Plants I don’t kill

January 20, 2014

Over the past few years I’ve become quite fond of having real, LIVE plants in our house. I used to have a lot of the faux variety, but I’m moving away from that and I’ve found real plants to be the perfect decorating accessory in more than one instance.

The problem is we have three cats and they LOVE plants. Eating them that is. So I have to think about them and do research before I bring in a new one. I’ll be standing at the hardware store or the nursery with phone in hand, researching what will work and what won’t. (I always refer to the ASPCA site – they have great info.) Most plants I find are toxic to cats, so I’ve found I can only stick to a certain few.

But those few are ones I can actually keep alive, so that’s good. First up, the easiest plants to grow, EVER – the air plant:

Air plants

I blogged about them here and these three have done so well! I only dunk them in a sink full of water about once a month, that’s it. They have grown a ton and do well, even on the cold window sill. Seriously, so easy.

I have a little plant by the sink that does pretty well also – I used to have a little fern here but it pooped out. I can’t remember what this is called but it’s got very small, delicate little leaves. It looks great in my piggy planter:


Piggy planter

You can’t really tell it’s a piggy anymore though. ;)

I picked up a new plant a couple months ago – this one is the spider plant and they are supposed to be no problem for cats:

spider plant, safe for cats

I think they do better hanging so the little shoots can come off so I’ll have to think about where to hang this one. I haven’t had a hanging plant in eons but I hear macramé is coming back! ;)

In general palms are safe for cats, so I stick to those all over the place – just different varieties. This one has big thick palms and the cats LOVED it, so now I have it under a wire cloche to protect it:

Palm plant, great for houses with cats

Plant under wire cloche

I love this one with the light, skinny palms – I have it out of the way (from munching teeth) in good light and it does awesome:

Palm plant, great for houses with cats

We have a couple of larger versions as well. The one in our master bedroom is so pretty and full and the cats actually leave it alone. It does great with little attention:


I love a big full plant – this one is one of my favorites.

I know the fiddle leaf fig is all the rage but my favorite tall plant is the money tree:

money tree

I’ve had this one forever, I think three years now? It’s grown a ton and it’s another one that does great with little care. I LOVE the braided trunk.

It does really well with a little bit of direct sunlight. I have another one in my office but it doesn’t do quite as well:


I’ve had that one forever too but it hasn’t grown nearly as much. I think they need more of a direct light to flourish. 

I’ve tried the ficus a couple times and the only one I can keep alive is this one in the kitchen:

backdoor5It loves that spot – I tried one in an area with less direct sunlight and it died, FAST. Oh, and I’ve heard conflicting reports on the ficus and cats – our cats have zero interest in this one so I don’t worry about it. I probably wouldn’t do one closer to the ground though.

I love these trailing plants too – the name escapes me though. Anyone know what these are?:


They do great in indirect light as well and grow like crazy. I think it’s so pretty as it gets longer.

There’s one spot where I love having a plant but can’t keep one alive. This area in our family room is full of light but I can’t find a plant that does well:


I’ve had three different ones now I think? None make it in that spot. That palm doesn’t look this good now, but it’s hanging on. Any suggestions one what may work with indirect sunlight?

I’ve blogged about our plants before but I think it’s worth mentioning again – for years I thought I couldn't have real plants with the animals, but it’s not true. And as I get older my thumb gets greener – I’ve been able to keep plants alive both inside and out and I quite enjoy it. They are an investment at first but will last forever with just a little bit of care.

Speaking of care -- all of these are incredibly easy to keep alive, and that’s from someone who couldn’t keep a plant green for years. I water them all every two weeks…and that’s about it. No fertilizer – it’s just a matter of finding the right plant and then finding the right spot for it in your house.

Do you have plants in your home? Do you have a favorite? I tend to add new ones to the house in January – I just enjoy having more green around I guess. I’ve become a bit of a “plant lady” – I have them in every room of the house now and am always looking for new pretty varieties to bring in.

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  1. The plant in your piggy pot looks like Baby's Tears. You are lucky, my cats chew on nearly all plants (especially spider plants). One of my cats actually used to bite this tall cactus I got from my mother. I could understand if it was one experimental bite, but he would do it over and over. Finally the cactus succumbed to the bites and died.

