When you have pets or small children, what is planted in your garden is something you need to be aware of and proactive about. While no one can rid their garden of everything that is possibly a hazard, many people have no idea that some very common garden plants can be highly toxic to kids and pets if eaten. While young kids should never be left alone in a garden, you can’t keep an eye on them every second, and the same goes for the family dog or cat. So let’s all spread the word about these popular plants so that we make the decision to either remove them from our yard, to be alert as to their presence, or better yet, never plant them in the first place when you have pets and kids. (Or grandkids!) The plants we have chosen for this list are here because they are common, and because they are seriously toxic to humans and pets. There are many more plants that are toxic to lesser degrees causing only digestive upset, or requiring extremely large amounts to be eaten in order to be toxic. Also, please keep in mind that there are some plants that are not toxic to humans, but are to pets. See the list resources at the end of this post for more information. No list can be exhaustive however, so please always be careful with kids and pets in the garden.
Azaleas and Rhododendrons – These gorgeous spring blooming shrubs are the mainstays in many gardens in the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast, but they are highly toxic when eaten.
Daffodils – Daffodils and tulips rarely cause fatalities, but they can cause severe stomach upset and even convulsions. This is especially a problem with dogs as they are more likely to dig and eat the bulbs.
Jimsonweed (Datura) – This plant has gorgeous white trumpet like blooms and fill a garden with fragrance, but are highly toxic and are related to the Nightshade family.
Euonymus – If you don’t have this common landscape shrub in your yard, chances are that one of your neighbors does. This is a typical evergreen foundation plant that also happens to be deadly if eaten in a high amount, and highly toxic in even small quantities.
Foxglove – Foxglove is actually used to make the vital heart medication Digitalis, but when eaten can cause serious heart issues. It grows wild in many parts of the country, so be aware of its presence when camping or hiking as well.
Hydrangea – Would you have guessed this gorgeous plant from Grandma’s garden is poisonous? The flower buds are the most toxic, but all parts of the plant should not be eaten.
Yew – A common evergreen shrub or hedge, Yew is often sheared into topiaries or used as a living fence. While birds can safely eat the berries, the entire plant is poisonous to the rest of us.
Daphne – Highly fragrant in spring and early summer, many people have Daphne in their yard. The plant is poisonous to eat, and some people are allergic to the sap as well.
Laurel – English Laurel is one of the most planted shrubs in Europe, making up the majority of those amazing living walls you see around English estate gardens. It is very toxic, especially the seeds within the berries. Some other Laurels are also poisonous, like Cherry Laurel and Mountain Laurel, so be aware of plants that are related as well.
Oleander – Oleander is mainly seen in the West and South as it is not hardy below zone 8. It lines the highways of California and fills desert and Southern gardens with greenery and very pretty flowers in pink, red and white. Highly toxic when eaten and the sap can be irritating. Even the smoke from burning Oleander is poisonous.
Larkspur / Delphinium – Larkspur is simply the annual version of Delphinium, and while they are slightly different in appearance, they are both deadly when eaten. While Larkspur is more a wildflower with a looser flower cluster, Delphinium is a formal flower best at home in English style gardens.
Fruit Pits and Seeds – Lastly we have a hazard you might not have expected, and that might be the biggest danger to dogs and horses. The seeds and pits of most fruit are highly toxic when eaten in large enough quantities. Apples, apricots, pears, peaches… Feeding a horse one apple is not going to even upset his stomach. Watching a horse eat through an orchard of downed fruit might not be the best plan! And never let dogs chew on fruit.
If you want to learn more about whether a plant is safe, visit the safe and poisonous garden plants page from The University of California. They have listing of plants toxic only to animals, plants listed by toxicity level, and lists of safe plants to choose for the garden. For plants toxic to pets, visit the ASPCA site. Another great resource is the American Association of Poison Control Centers.Image Credits: Bob Vila, White Flower Farm, Monrovia, Monrovia, Monrovia, HGTV, White Flower Farm