How to Plant a Dog-safe Garden


This is the time of year when many people look forward to spending free time outside, enhancing their surroundings with lush plants and flowers. As many pets enjoy being outside in the warm spring and summer months, too, some thought must be given to their safety in the lawn and garden. With a little careful planning, you and your pet can enjoy a safe and relaxing garden environment. Whether you're planning a large garden to feed the family or decorating a small space with hanging baskets and containers, here are a few factors to be considered.

Plant Selection

Plants and flowers are nature's attention getters. Their fragrance, appearance, and cool shade they create are natural attractants for you and your pet. Curiosity often leads pets to consume the flowers and foliage of ornamental plants, which can produce irritating and sometimes life threatening side effects. When planning your garden, select plants that are non-toxic if touched or consumed.

Plants for a Sunny Location

If the location of your garden gives you 4 or more hours of direct sunlight a day, you have a long list of annuals and perennials from which to choose. Annuals grow from seed and last one growing season. They are good choices for fast, instant color impact. Garden and discount centers will offer a wide variety of annual plants at economical prices. Perennials return year after year from growth at the roots, they are a little more expensive, but do not need to be planted every growing season. Most gardeners have their favorites and mix both types for the longest possible color show. Safe choices for sunny locations include:


  • Zinnia (Zinnia sp.)
  • Snapdragons (Antirrhinum sp.)
  • Cosmos (Cosmos sp.)
  • Calendula (Callendula sp.)
  • Petunia (Petunia sp.)


  • Bee Balm (Monarda sp.)
  • Phlox (Phlox sp.)
  • Roses (Rose sp.)
  • Catmint/catnip (Nepeta sp.)
  • Coneflowers (Echinacea purpura)

    Plants for Partial Sun

    If your garden receives less than 4 hours of direct sunlight a day, the following list of non-toxic annuals and perennials requires less sunlight.


  • Primrose(Primula sp.)
  • Butterfly flower(Schianthus sp.)
  • Spider flower (Cleome sp.)
  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum sp.)


  • Columbine(Aquilegia sp.)
  • Coral Bells (Heuchera sp.)
  • Turf Lilly (Liriope sp.)
  • Goat's Beard (Aruncus dioicus)

    Shade Gardens

    A shade garden receives little to no direct sunlight, although the sun may filter through the trees for dappled light. Plant selection for these areas may include the following:


  • Begonia (Begonia sp.)
  • Impatiens (Impatiens sp.)
  • New Guinea Impatiens
  • Violet (Viola sp.)
  • Coleus (Coleus sp.)


  • Bugbane (Cimifuga racemosa)
  • Yellow Corydalis (Corydalis lutea)
  • Astilbe (Astilbe sp.)
  • Queen of the Meadow (Filipendula ulmaria)

    Vegetable Gardens

    If you're interest is vegetables, you'll need 4 or more hours of full sun for most plants. Keeping your pet out of the vegetable garden may be your biggest task, especially when plants are young and fragile. Some clearly visible fencing may help. Avoid hardware cloth as pets can become entangled. Motion detector sprinkler systems can be useful in keeping pets and wildlife out of newly planted areas, and are not harmful. Most vegetable plants do not pose toxicity problems with a few exceptions. Onions, chives and garlic, which a lot of pets do like, contain compounds that, if ingested, can cause anemia. The leafy part of the potato plant, and the green part of the potato skin contain compounds that are toxic if eaten in sufficient quantities. Fruits also contain toxic chemicals in their seeds/pits. Apple, plum, cherry, apricot and peach seeds/pits contain cyanide, which can cause fatal seizures.

    The 10 Least Wanted

    The following is a list of plants that is best to avoid altogether due to their toxic nature. It is not a comprehensive list, if you are considering any plant of which you are unsure; consult your local plant nursery.

  • Castor bean (Ricinus communis)
  • Oleander (Nerium oleander)
  • Morning Glory (Ipomea sp.)
  • Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata)
  • Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum)
  • Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
  • Nightshade (Atropa belladonna)
  • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
  • Precatory Beans (Arbus precatorius)
  • Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)

    Lawn and Garden Chemicals

    It is very easy to reach for a chemical pesticide, fertilizer or fungicide when faced with a problem in the lawn or garden. Fortunately for the average home gardener, safer alternatives are available for most commonly encountered problems, reducing the risk of a toxic exposure for your pet. You would not think that your pet would have any reason to consume these products but sadly they do, either intentionally or inadvertently and these types of poisonings are all too common. Remember before applying any product to your lawn, vegetables, or ornamental plants to read the label and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Many of these products are designed to persist in the environment days to weeks after application, so a pet can have an exposure days to weeks after initial application.

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