  2. I am the worse keeping up with real plants in my house, so I always look for the easiest to maintain. Cactus and spider plant are the ones that actually stay alive around my house…lol.
    Great blog btw ;-)

    "Borrowed from the boys: the bow tie" on

  3. I love real plants in the house. I have several. We have dogs and the bigger one doesn't bother the plants at all but our little one will every now and then chew on one so I also visit the ASPCA website to see what I can and can't have with him. You may want to try a pine tree in your family room. I've got one in my basement where it only gets house lighting and it does amazing. It is a dwarf Prince Albert. It has a cone shape and tight needles and doesn't need to be watered often. I don't know that your cats will leave it alone though but because it is so dense and tight they won't be able to climb in it at least! You could also try a cactus, but again with a smaller kiddo and cats you'd need to watch the kind with long thorns. You might also try philodendrum (spelling) it is a leaf plant that comes verigated or not. It can hang when it gets bigger but it doesn't need much sun. Let us know if you find a plant that works in your family room. I really enjoy reading your blog. Keep it up. Victoria

  4. Love this post! I really need to get more plants in my apartment this winter -- I can. not. wait. until it's warm again, and seeing green will make it feel like that! Also, as a long time reader of your blog, I have to say that I finally opened an Etsy store, and I think you would really like it! Check it out :)

  5. I'm still pretty wobbly with plants, but I'm getting braver. For me, it helps to keep the thirsty ones near a sink so I can water them easily. It seems like we've tried a lot of the same cat friendly plants. I had a small palm that I finally moved it to my office, which is off limits to my munchy little fur kids. My cats have eaten my cilantro and mini roses, one cat likes to rub her face on orchid blooms, which drives me crazy. I tried out prickly cacti once, but those were apparently perfect for chewing and rubbing faces too. I got nervous and re-homed the cacti. Sigh. They don't bother my aloe, basil, green onions and succulents, though.

  6. I was like you, but like you said, things are getting better for me too. My fool proof ones are orchids and a small bonsai tree I got from IKEA, and of course, the Fiddle Leaf figs!

  7. Longtime lurker....first time commenter :)....Have you tried a mothers-in-law tongue/snake plant and/or a ZZ plant (they have a few names) in that indirect spot in your living room. I'm pretty sure you can leave it in the dark and it will still grow. I purchased a giant one (because they are slow to grow) and it has had no direct sunlight for a month or two now, still growing. It requires basically no water AND my cats very rarely chew it. And I LOVE my zz's very cool-looking. I find my cat hoard (3 of them) really likes stringy-type spider or palm plants and others (like my fiddle leaf's just doing ehhhhh right now) are left alone. Also, for the spider plants, my cats love chewing the shoots, so they don't have as many as they could. Also you could add to your list of things that are hard to kill: aloe plants & christmas cactus (both not enjoyed by my cats) and those corn plant things (moderately enjoyed, but once they are tall the cats can't get to them).

    1. I love that plant but have read it's toxic too -- but like you said ours tend to go for the long the stringy plants too. They don't touch the leaves on the ficus or money tree. Great tips, thank you!

  8. Thanks for this post! I also have cats and a lack of a green thumb so I've avoided plants to spare them from teeth marks and dehydration. The only plant I have currently is an orchid which has somehow managed to live for the past year and a half. This post gives me inspiration to try again with some cat friendly plants! :)

  9. I'm a live plant whore. I don't have enough flat surfaces for the dang things.

    I agree with the piggy plant - looks like baby tears, which I have all over outside, but they don't do too hot if I bring them in in the winter.

    My cat doesn't bother our plants, so I don't know which are bad, but if it's safe, pothos are really easy to grow and do okay with indirect light. Mother-In-Law's tongue, too. Crown of Thorn is fun. I love my hoyas. I have a hanging one with big leaves that blooms every couple of months, then a small leaf one that I swiped a start of from my sister-in-law. :) That oughta keep ya busy Googling for at least a minute. :)

  10. My cats chew on plants too, and one of them likes trying to dig up my cactus. I have one of those ponytail palms on my desk at work. I took it home when I first got it so I could transfer it to a nicer pot, and our big cat, Lu, gave it a haircut on one side so they're definitely cat-safe!

