Planting with Pets in Mind

Many of us look forward to spending our free time outside, and work hard to fill our yards with eye-catching, lush plantings. While gardens and yards are lovely for relaxing, we do need to exercise caution when designing for homeowners with pets. When shopping at the nursery or if you use a landscaper for your garden, make sure to mention you have pets. Most garden centers will make recommendations and help you find pet-safe greenery and flowers for your home and yard. With just a little careful planning, we can keep our pets safe, and enjoy a beautiful garden environment!

Pictured to the right is Honeysuckle, one of our resident cats at Piala’s Nursery & Garden Shop. She is a working cat; if you see her on one of your visits, please respect her space!

Garden Hazards to Watch Out For

When preparing and planting, keep in mind that many popular plants are toxic to cats and dogs. These plants can range from bulbs to perennials to trees and shrubs. Plants that have toxicity concerns include:

  • Tulips
  • Daffodils
  • Azaleas
  • Rhododendrons
  • Yew
  • Autumn Crocus
  • Chrysanthemum
  • English Ivy
  • Lilies – Toxic to cats, but not to dogs

For a complete list of toxic plants and their effects please visit the ASPCA website.

Fertilizer and Insecticides

Proper nutrition is a must for healthy plants to thrive.  When using any fertilizer or pesticide, read and follow the label closely. Pets may be attracted to some tasty ingredients in fertilizers, so it is important to store fertilizer safely away from your pets because of the risks of them ingesting toxic ingredients. It is also best practice not to apply fertilizer or insecticides with pets present and to exercise caution before allowing pets near where an application has been done. Let the product label be your guide.


The most efficient and environmentally friendly way of providing nutrients and fertilizer to our gardens is composting.  It is important to keep in mind that certain components might not always be safe for our pets.  Coffee, moldy food and certain types of fruit and vegetable should be composted in a manner and location that prevents pets from gaining access.


Mulch is a great way to reduce the amount of weeding that is needed and to help our gardens retain moisture.  However, we must be careful which type of mulch we use.  Some gardeners use cocoa bean shells; these are a byproduct of chocolate production.  Ingestion of cocoa mulch can have harmful effects on pets, and most pet owners select alternative mulches such as shredded bark without additives.

Good news! There ARE pet-safe plant options!

Plant Suggestions


  • Canna Lilies – This low-maintenance perennial is perfectly safe for your pups to be around.  Canna lilies add pops of tropical colors like red, yellow, and orange.
  • Roses – Roses like slightly acidic soil, good drainage, average watering, and 6 plus hours a day of sun.  If you’re worried about curious noses near these thorny beauties, you can place a small fence around them.
  • Bee Balm – This fragrant option not only adds shades of pink, purple, and red to your garden beds, it will please the noses of your curious sniffers!  There are many cultivars to choose from; all ranging in size from 9” to 48” tall.
  • Columbine – Brightly colored flowers that are loved by humming birds!  They like to grow in partial shade and well-drained soil.  A great option for your rock gardens!
  • Hens and Chicks – These fast-growing perennials do not require much water and can tolerate full to partial sun with ease.  Great for rock walls and gardens.


  • Forsythia – These low maintenance favorites bloom in spring with bright golden blooms and require a partial shade location. 
  • Lilac- Sun loving shrub that requires 6 plus hours of sun a day and bloom in early spring with fragrant, purple flowers. Not only are lilacs non-toxic, the blooms are edible to both humans and their furry friends!
  • Magnolia – A beautiful shrub with varieties that offer blooms in white, purple, and pink and need full sun.


  • Fuschia – These regal purple or pink flowers are typically found in hanging baskets and bloom from late spring to late fall.
  • Marigolds – Marigolds bring bees that deter harmful bugs from infesting other plants nearby.  These golden blooms, in yellow/orange hues, are sure to bring color to your beds!
  • Nasturtiums – The green leaves and yellow, orange, and red blooms won’t likely appeal to your pooch, but if they do take a nibble, it will give them a boost of vitamin C!