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Safe Gardening with Dogs and Cats: Common Garden Plants Poisonous to Pets

Do you like to garden with pets? Dogs and cats can be great garden company and it’s important to keep them safe. I have had my fair share of four-legged garden helpers and I will say that some needed a lot of training to safely roam the garden, while others were able to work it out on their own. When I adopted a young Labrador Retriever, I quickly needed to learn which garden plants were safe for her to eat and which were not because she ate everything. This was very concerning until I learned about some common plants poisonous to pets.

12 Common Garden Plants Poisonous to Pets

I watched my lab one day as she explored the peas. She has seen me pick a pea pod and eat it. I then fed one to her. She loved it! The next day, I went out to the garden to find her eating the entire pea patch in one sitting. I guess she had developed a taste for gardening.

As I looked around the garden, I knew that protecting my vegetable garden was hopeless, but that protecting her from poisonous plants was essential. I researched which garden plants could cause her harm and I was shocked by the results. Not only is the list long, but so many of these plants poisonous to pets are common in home gardens and households.Asiatic lily Black Beauty is a plant that is poisonous to pets

While the term “poisonous plants” makes us think of rushing a comatose animal to the vet, many poisonous plants will only cause digestive upset or have an unpleasant flavor that will help the animal learn that not everything tastes as good as fresh garden peas.

I was told a story where a dog ate a bunch of ghost peppers off a backyard bush. Those peppers are not only hot but also dangerous for a dog to eat. The dog needed to spend a few days in the vet’s office and had to deal with terrible burning pain. Luckily, the dog made a full recovery and when he got back home, he wouldn’t even walk near the part of the yard that the peppers were growing in (even though the plant had been removed). This pup will surely be savvier in his future culinary adventures.

While there are some plants that will teach your pet a valuable lesson, there are others that you will want to avoid altogether. Here is a list of common garden plants that are poisonous to pets.

Azaleas and Rhododendrons – these plants are very poisonous to pets and can be fatal. If your pet eats these, get them to the vet as quickly as possible. To keep cats and dogs safe, try planting a camellia instead. Like rhododendrons, camellias are large bushy plants with gorgeous colorful spring flowers, so they will give your garden the same appeal without the same risk to your furry friends. Instead, try: Camellia.

Milkweed – this plant is wonderful for monarch butterflies, but it is a problem for cats and dogs. It contains cardiac glycoside, a toxin that can cause severe heart problems in pets. Instead, try: Bee Balm.

Dog with cookie not a plant that is poisonous to pets

Lily – if you have cats, you shouldn’t have lilies. If a cat eats the petals or ingests the pollen (even if the pollen gets on a cat’s fur and then she licks it off), it can cause kidney failure and other serious problems. Take a cat to the vet immediately if it consumes any part of a lily, and if you have cats trade up your lily plants for another pretty bloomer that is non-toxic. Instead, try: Snapdragon, Rose.

Autumn Crocus, Daffodil, Hyacinth, Tulip – the bulbs of these plants can be highly toxic to pets. If your dog is a digger who is likely to unearth bulbs and chew on them, skip planting these ones. If you don’t have a pet that digs, these plants should be fine as it is only the bulbs that are poisonous. Instead, try: Petunia, Corn Flower, African Violet.

Yew – yew berries are very toxic to both cats and dogs. If your pet consumes them, take them to the vet immediately. Instead, try: Eastern Hemlock.

Ivy – ivy is very poisonous to pets, plus it is an invasive plant in North America, so trade in the ivy for a different vine. Instead, try: Sweet Potato Vine.


Oleander – this plant is extremely poisonous to pets and can be fatal. Instead, try: Gardenia.

Foxglove – this plant is poisonous to both cats and dogs. It can cause serious health problems and can even be fatal. Instead, try: Fireweed.

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If your pet eats any plants that you are unsure of you should take them to the vet for a checkup, especially if you notice your pet acting strangely, seeming lethargic, or drooling more than usual. There are many toxic garden plants that can cause varying symptoms depending on pet size and amount ingested. Often, the poisoning is less serious. But to be safe, it’s a good idea to watch your pets and take them to a vet if there is any suspicion that they may have been poisoned.

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  1. Hi Stephanie – I am so glad I read your article! I have three dogs, and your article made me stop and take a look at my flower garden. I have Milkweed planted in order to attract butterflies but will definitely remove this plant and substitute Bee Balm. Your identification of plants to use instead of the poisonous plants was a great addition to your article and so very beneficial to me. Thanks so much.

  2. I especially like that you offer alternate plants if we choose to remove not plant the dangerous plants. So helpful. I didn’t know about lilies and especially the pollen. I received a gorgeous lily arrangement from my son-in-law for Mother’s Day. I’ve been removing some of the pollen, but didn’t get it all before it fell to the kitchen counter. My 18-year-old cat can no longer jump up on the counter so no problem there, but I will be more careful about this in the future.

  3. We have wisteria plants that grow wild in the woods next to my horse pastures. I heard the pods are very toxic to my horse. Can you tell me when the pods fall to the ground?

  4. My cat was chewing the pea plants I started in the house she went leave them alone is this toxic it’s the vegetable pea


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