Flora and Fauna: House Plants with Animal Names

We know from experience that many plant people are animal lovers too, so today we’re exploring the best of both worlds by highlighting a few plants whose unique features have earned them common names from the animal kingdom. Ranging from crocodiles to kittens, let’s take a look at some of these cool plants!

Fishtail Hoya

Hoya polyneura is a formerly underrated plant that has been gaining popularity lately. They have the common name of “Fishtail” Hoya due to the veiny leaves resembling a fish tail — or if you like, a mermaid tail. These gorgeous plants have been known to be a bit on the temperamental side, but once you get used to their needs they are fairly easy. Keep in mind that these come from cooler climates than most Hoyas, so they aren’t as tolerant of high temperatures or drought as most varieties.

Horsehead Philodendron

The Philodendron bipennifolium, also known as the “Fiddleleaf” Philodendron is like most Philodendrons in that the leaves will change from juvenile to adult form. This is a showy and fairly easy to care for climbing plant that enjoys higher humidity. The adult form of the leaves has scalloped edges with more of a point to the “ears” than the juvenile form, which is where it got its name. Once you see one of these on a moss pole it is hard not to want one with their uniquely shaped leaves and gorgeous growth habits!

Bird of Paradise

The Strelitzia reginae and Strelitzia nicolai are fairly common plants that can be seen grown inside houses and businesses — or outside, if you live in a warmer climate. They prefer full sun to partial shade, a thorough watering when dry, and not much fuss. The Orange Bird of Paradise, which has orange flowers, will generally grow to 4-6 feet tall, while the White Bird of Paradise (which I’m sure you’ve correctly guessed has white flowers) towers over it at heights of up to 25 feet tall. The banana-like shape to the leaves will be sure to add a tropical feel.


Pussy Ears

Cyanotis somaliensis, known as “Pussy Ears” or “Kitten Ears,” is a relative of Tradescantia. Its name comes from the fuzzy texture of its pointy foliage, and its trailing growth habits makes it a great candidate for a hanging planter. To keep its growth from getting too leggy, find it a spot with bright indirect light. If you find your plant is getting a little leggy or just needs a haircut, you can prune pussy ears any time with no worries about harming the plant.

Spider Plant

The Chlorophytum comosum is a tried and true houseplant that either everyone, their parents, or their grandparents, have owned at one point in time. Also called airplane plants, these classics come in different variegated forms, solid colored, and even curly varieties. The “mother plants,” which have adorable little blossoms, send out little runners that grow entire new baby plants on the ends. It is obvious to us why these low light tolerant and easy care plants have been a favorite for decades!


Butterfly Palm

The Dypsis lutescens is also known by another common name, the Areca palm. These commonly seen palms have beautiful, long, almost feather-like fronds that will add a tropical feel to any indoor (or outdoor if you live in a warm climate) living space. Like any palm these like brighter light, higher humidity, and can be a bit finicky inside, but it is not impossible to grow them indoors. Just remember that they like fertilizer, but can become unhappy if the fertilizer salts build up, or if they are given water with fluoride in it.


Goldfish Plant

Nematanthus gregarius gets its common name from its unique, brightly-colored flowers — usually in shades of orange. Even when it’s not flowering, this plant has attractive deep green foliage and a trailing growth that makes it a good pick for your favorite plant hanger. This plant is another epiphyte that appreciates higher humidity but needs a chunkier, well-draining soil mix — not something that holds a lot of moisture for a long period of time.


Rabbit Foot Fern

Davallia fejeensis is an epiphytic fern native to Fiji, and it gets its name from the furry rhizomes that creep along and attach it to whatever its growing on. They’re happy in medium light with warmer temperatures, but bear in mind that they appreciate a little more humidity than you might find in a normal household. Like other epiphytes, they prefer a chunkier potting mix that allows for air flow around the rhizomes.

Ponytail Palm

The Beaucarnea recurvata is another favorite plant that most people have either seen or owned at some point. These are commonly seen growing as numerous babies sold in a pot together, but should be separated as soon as possible. Whoever decided on the common name for these decided to really mess with people, since they aren’t even a palm, but are a caudiciform instead. (If you want some care tips, or just some more information about them, click here!)


Crocodile Fern

The intense veining on the foliage of Microsorum musifolium gives it its common name of “crocodile,” although its leaves are definitely more delicate than a crocodile’s skin. These ferns appreciate humidity and regular watering, but don’t let them sit in soggy soil. They’re perfect for a window that lets in the morning sunlight, or a window with filtered shade — so if you’ve got a relatively humid spot with filtered light you have the perfect place for a crocodile fern!

If you’d like to see some of these plants, show off your own, or hit up other plant lovers for care tips, check out HPH on Facebook.