Discovering More Joy in 2021 Through Plants and Pets

12/10/2020 | Ken Davis Christmas, Holiday, Houseplants, Winter

by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

We all know 2020 has been a wild ride physically, mentally, and emotionally. Being outdoors in the garden, on a trail, or simply watching a sunset on the back patio has been a stress releaser for many. I’ve helped so many new to gardening this year find a little joy in plants and gardening amid such stressful times.

2 Dogs and a Car in front of the Christmas Tree

Dr. Charlie Hall, Ellison Chair of International Floriculture at Texas A & M, has documented the benefits to people of plants, gardens, and improved landscapes for years. Looking ahead, it is pretty clear that many of the stresses we felt in 2020 will still be with us through spring 2021.

As we head indoors for winter, a gardener often feels isolated, confined to indoor spaces, and in need of the positive energy, only plants can bring. Caring for plants can be a welcomed escape, which in turn offers healing.  I find similar stress release when holding the many new kittens and puppies in our family and kissing my little granddaughter, Emily Rose:)

Be careful if you have babies of any kind when gardening indoors. Most plants are entirely safe, but some are toxic. For dog and cat lovers, some houseplants should not be in your homes. Cats and puppies instinctively like to nibble on greens, so choose houseplants with your pets well being in mind.

Provide safe edibles. One of the best strategies to divert pets from your houseplants is to provide them with their own edible plants. Plants that our feline friends love and are easy to grow from seed are cat grass, oats, wheatgrass, and catnip. So three of these ornamental grasses are nestled in my garden for leisurely grazing by our resident cats. Our dogs dearly love Karl Forester grass planted just for them out in the landscape.

Lower their appeal. In large pots, where digging is the problem, not nibbling, uses stones to top dress your houseplant roots. Stone mulch dissuades prying paws yet allows water to penetrate into plant roots. Citrus scents usually drive away cats, while bitter apple discourages taste-testing puppies. If the plant doesn’t mind, spraying water on the leaves to discourage a cat from batting at branches.

Put them undercover. Enclosing plants in a terrarium can protect many varieties, especially those that require controlled humidity. Encase cactus in glass, and you can enjoy the benefit of not having to water for weeks at a time. Terrariums enclose plants out of reach from foraging pets. This dramatically helps high water and humidity loving plants as well.

Popular houseplants safe for cats and dogs:

African Violet is relatively easy to grow, requiring an environment of bright to moderate light, even soil moisture, and humidity. The greater challenge is choosing from the array of blossom colors: violet, blue, red, white, pink, cream, yellow, and multicolored that just arrived!

Boston Fern has been the best selling houseplant for years. A perfect complement in the living room or front porch, this leafy creation is covered from head to toe with lush fronds. It’s easy to grow in rooms with little natural light.

Christmas Cactus is from Brazil’s coastal mountains, where the plants grow naturally on trees or rocks. You will find bright colors of white, pink, yellow, orange, red, and purple at the garden center just starting to show color for the holiday ahead. This blooming plant is perfect for houses with cats and dogs!

Parlor Palm is a popular houseplant for its rich green, slender arching leaves. Palms are slow-growing and long-lived, often passing down the generations. Watters has several varieties of this pet-friendly houseplant range from a few inches high to several feet tall. Parlor Palms ideal for tabletop decorations, terrariums, to large pots on the floor can be transplanted now.

More houseplants safe for pets: Hibiscus, Spider Plant, Staghorn Fern and Aloe Vera.  

Insiders Tip – Indoor plants don’t care for winter’s indoor heating. Heated air is unbearable for the leaves of many plants we like to keep in our living spaces. The secret to stunning houseplants that gleam with healthy good looks is ‘Green Glo’ plant shine. This spray-on plant shine not only brings out the gleam of houseplants but also prevents them from losing moisture through their leaves. This application thwarts brown thumbs to a comfortable shade-of-green for those who struggle in the houseplant arena.

I do a lot of traveling, so our green friends are often alone to fend for themselves. Aqua Boost Crystals added to a houseplant’s soil doubles the amount of time a plant can go between water. These super absorbent crystals hold 200 times their weight in water and significantly reduce the need for potted plants’ frequent water needs.

Until the next issue, I’ll be helping gardeners grow safer houseplants here at Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at or