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Are Frosty Ferns Poisonous to Cats? The Surprising Answer!

Gregory Iacono

By Gregory Iacono

closeup of the variegated tips on a frosty tip fern

As one of the most popular plants sold during the Christmas holiday season, the Frosty Fern is a somewhat mysterious plant with interesting roots. It’s a small plant called a spike moss that usually grows to about 8 inches tall, making it perfect for gift-giving. The reason it’s called a frosty fern comes from the color on the tips of the spike moss’s leaves, which turn a “frosty” white as winter gets closer.

If you have cats and someone gives you a frosty fern as a gift, the main question you likely have is whether they’re dangerous for your kitties. The good news is that frosty ferns are not poisonous and won’t cause your cat any harm, even if they nibble on the leaves. In short, frosty ferns can be displayed without fear during the holidays as they don’t pose any danger to your feline family members.

Are Frosty Fern Poisonous to Other Pets?

As with cats, the frosty fern is not dangerous or toxic for other pets, according to the ASPCA. They list frosty ferns as not being harmful to cats as well as dogs and horses. That’s good news for any cat parent who receives a frosty fern from a friend or family member as a gift.

close up image of frosty fern
Image Credit: Monique Hassink, Shutterstock

What Type of Plant Is a Frosty Fern?

Because of its name, you could be forgiven for thinking that a frosty fern is a type of fern. It’s not but instead is a type of moss. Frosty ferns are mound plants that typically grow to a foot tall but spread further horizontally instead of vertically. The plant also spreads quickly, leaving roots along the way for support.

What’s fascinating is that, like true ferns, the frosty fern reproduces using spores instead of seeds the way most other plants propagate. Many in the botanical field believe this coincidental fact likely had a hand in naming the plant, which was thought to be a fern for many years before it was classified correctly as a spike moss.

The frosty fern is believed by botanists to have originated in Africa and is found in the country’s rainforests. Before coming to the United States and becoming popular, the frosty fern was propagated in several parts of Europe and New Zealand. Like in the United States, it is also a popular plant around the holiday season.

How Long Does a Frosty Fern Last After the Holidays?

Unlike poinsettias and other plants sold during the holiday season that die a few weeks later, frosty ferns can easily live for years if cared for correctly. That’s easier said than done since this plant needs very high humidity levels to survive and thrive. Most US homes in winter are exactly the opposite of humid due to heating and the drier air it creates, which can easily dry out a frosty fern left unattended. Below are two methods you can use to ensure your frosty fern stays beautiful all year and into the next.

tabby cat plays by christmas tree and lights
Image credit: dezy, Shutterstock

Method 1

This first method takes a little more time and effort and will likely cost more, but the results can be gorgeous and a real conversation starter. Putting your frosty fern in a large, glass plant container with a lid is the best solution to achieve the correct humidity. This would be more or less a terrarium with just your frosty fern inside, although you could get a larger glass container and put in extra plants if you like. Keep the container closed, water when needed, and your frosty fern will be one happy and humid plant.

Method 2

This 2nd method is easier, faster, and less costly, but it still can look very attractive. It would be best if you placed your frosty fern, with the roots out, on a large but shallow ceramic or plastic tray with about an inch of pebbles spread out evenly across it. Spread out the leaves over the pebbles and let the plant get comfortable. Then, keep plenty of water in the tray around the pebbles but not high enough to touch the roots or leaves. The water will then evaporate and rise into the roots of the frosty fern, keeping it happily hydrated.

close up of frosty fern
Image Credit: Bob Keefer, Shutterstock

Final Thoughts

If you were worried that the frosty fern you got as a gift would harm your cat or upset their tummy, put those worries aside. Veterinarians and the ASPCA agree that Selaginella kraussiana Variegatus,’ the frosty fern, is not toxic to cats or other pets. This popular plant, which isn’t a fern but looks and reproduces like one, is safe to display and keep around your home and poses little danger to your feline friends. In other words, enjoy your frosty fern in all of its holiday-cheer-inducing beauty (and remember to thank the lovely person who gifted it to you).


Featured Image Credit: Amelia Martin, Shutterstock

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