For this week's Sprout Home, expert Tara Heibel is answering common questions about baby-proofing your home's plants. She's providing some helpful hints and tips to make sure you're choosing the best greens for you and your family.
Q: I have a 7-month-old who is really into plants. I love plants, too and want to encourage his curiosity but I don't want him getting sick. Like all babies, he sticks everything in his mouth. All my baby-proofing books say that kids and plants just don't mix, but I want a little greenery in the house. Any suggestions?
A: We get this question it the store a lot. It is nice to have plants in the house for air quality, aesthetics and a connection to the natural world. Don't worry, there are some nice plants you can safely add to your home. If done in the right manner, your baby's interest and your houseplants can grow together.
In general, the very best thing to do is make sure all your houseplants are out of reach. That is going to be your strongest defense against any unwanted interaction. But we all know that babies can surprise you and get into things when you didn't think it was possible, so to be on the safe side you want to make sure your houseplants aren't poisonous. A list of safe plants can be found here http://www.calpoison.com/public/plants-safe.html. After you have found a secure place for all the plants in your house and determined they aren't poisonous, you might want to think about some other practical considerations, like is it spiky or easy to break? A spiky Yucca is going to hurt your child whether they put it in their mouth or not. And a more resilient plant is going to give you a few more seconds to get over and prevent your baby from putting it in his or her mouth.
If you want to add some easy and safe plants, I have a few suggestions, starting with a jade plant Crassula argentea. The sturdy structure of jade plants make them well suited to taking a beating by the odd toy or grabbed by little hands. They are not poisonous though, as with any object, could present a choking hazard. They happen to be very low maintenance plants, good for a mom who has other things more important to take care of.
To care for a jade place it in medium to high light and water when the soil is dry. Another good thing is, Jades have few problems with pests and disease.
Q: The jade plant sounds like a good plant for me, but I'm not sure if I have enough light for it. What else would work?
A: If you are not sure on your light conditions in your home, try a spider plant Chlorophytum comosum. They are absolutely one of the best plants for your needs: they tolerate a wide range of light conditions, are easy to care for and not poisonous. The spider plant's grass-like leaves are pretty tough and not easy for little hands to tear off. Again, anything that a baby can stick in his/her mouth is a choking hazard, so be careful.
Caring for a spider plant requires a little more watering than the Jade. You want to keep the soil consistently moist, just letting the top dry between watering. They don't typically have issues with pests or disease and can do well in very low light.
Q: Okay, the spider plant sounds good, but what if I want something the baby can actually smell or experience -- under my close supervision of course.
A: I think the best strategy for that would be an herb. Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis makes a great houseplant in a very sunny window. A southern or western exposure is best. The leaves are somewhat large and hold strongly to the stem, making it easier for you let the baby smell without the chance of a leaf falling off. To release essential oils, just crush the leaves and stem lightly in your hand. To keep your rosemary happy, water when the top of the soil is just getting dry and , as I mentioned before, give it lots of sunlight. As an indoor plant, rosemary can occasionally have issues with spider mites, mealybugs and aphids. So inspect your plant on occasion for issues.
For more helpful gardening ideas and tips, be sure to look through the Plant Of The Week slideshow below.
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