Pet Friendly Southern Living Plants

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

The most important consideration is to eliminate potentially poisonous plants.

Research plant materials before adding them to the garden to make sure they are safe for your dog or cat. ASPCA has a searchable database to guide you in making plant selections. Once poisons are ruled out, you want to look for plants that will stand up to the extra stresses pets place upon the garden.


Some plants make better, um, “fire hydrants” than others. Spiraeas, viburnums, weigelas and shrub roses 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

Copper top™ Sweet Viburnum

Groundcovers and Flowering Perennials

Pets call for groundcovers that can stand up to heavy foot traffic. Marc Anthony® Liriope is a hardy choice that will tolerate Rover’s rolling and Tiger’s pouncing. Cats, in particular, have a tendency to nibble on plants. Keep your feline friends safe by avoiding harmful pesticides in the garden. Cats also enjoy dense cover for hiding. Try planting layers of plant material for your cat to explore including these cat-friendly plants: roses, rosemary, gerbera daisy.

All A Flutter™ Shrub Rose

Chef’s Choice® Rosemary

‘White’ Drakensberg Daisy™ Hardy Garden Gerbera

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

Joy of Living® High Voltage™ Daylily

‘Love and Wishes’ Salvia

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