Pet Friendly Southern Living Plants

Designing a garden that is both beautiful & pet-friendly takes special planning.

This guide will assist you in finding plants that are safe for pets and that can stand up to the extra stresses pets place upon the garden.


Some plants make better, um, “fire hydrants” than others. Spiraeas, Viburnums, and Weigelas are all rather tolerant to Rover lifting his leg. You also want plants that tolerate heavy pruning, as branches will be broken. Finally, a pet-friendly garden also calls for shrubs that can tolerate compact soil. Both dogs and cats will find a favorite place to bed down in the shade of a tree or shrub, or more likely, several favorite places. The repeat visits compress soil in the root zone.

Here are some of the toughest pet-friendly shrubs in the Southern Living Plant Collection. All are non-toxic. Also try Mojo® Pittosporum, Ultra Violet™ Buddleia and any of the Crapemyrtles.

Little Bonnie™ Dwarf Spiraea

Rainbow Sensation® Weigela

Coppertop™ Sweet Viburnum

Groundcovers and Flowering Perennials

Pets call for groundcovers that can stand up to heavy foot traffic. Cats, in particular, have a tendency to nibble on plants. Keep your feline friends safe by avoiding harmful pesticides in the garden. They also enjoy dense cover for hiding. Try planting layers of plant material for your cat to explore including these cat-friendly plants: Rosemary and Gerbera Daisy.

Chef’s Choice® Rosemary

Garden Jewels™ Gerbera Daisies

Believe it or not, it is possible to have a dog and flowers too, just be prepared to lose a few blooms. Plant tender plants away from the edges of a garden bed where they will be more protected. You can also try to discourage unwanted trampling through beds by planting on mounds, building raised beds and planting densely. Here are a few dog-friendly flowers to try.

Crazy Pink™ Echinacea


‘Love and Wishes’ Salvia

The following tips will aid you in designing a garden both you and your pet can enjoy.

  • Include an open turf area where your dog can run and play.
  • Give cats an elevated platform where they can perch.
  • Leave space between fences and plant material to allow a small path. Dogs like to patrol along the perimeter of the yard and will wear a path whether you’ve left room or not.
  • Use wire mesh under mulch to discourage cats from using the garden as a litter box.
  • Provide a shady place for your pets to escape the hot summer sun.
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