Succulents are a fantastic way to introduce greenery indoors, and for a lot of people, succulents have almost become green pets.
While caring for our green pets is incredibly rewarding and satisfying, one thing that is easy to forget, and dangerous to do so, is the fact that succulents can be poisonous to our pets of the more conventional variety.
It’s probably one of the farthest things from our minds when it comes to choosing plants, but it should be one of the first.
Picking the right succulents can be a little overwhelming to say the least, with the countless cultivars available, and new hybrids being developed all the time.
Factor in the specific requirements of each plant that would suit your home, including light levels, temperature, how often you want to care for them, and you’ll soon discover that there’s a lot to consider.
That’s without considering which succulents are safe for pets, regardless of whether you think your pets will be curious about your new plants or not.
One of the natural defenses in a succulent’s arsenal is plant tissue that is irritant, or toxic if ingested, to protect their precious foliage from being eaten, which would harm their chances of survival in the wild.
While some succulents may look absolutely harmless, they are quite the opposite. It’s worth knowing that there are certain succulent plants that you should avoid completely if you have pets, as it’s just not worth the risk.
We’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know about those succulent plants you should avoid if you have pets.
Adenium obesum ‘Desert Rose’
Commonly trained as an indoor bonsai tree (see also Pachira Bonsai Tree Guide for another option) which blooms spectacularly, the desert rose or Adenium obesum is very dangerous and must be handled with caution, especially if you have children or pets in your household.
Also known as the mock azalea, Sabi Star, or the Impala Lily, this plant is a member of the Apocynaceae plant family, literally meaning ‘Dog Away’ in Greek, or the dogbane plant family.
Don’t let its lovely appearance of a thick, tree-like succulent trunk and pink flowers lull you into a false sense of security, as the milky sap within this plant is toxic to humans and animals.
Just coming into contact with the sap, by wounding the plant, causes blistering. Signs of your pet eating part of this plant will include vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, and blistering in the mouth and throat.
You probably associate aloe vera with its cooling and moisturizing effects on the skin, especially helpful for sunburn, rashes, and other ailments.
But you might be surprised to see aloe vera on this list, for that reason. Well, what you’ll get commercially is worlds-apart different to what’s in the leaves of the plant.
When used in cosmetics, the actual amount of aloe vera is much smaller, and it has been purified. If you do want to keep an aloe vera plant for its aloe juice to use topically, you’ll need to dilute it, otherwise it can cause irritation.
The plant is fairly toxic if ingested, too. Cats, dogs, and horses will suffer if they eat it, as the sap contains saponins and anthraquinones, causing diarrhea, lethargy, and vomiting.
The small spines covering the succulent leaves of an aloe isn’t always enough to protect it from curious mouths, either, so be careful to keep it out of reach.
Bryophyllum daigremontianum ‘Mother of Millions’
One of the most striking succulents you can grow, Bryophyllum daigremontianum ‘Mother of Millions’ really lives up to its name, producing a huge number of new plantlets on the edges of every leaf.
Each plantlet is capable of growing into a new mother of millions if it hits the soil when it falls, which means in quite a few places it is classified as invasive when grown outdoors.
This characteristic along with its hardiness is also what succulent collectors prize in this plant, as it has a very interesting appearance, with each leaf bearing hundreds of tiny plants.
Unfortunately, its unusual looks do attract pets and children, which isn’t ideal as the plant is toxic, containing chemicals that can affect the heart, as well as causing mouth pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and dizziness, among others.
Cotyledon tomentosa ‘Bear’s Paw’
One of the cutest succulents on this list, Cotyledon tomentosa, features unique leaves that look like bear paws, covered in fine hair. You can also get variegated versions to really bring out the shape of the leaves.
A big downside to the bear’s paw succulent is that it isn’t as robust as other types, traveling poorly, and losing leaves easily. Another reason, as you’ve probably guessed, is that the plant itself is toxic.
The striking foliage contains bufadienolides, which causes quite a bit of trouble to livestock, humans, and pets. Potentially, these chemicals can cause heart failure, tremors, excessive drooling, and apathy.
In their natural habitat, it’s a big problem for cattle poisoning causing paralysis, and dogs that eat affected meat, even after the meat has been cooked, can be similarly affected.
Crassula ovata ‘Jade Plant’
One of the most popular succulents, the jade plant or money tree (see also Jade Plant Types), is grown across the world. It can survive in most indoor environments without an issue, often cultivated into a bonsai tree or large shrub, but what you do need to be mindful of is the toxicity of this plant.
