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Pet-friendly Gardening with Plants and Bulbs

Pet-friendly Gardening with Plants and Bulbs

As much as beauty abounds in the garden, some beauty can be dangerous. Arm yourself with the knowledge of which bulbs can be toxic to your pets. Cats and dogs are by nature curious, and sometimes ‘feed’ their curiosity by taste. Fur kids can be poisoned by nibbling on flowers, leaves, seeds or bulbs, especially those digging dogs which can’t resist finding out what treasures lie beneath the soil. While opting to refrain from planting any of the bulbs and plants deemed ‘toxic’ may be the preferred method of caution for some, you may want to plant prudently, such as in an area that is inaccessible to your pets. Another option is to plant in containers where possible and place those pots away from your fur kids. With that in mind, you can plan and plant your garden in such a way that you alleviate any risk of your pets being in harm's way.

The plants listed below are generally considered safe to plant around Fido and Felix. Keep in mind this list is not exhaustive and only includes some of the most common flowers typically grown in the South African backyard. If you are ever uncertain or suspect your pet has ingested harmful plants, you should contact your vet.

Pet-friendly plants:  

  • African violet
  • Alyssum
  • Aster
  • Coriander
  • Snapdragon
  • Cornflower
  • Zinnia
  • Daylily
  • Marigold
  • Hibiscus
  • Impatiens
  • Ipheion
  • Magnolia
  • Pansy
  • Petunia
  • Sage
  • Sunflower
  • Sweet potato vine
  • Thyme
  • Waterblommetjie
  • Watsonia

Bulbs to be cautious of if you have the digging-est dogs or curious cat:

  • All Allium species including the cultivated onion, garlic, scallion, shallot, leek and chives, and their derivatives can be toxic to dogs and cats.
  • The bulb of Amaryllis belladonna contains a toxic ingredient, lycorine, which may cause tremors, excessive drooling, loss of appetite and abdominal pain.
  • Boophone disticha is extremely toxic and can result in fatality.
  • Clivia miniata (bush lily) is a South African favourite that heralds spring. Once again the bulb is poisonous if ingested in large quantities.
  • Crinum bulbispermum and other river lily species have poisonous seeds and bulbs.
  • Cyrtanthus purpureus – Knysna lily - is poisonous but not lethal but will cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Dahlias aren't quite as toxic as some other flowers and plants. If ingested, pets may experience mild gastrointestinal symptoms and mild dermatitis.
  • Eucomis (pineapple lily) has been known to have killed cats and poisoned humans.
  • Gladiolus is toxic to dogs and cats. Ingesting any part of this plant, especially the corm, will cause your pet to experience salivation, vomiting, drooling, lethargy and diarrhoea.
  • Haemanthus coccineus bulbs contain toxic alkaloids, including haemanthidine and haemanthamine, that are lethal if consumed in quantity.
  • Ingestion of the Hippeastrum bulb, may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Hyacinth bulbs are poisonous as they contain oxalic acid. Handling hyacinth bulbs can cause mild skin irritation. You may be drawn to its sweet scent, but keep your dogs, cats, and cattle away from this bulb, because it can damage the mouth and oesophagus and cause violent tremors.
  • Irises could come at a price for your pet. Symptoms, if ingested, include mild to moderate vomiting, drooling, lethargy, and diarrhoea. The rhizomes are the most toxic part of the plant.
  • If cats consume lilies, especially Hemerocallis and true lilies of the Lilium species, they develop toxicity from eating any part of the plant and even from getting pollen on their fur. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, anorexia, and kidney failure. Small ingestions (such as 2 – 3 petals or leaves) – even the pollen or water from the vase – can result in severe, acute kidney failure and can ultimately cause death if not treated early. Lilies are also toxic to dogs and humans.
  • If your pet ingests Narcissus, particularly the bulb, it may cause severe vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Nerine species have poisonous bulbs but don’t usually cause fatalities.
  • Ornithogalum thyrsoides, saundersiae and dubium is extremely toxic to cats and dogs, with the bulb being the most poisonous part of the whole plant. Animals which consume the water in which the cut flower has stood can experience severe diarrhoea, vomiting, ataxia and even blindness.
  • Peonies pose a health hazard to our pets, including vomiting and diarrhoea if ingested.
  • Ranunculus is poisonous and, when consumed, will cause your pets to experience diarrhoea and vomiting.
  • Parts of the Scadoxus plant including the bulb are poisonous as they contain a high amount of alkaloids. They are considered toxic to both humans and animals and can cause an upset stomach if ingested.
  • Tulips can cause dizziness, nausea, abdominal pain and, rarely, convulsions and death. It is considered toxic to both dogs and cats, and can cause vomiting and diarrhoea if eaten.
  • Zantedeschia if eaten can cause gastritis, vomiting and purging. If large quantities of the seeds are eaten it can be fatal.

You may have, very fortunately, planted out some of the bulbs listed here without your fur children's health being compromised. However, it is good practice to note the implications of toxic bulbs and cut flowers in the case of Ornithogalum and Lilium, so you can take educated measures to ensure their continued safety.

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