This is why we can't have nice things - plant edition
September 11, 2016 9:48 PM   Subscribe

I have a perfect space for a potted plant on my living room floor that gets lots of light. Unfortunately (for the plant, and my sanity), I also have a very, um, active toddler. Are there magical ways I could pot a plant so that he doesn't, say, pour dirt all over my living room floor, or, um, eat all the wood chips, or something? Bonus points for best (and hardy) suggestions for a type of big potted plant that will be beautiful to me and utterly uninteresting and non-toxic to my child. Thanks!
posted by andreapandrea to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Out of the box thought from a non-parent: Is there a chance that if your little boy helps you pick out the plant, and maybe helps you plant it in a nice pot that he might take ownership of the plant and not be out to destroy it? He can help water it and take care of it...
posted by hydra77 at 9:51 PM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would consider a hanging plant. If you don' have a sturdy cross beam to put your hook into, you could look at a free- standing plant hanger (just put in place where it won't be easy to knock over)
posted by metahawk at 9:57 PM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, I looked into this recently because I have a cat who thinks all pots of dirt or wood chips are litterboxes.

You can get a wooden box or crate, and drill a hole in the middle of the lid (or put it upside down and drill into the middle of the bottom) that is big enough for your plant's stem or trunk. Then plant into a pot as usual, but put the pot inside the crate, or turn the crate upside down over the pot. You have to use a plant that starts off narrow enough either at the top or at the roots that you can insert it through the hole, but then it can grow bigger once inserted, and you only have to make sure the hole stays wide enough for the stem/stalk/trunk, plus for the spout of a watering can or something to water into the hole too.

The short term solution, which is what I'm doing while looking for the right crate, is to tape tinfoil over the top of the pot, with a hole for the plant to come through. Tinfoil because cats don't like the feeling. Toddlers might like the shiny, so I'd go with something more boring like cardboard (which you could paint a nice colour and cut to fit the top of the pot exactly if you wanted it to be a medium term solution.)
posted by lollusc at 10:09 PM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

We just tape a double layer of bird netting over the top of the pot to keep our kitten out. I can also no longer reach the soil, it's pretty effective. Netting lets the soil breathe, unlike cardboard etc that can cause fungal problems. Plus it's difficult to see so isn't ugly.
posted by shelleycat at 10:14 PM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would have said "chicken wire" but bird netting might work, too.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:32 PM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

In addition to the above, my 2yr old has easy access to a decoy pot: I big wide-mouthed one full of soil that's "his" to drive dump trucks through. I think hanging plants and bird netting are good too.
posted by jrobin276 at 11:13 PM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you actually tested this out? I was freaked out about stuff like "how do I babyproof the Xmas tree" only because I had read too much twaddle informing me that all tots thrill to taking your favourite ornaments and smashing them, right up to the point where the tree falls on them and kills them and a beloved relative standing nearby, etc.

It took maybe one explanation of "Tree! Christmas tree. Very pretty, and, Christmas tree is NOT TOY. Not safe!" and after that I resolved to not bungee-cord the damn thing to the wall the next year. ("Not toy" followed by "Here you go -- toy!" with a toy in hand was my default phrasing and it got to the point where I got a quizzical look over every new thing and knew I had to say "toy" or "not toy" in response...)

Plus, it's kind of good for them to eat some dirt and potting soil will not have the animal-poo-bad-bacteria risks of outdoor dirt. To back this up with anecdata, I let my kid eat sand, crayons, cat treats off a perennially dirty part of the floor, and more, and she's robustly healthy.

(I have houseplants, I grew up in a near-greenhouse of them as the oldest of four; you might need to get out a vacuum once, but that'll be years from now when the kid plays ball indoors with friends. Plants are all over the place outdoors; I just don't think they're that interesting to the majority of small children -- I'd just get what I liked and put it there without worry. You probably let him explore in parks without scouring a guide to local weeds to find out what is and is not poisonous. Most plants taste like hell; they're just not alluring...wait, I know! Pick a plant based on how awful the leaves taste if your kid really is a chew-anything-and-everything type!)
posted by kmennie at 12:24 AM on September 12, 2016 [6 favorites]

I have previously suggested plant in birdcage in response to similar questions.
posted by Bruce H. at 2:59 AM on September 12, 2016

I recommend some type of tree, with leaves safely out of reach. We have a fiddleleaf fern, and we put a layer of large rocks above the soil. It's survived 3 babies and 3 cats thus far.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:35 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here's a list of plants that are safe for kids and pets.
Here are toxic plants; in particular, avoid oleander.
Ficus plants are not usually listed as toxic, but I pruned a Ficus Benjamina and got painful blisters where the sap touched my skin, even though I washed my hands right afterwards. Turns out Ficus sap is a known irritant- so I wouldn't want one near a kid.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:36 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

There is a pot so big that your toddler cannot tip it over when it is filled with soil and plant.

Aspect ratio and weight both come in to play, I'm thinking 20 gallons or so should work.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:48 AM on September 12, 2016

Some large-growing indoor plants that are also non-toxic (to the best of my ability to verify) and non-sharp:

Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk Island pine1)
Beaucarnea recurvata (ponytail palm)
Chamaedorea spp. including C. elegans (parlor palm), C. cataractum (cat palm), C. seifrizii (bamboo palm2), C. metallica (metallica palm)
Coffea arabica (coffee tree)3
Cordyline fruticosa (ti plant)
Crassula ovata (jade plant)4
Ensete / Musa spp. (ornamental banana)5
Rhapis excelsa (lady palm)

(hanging plants:)
Aeschynanthus spp., including A. lobbianus (lipstick plant), A. longicaulis, A. radicans (also lipstick plant), and A. speciosus (goldfish plant)
Hoya spp., including H. carnosa and H. lacunosa (wax plant, wax flower)
Cissus rhombifolia (grape ivy, oakleaf ivy)
Saxifraga stolonifera (strawberry begonia)6
Tradescantia pallida (purple heart), T. spathacea (moses in the cradle) and T. zebrina (wandering jew, inch plant)7

The easiest from the first set is probably either Beaucarnea (if you're a neglectful waterer), Rhapis (if you're a responsible waterer), or Coffea (if you tend to overwater).

Easiest of the hanging plants is not even a contest: definitely Tradescantia pallida.


1 (is from Norfolk Island; is not a pine)
2 (is a palm; is not a bamboo)
3 May be / probably is toxic to dogs (though we have several and our dog doesn't bother them)
4 (though leaves do get knocked off easily, so maybe not the best choice with an active toddler)
5 I do not personally find bananas to be easy to grow indoors; YMMV.
6 (is neither a strawberry nor a begonia)
7 Tradescantia sap causes mild skin irritation in a small number of people.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 6:17 PM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

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