As much as I love plants, I've never had many for two reasons: I'm terrible at keeping them alive and I have pets. A lot of plants are either toxic to my cats or they just require too much maintenance. Recently, though, I vowed to finally bring some greenery into my space without poisoning my pets. Here are some solid options I found. Illustration by Fruzsina Kuhári.
The key is to just find a few plants that fit your criteria, then stick to them. The following options are all considered non-toxic for pets according to the ASPCA, and a few of them are even great for purifying your air.
No doubt you've seen the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum). My neighbour had some on his balcony, and they seemed to grow quickly. He gave me a couple of pots, and they grew faster than I could keep up with, despite the fact that I rarely watered them. They're also great for indoor air cleaning, according to NASA's Clean Air study.
According to SOS Plant Care, spider plants need a fair amount of water, but they also need to dry out between watering. They add that spider plants do well in most light conditions and temperatures, which means that "you can put it just about anywhere and it will be fine". In other words, it's the perfect houseplant if you have trouble keeping plants alive. They're good accent plants, and they work well in hanging baskets, too.
If you're looking for something more tree-like and have a fair amount of space, the areca palm, (Dypsis lutescens) is an easy option. It's another plant that offers better indoor air quality, too.
According to Home Guides, areca palms can eventually grow into a fairly large indoor tree (1.8m-2.1m tall). They offer a word of caution: you can't prune these back without the risk of damaging or killing them, so consider the tree's potential height when picking a container size.
They also like bright, indirect light (a south- or west-facing window is recommended), and the soil should completely dry out between waterings, so you probably shouldn't be watering them more than once a week, if that.
The bamboo palm (Chamaedorea elegans) is another air-purifying plant on NASA's list. It's also considered to be a relatively easy plant to grow indoors, which makes it a popular houseplant. Gardening Know How says you can keep them in bright or indirect sunlight, and here's what they suggest for watering:
Bamboo palm plants do not take a great deal of time or energy to care for. Water the palm, using room temperature filtered water, when the soil surface feels dry. Water the plant until the soil is evenly moist. Do not overwater the palm plant or leave it sitting in water. Check often to be sure that the plant is draining properly.
These are great statement plants for decorating, too, as they can grow up to 3m-3.6m high with a width of 0.9m-1.5m.
Boston ferns do well in high humidity with indirect light, and for that reason, we've suggested hanging ferns in the bathroom. The atmosphere ensures they get the humidity they need, and most bathrooms aren't too bright. In short, you have just the right conditions for hands-off maintenance.
If you decide to put your fern in an environment with low humidity, Gardening Know How suggests misting it a couple of times a week or setting it in a tray of pebbles and water.
You'd think all succulents are easy to care for, but as someone who's killed several cacti (who knew they could actually droop?), I can tell you: some are easier than others. I've had quite a bit of luck with echeveria, though. They're drought-tolerant, meaning you never really have to water them, and they also tolerate other extreme temperatures, including frost. For proper care, however, make sure they plenty of light and keep their soil moist.
It's a versatile plant for decorating, too, because it comes in a variety of sizes and colours. Plus, it just looks pretty. Like a lot of succulents, you can also cut their offshoots and grow new plants from the clippings.
The Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea Recurvata) is another interesting option for home decor. It's actually a succulent that happens to look like a palm, with a thick trunk and long, thin leaves.
The trunk actually stores water, so it can go for quite a long time without a proper watering, and according to Almanac.com, in winter you only need to water it occasionally. It does best in bright light, but it can do well in pretty much any lighting conditions, as Gardening Know How explains:
Technically, a ponytail palm tree needs bright light, but because it is such a forgiving plant, it will be ok if you give it bright light about half the time. In fact, if you keep it in low light conditions half the year and provide bright light conditions the other half the year, it will be perfectly happy. This means that as long as you place it outdoors in the summer, it will tolerate any indoor light conditions you keep it in during the winter.
It's an ideal option if you're looking for a small indoor tree, as it grows up to 1m tall. They also work well as accent plants, though, as you can see in the above picture.
If you're a pet owner and you're looking for low-maintenance plants that won't poison your pets, these should offer some versatile options. They're also fairly common, so you shouldn't have trouble finding them at your local garden centre.