As it is a member of the Crassulaceae plant family, the jade plant shares some of the toxicity found within this plant group.
It is toxic to horses, dogs and cats, and will cause you some trouble if you manage to get the sap on your skin. On contact, it will cause itching or burning.
In terms of pet toxicity, signs include lots of drooling, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, and lethargy, aggression or sudden shyness. And that’s if the amount they’ve ingested is very little.
If your pet ingests bigger quantities, or they are more susceptible, signs of poisoning include a weaker pulse, convulsions, or their movement being impaired.
Euphorbia milii ‘Crown of Thorns’
If there’s one type of plant you should stay away from if you have pets or children, it’s euphorbia. All plants within the euphorbia genus contain toxins in their sap, and the risk just isn’t worth it.
You can get euphorbias which are grown as houseplants (see also Euphorbia Lactea Care Guide), and those which are usually grown outside.
In terms of the crown of thorns euphorbia, you’ll notice it by its thick, woody stems, leathery succulent leaves and crimson bracts.
Unfortunately, the thorns growing on this plant isn’t always a good enough deterrent, and the sap causes skin irritation.
It will blister the vulnerable parts of the mouth and stomach, causing intense pain, vomiting, drooling, weakness, and swelling if it is ingested.
Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Pencil Cactus’
Technically a succulent, the pencil cactus, or Euphorbia tirucalli, is a fast-growing, spindly-looking plant which can add interest into any bright corner of your home.
That is, a pet-free home. The pencil cactus, like all members of the euphorbia plant family, contains dangerous sap which acts as just one of the plant’s defenses against being eaten (see also Plants That Rabbits Won’t Eat).
When the plant is injured, it oozes this sap to both protect the wound and to fend off further attack.
When ingested, it will cause immediate stomach pain, blistering, burning in the eyes if there’s contact, eyesight damage, mouth injuries, and more.
Euphorbia Trigona ‘African Milk Tree’
A very easy to care for succulent, notable for its unusual leaves forming along the ridges of the main stems, the euphorbia trigona is another plant to avoid if you have pets, or even children in your household.
The latex sap contained in this plant will cause immediate irritation when it comes into contact with the skin, burning sensations and blurred vision in the eyes, and blistering in the mouth and throat, as well as stomach pain, among other ailments.
Kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Panda Plant’
It is probably a little ironic that the succulents that are among the cutest, often resembling animals to some degrees, are also the ones that are toxic.
Along with the bear’s paw succulent, another plant to watch out for is the panda plant, or Kalanchoe tomentosa.
The panda plant is similar to the bear’s paw succulent in that the foliage is covered in a fine, silvery down, with dark red raised areas on the edges of the leaves, looking like paws.
Unfortunately, the panda plant will cause a whole host of problems to both people and animals, including tremors, life-threatening heart problems, dizziness, and vomiting.
Kalanchoe blossfeldiana ‘Flaming Katy’
Grown across the world as a prolific flowering houseplant, this kalanchoe can be very harmful if it is ingested, like all plants in the kalanchoe genus.
The flowers, unfortunately, have the most toxicity, so keep this plant away from pets or children.
In most cases, this will lead to an upset stomach, but that’s not to say that this plant isn’t incredibly dangerous if large amounts are eaten, as it can cause heart problems, too.
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Mother in Law’s Tongue’
One of the most popular succulent plants to have in the home, the snake plant (see also How To Care For Snake Plants), or mother in law’s tongue adds a lot of interest and architectural beauty indoors.
It’s also quite dangerous if it’s ingested. Dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, and a numbing sensation in the tongue and throat are just some of the potential problems.
Senecio mandraliscae ‘Blue Chalk Sticks’
Great as part of a rockery or a ground cover in warm climates, the blue chalk sticks succulent is also very striking when kept indoors.
But you’ll need to avoid it if you have pets or children, as the sap of the plant can cause any number of problems, including diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and liver damage.
Senecio rowleyanus ‘String of Pearls’
All plants from the Senecio genus are curious succulents, grown for their unusual leaves. The string of pearls is no exception, but its beauty is also its downfall.
All plants in the senecio genus are harmful to pets, such as the string of dolphins (see also String Of Dolphins Guide), the string of bananas, and the string of pearls, and its unusual appearance can act like a magnet.
The sap within the string of pearls is harmful to humans and pets, but particularly dogs. Signs of poisoning include pain, inflammation, diarrhea, and even liver failure.