  11. The plant under the wire cloche is a fern, not a palm. love your house! Ikea is a good source for small, cheap plants. SB

  12. I love plants in the house but I don't have many. Another plant that does great with little care is a snake plant - I will be getting a few of those when we move and some of your suggestions. Love the piggy planter too!

  13. The first 14 years of my marriage I used plants to decorate and fill all the spaces we didn't have furniture or needed "something'. I was a plant lady and had great luck with all my plants. (And I have the baskets to prove it!) Now, I rely on preserved boxwood for my green (and I am obsessed with boxwood!) as this home allows very few spaces for plants to grow. It is not a super dark home but is situated to where the light does not hit the best places for plants. I am going to give a few big ones a go again (trying to "finish" the house) but for the last four years only one spot has allowed an ivy to grow. :(

  14. I just did a post on how to care for plants this week. I love them too. I have a few English ivy, which I keep away from my cats because they can be harmful. I have a few more, but not as many as you. My house is tiny! But I agree, January is the time I feel like adding more plants to my home. I guess because it's the closest we have to greenery until spring comes!

  15. I know your plant by the sink as Baby's Tears. It's my favorite. I get so tired of plants because a lot of them last FOREVER....we have a Christmas cactus that was a slip from my hubby's grandma that will never die....unfortunately. :)

  16. You might want to consider these plants as well : Peace Lily, Snake Plant (aka Mother-in-laws tongue) Asparagus fern (many grow these in outdoor planters, but are great indoors) and the philodendron ( I like the heart shaped leaf variety). Good luck

  17. Your plants look like they are liking their home! You have some beautiful ones. I have been the crazy plant lady for years, I used to have over 200 house plants (most of them went in the garden in the summer) but I have cut back, giving many of them away. Working in a garden centre for years cost me money! The plant in the terrarium looks like String of Hearts.
    Debbie :)

  18. Grass is supposed to be good for cats. Our cats are strictly indoor but one of them makes a beeline for any open door, and that's always where she goes, to the green grass. Now we have some in a plastic cup that my daughter planted at a birthday party (don't know what variety but I added some fescue seeds to it later) and the same cat loves to chew on it. The nice thing is that it keeps growing and her lawn mowing doesn't mar its appearance. I love the visual texture and may plant more to place strategically (whatever that means) around the house. (The other cat leaves plants alone but chews on any plastic that's available to her -- are you going to do a post on the plastic around your house next?)

  19. Your plants look great! I have a hard time keeping plants alive too. I have spider plants right now too, but my Mister just loves munching on them if I don't keep them hanging, but he's a weird cat. He has no interest in catnip...

  20. My spider plant was killed (erm, forgot to bring it in before winter) because if I keep it indoors the cat goes crazy on it...and then I'm cleaning up little piles of green cat hork. Succulents are where it's at (though unsure of cat-friendly). Those bad boys can survive outside all winter and multiply like crazy the next spring.

  21. I see several people have suggested either pothos or philodendron. Both are toxic. Although I have pothos and a cat that has chewed it up a number of times and is still ok, so it may not be a toxic as they say it is. (or it may be that this devil cat is indestructible) BTW, a couple of the plants you're calling palms look like dracenas to me.(next to the fireplace and on top of the bookshelf)

    1. Those are both pony tail palms (small and big) -- the dracaena are toxic so I have to avoid those. That's the thing -- so many are labeled toxic and the most they will do to most cats is make them throw up, I think it depends on the cat for some varieties.

    2. Oh yes, I can see that the one one the bookshelf looks like a pony tail palm. The other one is a little harder to tell, but they both look lovely. I have had dracaenas in the past (both marginatas and corn plants) and the cats ate them, too. I didn't know they were supposed to be toxic! They've also eaten my poinsettias and all the cut flowers my husband ever got me! I love having lots of house plants, but I have very few spots with a combination of good light and being inaccessible to my marauding cats. About the only place I can have plants or flowers is on the kitchen counter behind the sink.

  22. Hi Sarah!!!

    Where's the money on your money tree? I just had to say this!!!!!!

    The money Tree is the one that does really well in our home. Did you take the tie off? I've been wanting to take mine away, but, worried it would unravel itself. I'm shocked that the various plants I have, are still alive. Plants always die on me. My son says that it takes little time for a plant to die in our house!!!

    Great post!!!!!


