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Best plants for cats- 2 surprises and 10 plants

Have been doing research for a customer who wants to create a safe place on her balcony for Taco the cat. The kitty must not fall off the balcony- so he needs structure-and he needs cat safe plants to play with, chew and lounge in. And I'm avoiding the ubiquitous 'cat grass' because I know you have some already. But have you thought about tall ornamental grasses? that would be nice. Most grasses are cat safe.

In the process of this exploration I had a thought- why stop your cats eating your plants?

why not grow plants specifically to be eaten by them?

My biggest discoveries:

  • Many of the plants I thought safe for people are toxic for cats- for example, Lavender. Cats are really different!

  • Any plant is toxic to cats if it is treated with a pesticide so avoid chemicals.

so in light of this information here are my top ten plants safe for your cats. They are also safe for kids and dogs and for you. Some are downright edible. Like...

1 Calendula

You and your cat will enjoy these. Grow from seed- it's the cheapest way to grow.

You can also buy small plants in their Spring season but seed is best.

Sow in pots or freely in the soil. This is an adaptable annual plant that likes well draining compost mixed with sand.

Loves good sun. It's very simple to save the seeds from your Calendula flowers when they dry out in late Summer and you can keep this seed for the next Season.

You can also start plants in Late Summer and they will overwinter well in warmer areas as small plants.

You can sow this any time from April. The flower petals are spicy in rice and salads.

Eat fresh off the plant as soon as you pick them.

Cut off fading flowers unless you are saving them for seed- in which case let them complete their life cycle and let them dry on the plant until they are crispy.

If you are not saving the seeds cut off faded flowers. This helps promote further flowering. Big Tubs of these look amazing. Loads of shades of orange, yellow, white in single and double petal forms.

This flower has healing powers for people too- it is often used as an ingredient in skin care creams because extracts from the flowers reduce inflammation.

I look forward to meeting these again this Spring-they come up in my garden wether I want them to or not!

2 Cat nip

Catnip of course! catnip is a fast and aggressive grower and can quickly spread throughout the landscape if not kept in check. I think of this as a wonderful feature because this means the plant is tough. You can grow it easily in containers and Berlin sand-keep it dry!

It is considered invasive in a couple of spots in the United States.

It will reach its mature size in a single season and should be planted in the spring.

Note that, while many cats enjoy catnip, the oils of the plant are technically toxic to them, a bit like people loving coffee- and not as bad as cigarettes! I've heard that neutered cats are not so affected by the scent, in my experience this is true. Most will take a small roll in it before getting bored and wandering off.

3 Boston Fern

Cat safe perennial houseplant that does not do well in changes of temperature. Prefers high humidity so a bathroom would be great for it as long as it doesn’t get too cold at night from an open window.

Needs watering and feeding often. Remove dead leaves regularly or plant can look ragged. I use it here as an example to represent many similar ferns for indoors that would also work well for you. Most TRUE ferns are safe for cats. Avoid fern 'look-a-likes' that look like ferns but are actually in different plant families- they might be toxic.

Consider growing a variety of ferns in one large container for more impact. Appreciates water retentive compost high in organic matter. Most ferns are forest dwellers so bear this in mind when choosing a place for it- indirect sun, high humidity and stable temperature.

4 Rosemary

Hardy perennial. Provide Rosemary with well-drained, sandy soil and at least six to eight hours of sunlight.

Provide it with enough space for its roots. Prefers to remain on the dry side.

Terracotta pots are a good choice when selecting suitable containers as they allow the plant to dry out.

Thoroughly water Rosemary plants when first planting and then allow the plants to dry out between waterings.

Requires lots of light so place the plant in a suitable sunny location. Prune back every couple of years when the plant shows signs of reduced vigour.

Feed every second year and top dress with new mulch and compost. Choosing a creeping variety so it cascades over edge of pot, it's beautiful for you and for cats!

5 Peperomia

This indoor plant species grows across the northern parts of South America such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, and Bolivia. The above is a beautiful 'Water melon' Peperomia, so called because the pattern on the leaves looks a little like Water melon skin.

