Garden Tips

The garden shops and catalogs are full of gorgeous garden shrubs and flowers. They tell us how to water and how much sunshine is needed, but rarely do they tell us if the plant is pet safe.Your dog or cat is probably having visions of digging through or chewing up the plants. We’ll leave the fencing and reprimanding up to you, but just to be on the safe side, how about planting only non-toxic plants? If unplanned periodic demolition of the garden by the family dog is a fact of life, it is good to know the plants he or she is chewing up are non-toxic. It may not help the garden any, but knowing your pet isn’t going to get sick because of it is one less thing to worry about. It’s good to know what is considered safe should the family pet get frisky and start chewing and digging in the flower beds.We’ll try to help out.

The following plants are considered safe:

Catnip Garden – Catnip (Nepeta cataria)


Catnip was brought to America by early colonists and was considered to be a commercial crop. Numerous medical properties have been ascribed to catnip and it has been used in teas, soaks, and poultices. Today its uses are largely confined to feline entertainment as its active ingredient, cis-trans-nepetalactone, is a mild hallucinogen. Rubbing, rolling, and other merry-making are produced, though one should be careful as aggressive behavior is often made worse by catnip indulgence.Catnip BudResponse to catnip is inherited genetically as a dominant trait which means that not all cats will be affected. Kittens under age 6-8 weeks are not able to respond.

Catnip is felt to be a safe and non-addictive recreational drug for cats but there is some thinking that overdose can produce seizures. For this reason, it is best not used in cats with a history of seizures. Chronic exposure to catnip may cause an apparent loss of mental faculty and possibly personality change. Catnip can be a fun garden plant if the climate is right but can quickly turn into a weed problem if one is not careful. Catnip should be considered an occasional treat for cats able to respond to it.

In Review

One of the problems with knowing what plants are safe for your pets is that many different plants have the same common name. There are many plants that use the name “wandering jew”; but the one we have confirmed the non-toxicity of is Zebrina pendula. There are also several diffent plants that are called African Daisies; the one pictured here as safe is of the genus Dimorphotheca. The non-toxic Resurrection Lily (also called the Varigated Peacock Ginger) is a safe plant. The name “resurrection lily” has also been applied to the Lycoris genus of lily. Many types of lily are toxic and we do not have information on the Lycoris lilies. Whether it is a shrub, a tree or just a potted plant, it’s good to know that a dog or cat can’t be harmed by chewing up a few leaves or petals.

Further Information on Pet Plant Safety

A great link for safe plant information:

Safe Gardening
Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DABVP
Mar Vista Animal Medical Center