  23. I have to give you the green thumb award!! I am impressed. I used to have a green thumb but then it turned brown. It could be because I got so angry with the pots running over, soaking the carpet or hardwood floors that I said DIE you mangy plants because I'll get silk. I know that sounds terrible but we started traveling and I did manage to find good people to adopt my plants. Now unfortunately we just have to satisfy our green craving for outdoor plants. You've done a great job.

  24. I struggle with houseplants as well, but wondering if perhaps there is just not enough sunlight in our tiny home? The ones I do have always seem to have a mildew-y smell to the soil, and I seriously don't water them much at all :(

    Total side note: have you thought about changing your pics on your header? Now that your house has freshened up quite a bit...just a thought :)


  25. Had to laugh when reading this post. We had two cats, male and female; that have long since past over the Rainbow Bridge. The male did not care about plants. The female, however; would eat anything live brought into the house. Roses seemed to be her favorite. We would put plants on top of shelves, built-in shelves mind you; and she would find a way to climb up and eat them. We came home several times to a beautiful vase of rose stems! She would eat the spider plants down the dirt!!!!! She managed to climb a built in shelving unit by our front door in one house, stretch enough to reach the hanging pot and eat the WHOLE spider plant! I finally said no more plants. Maybe it's time to try some plants in the house again.

  26. My cat's a terrible plant eater. Pretty much anything with leaves is fair games. I LOVE having houseplants, too! That first palm you mentioned (the one under the cloche) is called a Japanese birds' nest fern. I love how the tiny fiddle heads in the center look like tiny eggs :) I have one reeeeally high up on a shelf and it's survived my cat's machinations.

  27. My cat likes to eat plants, but the real issue is that he REALLY likes to knock them over and spill dirt everywhere. Sigh. The only place he can't reach them is on top of the bookshelves, so I'm limited in how many plants I can have at one time. I leave them outside all summer and shove some up on top of the bookshelves and bring others into my office in the winter.

  28. frankie my siamese thinks the plants are his buddies he sits by my jade plant in the window and gets mad if I move it. He tried loving on my sons cactus and got a rude awakening pretty much leaves it alone now. An idea I've had for awhile can't find one a birdcage and put a plant in there would love to have a croton in the house. Love your plants and your decor so beautiful

  29. Love the little plants on the window sill. The bigger plants, (Money Tree's) are one of my favorites too. If you really want them to grow, you have to change the pot. They will only grow as large as the pot will allow. They will get root rot if you keep them in a smaller pot. It is really easy to do. Also, with a ficus, Once you place it somewhere in your house and it does well, you can't move it. They will die. They don't like to be moved. Love fresh green plants. I use to have a lot but I got sick of watering and feeding them. I gave all but one away. Now, I am bringing a few back in. I know, I am crazy!! :)

  30. You could try a mid-size birds' nest fern, a large bromeliad or maybe a tall corn plant? The corn plant, if tall enough, won't have accessible leaves for the cats and is rated a great air cleaner.

  31. Lovely post! I love having lots of greenery in the house. Ferns, bromeliads and moss tend to do well with lots of indirect sunlight. Why not try a terrarium with these plants in that corner?

  32. I've killed quite a few (many!) plants over the years and it is quite frustrating since I love having them around the casa. I guess I have one of those black thumb. A lovely lady over at the Home Depot garden center told me about the ZZ plant. It is beautiful, evergreen with shiny leaves and the best part, it thrives in little water and little to no direct sunlight. I've had mine for about 6 months and it had sprouted new stems already. My husband jokes that I finally have a plant that thrives in neglect. Perfection!

  33. Thank GAWD I am not the only one with this issue LOL! I can grow anything outside but bring it in and its dead within a month or so. I have 6 cats that like to munch on everything and too many windows in my house that plants don't plants basically come to my house to die ;) I have found that Christmas Cactus and Fig plants are some of the only ones I can have...but they have to be on stands where the cats can't chomp away. So I have some faux plants which I know is a faux pas but what's a girl to do????

  34. A plant for the Houseplant Corner of Death:
    Dracaena Janet Craig

    We lived in an apartment for two years with this plant. It never got sunlight, the room was never even bright from reflected sun, and it did great. Now we're in a sunny place with it and it's sure growing a lot faster, but the point is: if it can survive the apartment we called "The Cave" it can live in that pretty little corner.


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