The watermelon peperomia is a semi-succulent. What this means is that you’ll water it less than your non-succulent plants yet more often than true succulent species.

Allow several inches of the watermelon peperomia’s soil to dry out. If the soil feels dry about two or three inches deep then it's time to water.

When you do provide water to the plant, you want to be generous about the amount you give. That goes double if you live in a warm climate. Water a lot during warm seasons, then scale back during Winter.

6 Bromeliads

Bromeliads are a diverse group of tropical looking plants that are easy to care for even though they look really weird and complicated. With over 3000 different species in the bromeliad family there is one to suit any location indoors.

Some love full shade, while others thrive in sunny spots. They come in a range of colours, shapes and sizes.

All bromeliads are epiphytes which means they grow happily without soil - often in the branches of other plants or rockeries. Because of their shallow root systems, many bromeliads will also grow in shallow free draining soil too. It's a surprise to me that these are cat safe they look so odd and spiky!

7 Roses

Needs no introduction, but in Berlin needs plenty of water when grown in containers on hot balconies.

To help retain water in the soil around your roses in pots during the growing season, you need to apply some mulch to make them drought resistant. Mulch helps improve the soil’s ability to retain moisture long enough for the roses’ roots to absorb it.

The best kind of mulch for conserving moisture are grass clippings, dried horse manure, leaf mould, and compost. Personally, I love using leaf-mould for my roses in pots because it has a very good quality to hold onto water, and to prevent the soil around your plants from completely drying out. I know manure is probably something you do not want to use on your balcony but it's wonderful stuff.

On balconies the best choice as a mulch is Rindemulch. (Bark chippings)

Keep in mind that mulches also add nutrients to the potting soil, are beneficial for the soil ecosystem, and improve soil structure, which in turn will benefit your roses. If you want to achieve the best results you should apply mulch at the beginning of spring as the temperatures are starting to rise so that you can make sure the rose is more resistant to high temperatures and drought.

8 Sunfower

A wonderful annual flower easily grown from seed, safe for everyone, cats included.

The only problem when grown on balconies is the height- tends to get caught by the wind and the pots blow over so grow in a heavy container if you are growing it on your balcony.

You can also grow mini varieties. They are always best grown from seed.

Fun for kids and a lovely sheltering back drop for cats. Cats can also eat the sprouts. Did you know the sprouts are also delicious for people? My Sisters neighbour sells them in their apartment block and people buy them to use in salads and stir fries. There are always people going up and down the stairs touting sprouts.

Try sprouting your own seeds- it's easy in shallow trays of perlite or compost. When grown outside self seeds freely and will grow much taller than when grown it in pots.

9 Cornflower

Lovely annual available in many colours and easy to grow from seed. The original wild flower is blue, always blue and grows on the edge of corn fields.

You can get a packet of seed in the Euro shop for about 29 cents. Grow in containers from April onwards in well draining soil. It will last until the first frosts and also provide seeds you can grow on in the next year.

These flowers are great for attracting pollinating insects to your balcony like bees, butterflies and hover flies. Also I have seen beautiful gold finches feeding on the dry flower heads in September on my balcony, so leave these on the plant so birds can eat the seeds.

10 Strawberry

Wild strawberry forms a ground cover from just a couple of plants and provides tiny exquisite fruits and simple beautiful white flowers. Grows naturally under trees and in diverse habitats in sun or shade. Propagate new plants easily by removing ‘tentacles’ that sprout from the main plant and potting them on or simply lay the tentacle against soil and bury the stem section while retaining its connection to main plant. Will root from this into new plant. All strawberries are cat safe.

And thats it- I hope you find this information helpful.

For a full exhaustive list of what is safe and what is not safe I found this great list online: CAT PLANT/CAT POISON visit and take a look.

For help with any gardening problem take a look at the rest of this site at HOMEPAGE and feel welcome to message me, I am your friendly expat expert gardener in Berlin.

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1 commentaire

22 févr. 2023

Wonderful selection of plants! Will keep this post for reference.

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