Dog in front of plant containers

Planting with Pets

In Blog, Feature by Megan Nichols

What do you do if you love to garden and grow things, but you’re not sure what’s good or bad for your furry friends? Cats and dogs, like humans, can have allergic reactions (or worse) to some plants. Generally, we humans don’t eat things that we’re unsure of, but our pets can be awfully curious and may not proceed with caution. Here are plants that are fine for our furry friends to sample (though we and the plants may not appreciate it).

Gardening Indoors

African Violets – These easy-care plants come in a variety of colorful blooms, and they won’t cause harm if eaten by pets.

Hoya – Also called wax plant, grow in medium light with space for the ever-growing tendrils to cascade.

Spider plant – Who doesn’t love this plant? Especially when it makes those adorable babies!

Echeveria and Hawarthia – Two of the coolest looking succulent out there, both are pet friendly. Be careful with Jade, that’s actually toxic, even though it’s in the succulent family.

Calathea – This beautifully variegated, pet-safe plant is also known as prayer plant because of the way it raises and lowers it’s leaves.

Herbs – If you enjoy cooking, and enjoy sharing with your furry friends, sage, basil, and thyme are good go-to herb options. Some herbs are toxic, so be careful. Remember, too, garlic and onions are also considered toxic.

Christmas cactus – A fantastic holiday alternative to poinsettias and amaryllis (both of which are poisonous). One important note: poinsettias are not as poisonous as we’ve been led to believe, but they will cause stomach irritation and some unpleasant side effects, so it’s still best to keep them away from pets.

Air Plants – If they fall out of their holders your pets will be more than happy to gnaw on them, but at least it’s only the pocket books that will suffer and not the pets.

Gardening Outdoors

It’s much easier to find lists of perennials that are known to be toxic to pets than it is to find lists of plants that are safe, so start with at least avoiding those plants if you feel they’ll be too enticing to your pet. Besides avoiding plants known to be toxic, there are a few other tips and tricks to keep Fido happy and safe in the garden, and once implemented, may allow for incorporating those less-than-friendly plants back into the landscape. Cats will do what they will, but most cats that are outdoors don’t tend to bother random plants, and instead stick to occasionally ingesting a few blades of grass.

Non-toxic to dogs

Heuchera
Asters
Daylilies
Beebalm

Plants toxic to dogs

Clematis
Monkshood
Bleeding hearts
Lily-of-the-valley
Foxglove
Hydrangea
Azalea
Daffodils
Tulips
Peonies

These plant lists are not exhaustive, but the ASPCA has extensive lists if you’d like to know more about something not listed here.

Gardening with Dogs

Some of the prettiest plants are considered toxic. Try these tips to keep pups from foraging in the garden:

Start training them early which areas are off-limits.

Make wide paths lined by non-toxic, non-prickly plants that dogs can easily run on.

Consider a fenced in area for the pets or for the plants.

Designate a spot for marking (such as a stump) and an area for general potty breaks, and train toward that being the only acceptable place. Dog urine can do a number on lawns and gardens, so use wood chips or pea gravel for the surface in these areas.

Provide a place for sunbathing and a shady spot for cooling down.

Know your pets. You know the personality of your pet. If they’ve never gotten into plants before, they probably won’t now. If your pet loves to snack on plants, toxicity will not likely stop them. Consider location and whether or not it’s possible to simply keep some plants out of reach.

Of course, if you’d specifically like to plant FOR your pet, plant catnip! Your kitties will thank you for the treat and they might lose interest in the other plants. Maybe. Happy planting!