about poisonous house plants in general? Check out our list of poisonous plants to dogs and cats to ensure the safety of your pets.