Plants and pet companions: How to choose one that won't kill the other

The millennial love of house plants and their equal devotion to their pets is summed up in the number one question that Eric Gibson hears from visitors to his Edmonton plant shop.

Will this one kill my fur-baby?

“People who come in, they’re most concerned about toxic plants. Like, it’s our number one question: ‘I don’t want to poison my little four-legged friend so help me find plants that are going to be low-maintenance and safe for our pets,'” Gibson, co-owner of Little Plant Shop, told CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM on Monday.

As it turns out, a few classic houseplant trends are keys to the safe co-existence of plants and pets in the residential jungle.

Species like ferns, spider plants and the easy-to-grow pothos vine — “the ones your grandma has had for 30 years” — are pet-safe. 

As well, plant stands, terrariums and the macrame plant hanger, a favourite of the 1960s and ’70s, are great techniques for keeping plants out of nibbling range, he added.

Gibson and his wife Sara Gies have been working in the horticulture industry since 2005, him at the Muttart Conservatory and her at the University of Alberta greenhouses. Three years ago, they opened their plant store on Whyte Avenue, which recently relocated to 8116 Gateway Blvd.

Preferred plants

Gibson attributes the millennial love of plants and pets to growing environmental consciousness combined with slower forays to buying homes and having families.

“Millennials are definitely jumping on board,” he said.

“It’s an inexpensive hobby where they just surround themselves in a jungle…That’s like my wife and I. We have a dog and a cat and a jungle in the house.”

Luna, their golden retriever, is a regular fixture at the shop and fortunately, said Gibson, she doesn’t nibble.

When it comes to choosing safe plants, “it’s about 50/50,” he said.

“A lot of the trendy ones are toxic, like fiddle leaf figs and monsteras. But there’s tons like peperomias, the Chinese money plant, the watermelon peperomia, they’re safe,” he said.

Other pet safety tips include quarantining new plants — even if they’re non-toxic — for a number of weeks away from pets to allow the pesticides to  break down, as well as picking up some safe snackers like cat grass or catnip.

For their own living space, Gibson and Gies lean toward plants that are lush and easy to grow.  

“Because in the middle of winter when it’s minus 30, you just want to surround yourself in the easy ones that are low maintenance, good air purifiers and add lots of humidity.”

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