Make my small, dark, warm space into a non-toxic jungle!
November 15, 2008 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Make my small, dark, warm apartment into a non-toxic jungle!

I'm looking for a houseplant or two (or ten) to liven up my small apartment, but have run into some snags. Namely, no direct light, fairly high warmth (the apt. is above the boiler room - toasty!), and two curious kitties who get into EVERYTHING and despite my best efforts will probably be getting at least a good nibble from whatever plants I bring into the place, if not mowing them down completely.

I've been doing some research, but most plants I've found that can tolerate low light and warmth well are also toxic to cats. For instance, philodendrons are out. I have a fairly green thumb and I'm not picky at this point - anything green would be an improvement. Suggestions?
posted by Knicke to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
My cats have never shown any interest in my jade plants, which I believe is not particularly toxic either. The leaves are too chunky for them to care about nibbling on them though. The apartments I've lived in also weren't the sunniest places either and the jade plants have lived for many years.
posted by stefnet at 12:08 PM on November 15, 2008

Perhaps you could make or buy your own terrarium? Here are some instructions for a low light terrarium and here's a cute example from etsy. Then again, would your kitties knock something like that over?
posted by cucumberfresh at 1:23 PM on November 15, 2008

Bamboo. I've had one for 3 years and haven't managed to kill it yet, so I'd imagine it's pretty hardy. According to the sites I've looked at, it's non-toxic to animals.
posted by lemonwheel at 1:25 PM on November 15, 2008

Bamboo. [...] it's non-toxic to animals.

As long as it's really bamboo and not "lucky bamboo", which is commonly sold as "bamboo" and is toxic to cats. (We bought a couple of these from Ikea before realizing what they were; they're out of the reach of our furry ninjas right now, but I'll trash them in a heartbeat if I ever find the cats on the fireplace mantle and expressing interest in them.)
posted by korpios at 1:32 PM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks for catching that, korpios, I read it on the sites I was looking at after I posted.
posted by lemonwheel at 1:41 PM on November 15, 2008

Aquarium? A small tank with a lighted hood, some live plants and a couple of fish. It would provide some light, some greenery, and some amusement for the kitties.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 1:54 PM on November 15, 2008

What about hanging plants? That way the kitties can't get to them.
posted by at 2:17 PM on November 15, 2008

A CFL plant plant bulb hanging in an open-bottomed shade (for aesthetics) has allowed me to keep a wide range of plants happy in dark corners during winter. That could open up your options quite a bit.
posted by bunji at 2:53 PM on November 15, 2008

What about hanging plants? That way the kitties can't get to them., you are obviously not familiar with the famous feline 'leap of death'... If the OP goes down this road I would imagine that they will come home one day to find their hanging plant half-eaten, little puddles of green kitty puke arranged artfully all over the floor beneath it, and the cat mewling pitifully because it's stuck and it can't get down...
posted by Chairboy at 3:10 PM on November 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I distract my cats from the houseplants by giving them a 2' x 2' flat of wheat grass of their own. Supermarkets and pets stores sell 4" pots of wheat grass for ~$5, which is ridiculous when you can buy a pound of organic seed for the same price at any health food store and plant a series of indoor lawns.

Sansevieria zeylanica (Snake plant) is tolerant of low light conditions and has thick, tough (essentially) non-toxic sword-shaped leaves. I've had a dog chew one up but the cats tend to ignore it because they aren't very fun to chew.

Spathiphyllum wallisii (Mauna Loa, Peace Lily) is a fast growing, shade-tolerant tropical considered one of the best at removing indoor pollutants. It can cause mild stomach irritation if ingested though anecdotally I have several of these (some are 15+ years old) that get gnawed on daily and they haven't killed a cat yet. Some people are sensitive to the pollen in the flowers but you can cut those off as they come up (it's less likely to flower in low-light conditions). Despite the common name, it is not a true lily (true lilies are indeed quite toxic to cats) and the name confusion tends to land it on a lot of OMG Toxic! lists.
posted by jamaro at 7:26 PM on November 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

Ooh, seconding the snake plant. My mom has one of those (and it's been alive since I was wee) and anytime my cats were at her house, they showed no interest in it.
posted by stefnet at 7:46 PM on November 15, 2008

About the Peace Lily: It's on the ASPCA's Toxic Plant List.
posted by miscbuff at 9:47 PM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

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