When you spot a nice houseplant in a store, it’s very tempting to add it to your basket just because you like it, especially in the case of something as beautiful as the ZZ plant.
However, just because something is very easy to grow doesn’t mean that it should go home with you! Some of the easiest houseplants are also toxic to our beloved pets, and even to us.
Let’s take a look at the risks of toxicity in a ZZ plant.
Are ZZ Plants Toxic To Pets And Humans?
ZZ plants are fabulous because they survive in very low light levels, they are easy to care for (see also Ideal Soil For ZZ Plants), but unfortunately, they are toxic.
They belong to the Araceae plant family, which includes Philodendrons and Peace Lilies, and are quite dangerous if ingested.
The plant contains calcium oxalate crystals in the sap, which are a dangerous irritant, so you must not leave this plant in reach of children or pets.
While these crystals are microscopic, their sharp edges will irritate the mouth, lips, throat, and whole digestive system. They are capable of causing stomach upsets, sickness, and even life-threatening swelling that could lead to suffocation.
If you do want to prune a ZZ plant, be careful, as you will be letting the sap out of the plant (see also How To Propagate A ZZ Plant Through Leaf Propagation). It’s good practice to wear gloves while pruning any plant, and even when repotting, to ensure that you stay safe.
It’s also important to wash your hands after working with plants, otherwise, this can result in serious eye infections if you happen to rub your eyes with unclean hands.
How To Spot ZZ Plant Toxicity
If you think for a moment that a pet or someone has ingested part of the plant, you should contact a medical professional for advice. Signs of plant toxicity depend on the person, but here are some you might see:
- Nausea and diarrhea,
- The mouth, lips, tongue, or throat swelling
- Skin irritation
How To Keep Your Pets Safe From ZZ Plants
If you want to make sure there is zero chance of your pet ingesting a ZZ plant, simply don’t have one, as a ZZ plant is not recommended for households that have pets or children.
This is the only guaranteed method, but there are things you can do to limit the chances of your pets ingesting the plant.
Keep The Plant Way Out Of Reach
This one may seem obvious, but it can be difficult especially if you’re trying to keep your plants out of reach of cats.
While setting your plant on top of a cabinet will deter most dogs, it won’t do anything against cats.
One way to ensure that your pets or children cannot reach your plant is to keep it in a hanging pot, away from any enterprising paws or fingers.
Make Sure Your Pet Has Plenty Of Their Things To Chew On
Sometimes pets will pick some of your things to chew on when they don’t have enough interesting things of their own to nibble.
Keep Your Plant In A No-Pets-Allowed Room
This one is much easier to enforce than bouncing around several plants telling your pet off for not ignoring them.
Make sure this room has a door they can’t quickly push open, like a bedroom or bathroom. This might sound a little draconian, but it helps keep both your plants and your pets healthy, and you’ll also avoid having to replace any plants or fork out any expensive vet bills.
You might consider dedicating part of a room where your pets can’t go into a grow room so that you know that your pets can’t reach your plants.
Use A Natural Pet Repellent
As another layer of protection, you might use a citronella spray on the outside of the pot to stop pets from being too curious, but this can backfire!
The smell might attract your pets if they are keen enough, rather than just ignoring the plant outright.
As long as you keep your ZZ plants completely out of reach, perhaps in a room that you know your pets can’t break into, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have ZZ plants.
If you are worried, or your pets actively like to chomp on plants, however, it does pay to have houseplants that are considered completely non-toxic to put your mind at ease.