Best and Worst Flowers to Plant for a Pet-Friendly Garden

Photo: Barbara Rich/Getty Images
Know before you grow, and your pets will thank you! 

Every pet owner knows their dog or cat will chew on anything it can sink its teeth into, whether that’s a toy, shoe, or ball of yarn. And at some point, your furry friend will inevitably gravitate towards plants and flowers for a bite or two. As beautiful as these colorful blooms are, from household plants to flowers grown in the garden, some can be particularly dangerous to our tail-wagging companions. Of course, fragrant varieties are especially tempting (and, yes, even deadly), but did you know that your pet simply drinking water from a vase containing poisonous cut flowers can result in vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, lethargy, and lack of appetite? As you will see on this list, sometimes the potency is wrapped in the leaves, whereas in other cases, it could be in the seeds or bulbs.

You can always take an extra step of precaution by placing your indoor containers in inaccessible areas of your home. But, the best (and most obvious) form of recourse is to avoid buying and planting toxic plants altogether, especially if your dog or cat is known for roaming around outside and nibbling on anything out of sheer curiosity. And if you can't possibly part way with your precious wisteria and tulips this season, growing your flowers on fences is another viable alternative.

Although you can’t do anything about the neighbors’ gardens, you can protect your pup starting in your own backyard. According to the ASPCA, these are the safest plants to thrill, fill, and spill, as well as the ones to avoid.

Avoid the Following:

Perennials

  • Chrysanthemum - Consuming any part of this autumn bloom can cause discomfort and loss of coordination for your four-legged friend.
  • Carnation - They're not as harmful as other perennials, but they can cause mild gastrointestinal problems for your beloved pet.
  • Dahlia - Eating this delicate petal may lead to mild gastrointestinal suffering and dermatitis.
  • Daisy - Even though most consider this flower as the weed of the garden, certain species carry dangerous toxins.
  • Iris - As indicative of its name (meaning rainbow), irises come in many different colors, but that generous offering of hues could come at price for your pet. Symptoms include: mild to moderate vomiting, drooling, lethargy, and diarrhea.
  • Lily of the Valley - We adore this shady flower, but it can produce serious symptoms in pets and people, including vomiting, heart arrythmias, seizures, and, ultimately, death.
  • Monkshood - This one is a dead giveaway, considering its more common moniker "wolfsbane."
  • Peony - The garden and bouquet filler is a favorite among Southerners, but it poses a health hazard to our pets, including vomiting, excessive drooling, and diarrhea.
  • Other toxic perennials you should be aware of are Forget-Me-Nots, Peace Lilies, Coleus, Lavender, and Lenten Rose.

Annuals

  • Begonia - These tubers are toxic, and can cause irritation of the mouth and difficulty swallowing.
  • Geranium - Commonly grown in outdoor gardens, containers, and hanging baskets, the Pelargonium species is toxic for pets, causing skin rashes, low blood pressure, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

Shrubs

  • Aloe Vera - For humans, aloe vera works wonders for the skin and for burns. For dogs and cats, not so much. Symptoms include: vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors.
  • Azaleas and Rhododendron - These bright and popular garden shrubs are not only dangerous for cats and dogs, but horses, goats, and sheep, too. If leaves are ingested by these animals, it can cause digestive problems, excessive drooling, weakness, and loss of appetite.
  • Boxwood - Evergreen and ever-dangerous when a significant amount of its leaves are ingested by your pet. It mostly causes dehydration, due to severe vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Gardenia - Unfortunately, the white and fragrant blooms of this shrub can take a toll on your pet's health.
  • Hydrangea - Summer and fall gifts us with these vibrant, four-petaled clusters, but if consumed in large quantities, the showy flowers can be poisonous to people and pets.
  • Lantana - If you've recently planted this small, tropical shrub, look for signs of diarrhea and weakness in your pet.
  • Rose of Sharon - Dogs that ingest this hardy, trumpet-shaped flower can suffer from lack of appetite, vomiting, and nausea.
  • Yew - This slow-growing, drought-resistant shrub is a sight to behold when it spreads, but it's dangerous for dogs, cats, horses, cattles, and people.

Bulbs

  • Amaryllis - We love these beautiful bulbs, but they're extremely poisonous. If consumed, it can cause abdominal pain, tremors, diarrhea, and hypersalivation for both cats and dogs.
  • Caladium - Their big flamboyant leaves contain dangerous crystals that can penetrate your pet's skin and mouth, causing severe irritation and difficulty breathing and walking.
  • Crocus - This chalice-shaped bulb is usually the first sign that spring has arrived, but ingestion of the spring crocus can lead to a gastrointestinal upset for your pup.
  • Daffodil and Jonquil - It's a good thing that daffodils are too pretty to eat, because if your pets munch on the bulbs, it can cause cardiac issues, convulsions, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Gladiola - Here, it's the corms that lead to excessive drooling, lethargy, and vomiting.
  • Hyacinth - You may be drawn to its sweet scent, but keep your dogs, cats, and cattle away from this bulb, because it can damage their mouth and esophagus and cause violent tremors.
  • Lily - To put it simply, lilies are definitely not the cat's meow. The verdant and fragrant bulb can cause kidney failure for cats. Oddly enough, lilies don't seem to affect dogs in the same way.
  • Tulip - Eating the cup-shaped flower may lead to convulsions, cardiac problems, and gastrointestinal discomfort.

Vines

While these climbing growers are useful for sprucing up your landscaping and vertical space, they can also be toxic to dogs and cats, particularly since wisteria contains poisonous seeds and pods.

  • Clematis
  • English and Boston Ivy
  • Morning Glory
  • Wisteria

Other

  • Poinsettia - There's a reason for the phrase, "Beware of the poinsettia." But, it's not as toxic as we've been led to believe. However, it can cause irration of the mouth and stomach for kittens and puppies.
  • Oak trees - The acorns and leaves are poisonous.
  • Tomato plants - Take care when planting this summer favorite because it contains solanine, a highly toxic element.
  • Mint, Parsley, Oleander, and Yellow Bird of Paradise are also harmful.

Perfectly Safe to Plant Away!

  • African Violets
  • Alyssum
  • Aster
  • Blooming Sally
  • Blue-Eyed Daisy
  • Cilantro
  • Snapdragon
  • Corn flower
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Creeping Zinnia
  • Daylilies
  • Feather Palm
  • Marigolds
  • Hibiscus
  • Impatiens
  • Magnolia Bush
  • Mulberry Tree
  • Pansies
  • Petunias
  • Purple passion vine
  • Sage
  • Spider Ivy
  • Sunflowers
  • Sweet Potato Vine
  • Thyme
  • Tiger Lily
  • Zinnia

WATCH: Best Southern Dog Names

Keep in mind this list is not exhaustive and only includes some of the most common flowers typically grown in the South. If you suspect your pet has ingested any of these potentially harmful plants, you should contact your veterinarian.

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