By Michael Jenkins
While we don’t have any research to prove it, we’d guess that there’s a pretty big overlap between people who love pets and people who love gardening. Both offer a chance to care for and nurture something that loves you back, and both offer a chance to connect with a world beyond humans. For those who choose to have both pets and a garden, it makes sense to consider planting pet-friendly garden plants to ensure that your garden space is safe and fun for your pets. There are several things to consider when making a garden pet friendly, so let’s dig in!
The first consideration in designing a pet-friendly garden is safety. Some plants are pet safe, some are problematic, and some there are some plants that are dangerous to pets. Let’s start with that latter bit: here’s a partial list of plants that are dangerous to pets. We’ll repeat: the following plants are dangerous to pets and should be avoided or used with caution in pet-friendly homes and gardens:
- Lilies of all kinds (members of the Lilium family) are toxic to cats, and exposure can cause serious allergic reactions and kidney damage.
- Tulip and narcissus bulbs are toxic to both cats and dogs if ingested.
- Azalea, Rhododendron, and their relatives are all toxic to both cats and dogs. They contain substances called grayanotoxins, which can damage a pet’s nervous system if ingested and lead to neurological damage, coma, and death.
- Autumn Crocus (Colchicum spp) can damage organ function and lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and death in both cats and dogs.
- English Ivy contains saponins that can lead to digestive upset, stomach pain, and even death in pets.
- Oxalis and related ground cover plants contain high levels of oxalates that can be toxic to both pets and humans if consumed.
Again, this is only a partial list, so do some research before adding new plants to your garden. If you have plants in your garden that are potentially dangerous to your pets, consider how you’ll keep your animal friends safe. This can include good fencing or other barriers, limiting pet outside time in the garden, and replacing the potentially dangerous plants with pet-friendly alternatives.
So what plants are pet-friendly? The good news is that there are a variety of pet-friendly garden plants that can add color and vibrancy to your garden while keeping your furry friends safe. Just to be clear and safe—the following is a partial list of pet-safe plants for your home and garden:
- Sages, particularly Pineapple Sage, add wonderful touches of color and texture to your garden. They smell lovely, some have culinary uses, and they are safe for dogs and cats.
- Snapdragons are a classic garden flower popular around the world. A wide variety of kinds and colors are available, and Snapdragons are absolutely safe for your pets. They’re also an easy “beginner” garden plant, and thus especially fun for kids and new gardeners.
- Marigolds are another classic garden flower, available in a number of colors to add a beautiful touch to your garden. In addition to being beautiful, Marigolds are both pet friendly and repellent to harmful insects.
- Roses are perhaps the most famous and best-loved garden flower. Available in a bewildering variety of colors, types, and sizes, roses are absolutely pet-safe in any garden.
- Sunflowers are popular flowers that add both color and dimension to your garden via their height. They’re bird-friendly, pet-safe, and provide some often-needed summer shade for your pet’s outside time.
These are both partial lists, so please do your research before adding new plants to your garden. Garden time can be a wonderful thing to share with your pets, but make sure that you’re both safe and happy by avoiding garden plants dangerous to pets and filling your garden with pet-safe plant options!