Tips for Pet-Safe Plants and Landscaping

By Jessica Larson of  

The pandemic has been challenging, to say the least. Still, plenty of brightness has emerged from the gloom. For example, millions of people have suddenly found time to devote to learning something new, from kneading bread to starting a side gig to developing a green thumb.

Of course, people have always loved plants. However, the group of hobbyists caring for houseplants and outdoor gardens has recently grown to include a range of ages, every gender, and all walks of life. Through social media, plant care has exploded. The hashtag #plantparenthood has been used almost 1.5 million times.

This is what being kept inside for much of the time will do to a person. Hobbies emerge as diversions from reality. We name our favorite Calathea plant “Cordelia”, and call our friends when our Bishop’s Cap cactus starts sprouting its yellow blooms. And, as the pandemic continues, the passion for houseplants and landscaping rages on.

However, with great plant power comes even greater plant responsibility, especially around the furry members of the household. Regrettably, plants account for nearly 25% of all pet poisonings outside of medications. And with over 700 common household plants being dangerous or deadly to pets, there is no room for just “good enough.”

Luckily, there are several prudent tips to ensure that your existing and future plant plans are safe for all pets. Here are three!

Take Inventory

Before you buy any plant, you have to research its safety for everyone in your household. Just as you shouldn’t eat strange mushrooms in the forest, you also shouldn’t buy new plants without due diligence.

If you already have a dedicated corner jungle or an impressively landscaped backyard, take an inventory and create a journal. Find out which (if any) hazards your plants and landscaping pose to your four-legged best friends. Look for specific parts of plants that are toxic, especially petals or leaves that can drop to the ground. Your Easter Lily might be your pride and joy, but the entire thing could be deadly to your dog and cat.

As you research, take note of specific symptoms that could indicate an adverse reaction. Some will cause vomiting and skin irritations; others may cause seizures. The reactions are as vast and varied as the plants.

Dog owners must take particular care. As dogs are more likely to go back and forth between inside and outside, you’ll have double the space to cover. Plenty of toxic outdoor plants and flowers (like azaleas) are frequent landscaping features across the country.

Of course, it’s not just the plants that can be a problem. As you pursue pet-friendly landscaping, you should also take steps to remove hazards and create a safe space for your pets to play. For example, certain ground cover (like red brick) will retain heat up to 40 degrees hotter than the air temperature, which could burn your pets’ paws. Furthermore, both the presence of sharp garden edging and absence of shade can lead to danger. And if your pet spends time at pet parks, in neighbors’ yards, and at other families’ houses, you should check those areas for safety as well.

Remove or Reposition Toxic Plants

You may now feel the urge to get rid of any risky plant. And if you have curious and headstrong pets, it might be for the best. However, you can also move dangerous plants to areas out of your pets’ reach.

Of course, curious cats will find ways to go everywhere, and many dogs take pride in their jumping abilities. Inaccessible countertops or high shelves, though, can keep toxic plants out of reach. If that’s not an option, you could designate a secured room as your personal jungle. This way, you can keep the pets out and the dangerously-beautiful plants in.

Outdoors, moving plants usually means uprooting them. This is far from ideal, especially for edible gardens. However, many garden items, including tomatoes and basil, can be dangerous for animals. If you plant edible crops, always check if they are toxic to pets (or other wildlife). If you do choose harmful plants, then ensure they are kept behind a barrier or out of reach in a raised bed.

Chicken wire is an inexpensive and easy-to-install tool to keep animals away from dangerous edibles. And if you have more expansive landscaping, then think about fencing off a safe, shaded area for the pets to enjoy themselves. This designated pet space can use odor-controlling fake turf to keep their personal business out of sight – and smell.

Be sure to keep your pets safe even when you’re not present. If your pets have 24-hour access to the yard, then install energy-efficient outdoor lighting that can stay on without running up your power bill or harming the planet. Replace your pet door with a new one that is secure, airtight, and insulated. Keep your energy costs low and your pet’s safety high.

Plan for Future Flora

Pets, houseplants, and landscaping can coexist in peace with a bit of prudent planning. The next time you’re at the nursery, use plant-identifying apps to research a potential purchase, and be sure to verify that new plants will fit into the safe area you’ve already designated. For outdoor projects, bringing in landscaping experts can ensure your plans are safe. Top professionals will know the best pet-safe options and products for your area.

If you’re handling the landscaping yourself, then rely on the latest tech. You can use apps to plan your landscaping changes. Some apps use augmented reality that allows you to virtually design on top of your actual yard, including select plants, ground covers, fencing, and more. Build yourself and your furry friends the safe and gorgeous oasis that you all deserve.

Houseplants and landscaping are delightful means to bring some color to your home. Some of the most common choices, though, are also some of the most dangerous. Keeping an up-to-date inventory of your plants and landscaping features will help you know their dangers. Use apps and other tech for research and planning. Lastly, designate safe areas inside and outside the house for your plants and pets.