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Ask Dr. Jenn: What Are Some Cat Safe Plants for My Spring Garden?

Spring is in the air, and it’s time to start planning my garden. My cats love to be outside (supervised, of course), so I want to create a pet-friendly garden for them. What plants are safe? Which ones should I avoid?

April 10, 2024 3 min read
Ask Dr. Jenn: What Are Some Cat Safe Plants for My Spring Garden?

A pet-friendly garden sounds wonderful! I imagine a peaceful place to enjoy your morning coffee while your kitties explore the garden. As you know, the type of plants that will flourish in your garden varies depending on your zone, but here are some suggestions to get you started.

First, the obvious choice for a feline-friendly garden is catnip. While many of us are used to seeing catnip in its dried form, it can be a beautiful garden plant. But be careful; catnip can spread and become a weed problem if not properly pruned. Also, too much catnip can be a bad thing. Chronic exposure to catnip can cause mental changes in some cats. It can also induce seizures in sensitive kitties who consume too much. A little catnip is good, but be careful not to let it take over your garden.

If you want beautiful flowers that make your garden smell wonderful, plant star jasmine. Star jasmine is relatively slow growing. It may not grow much or bloom during the first year, but once it’s established, the plant blooms in late spring to early summer with a vibrant scent that you can smell a block away. The plant is also very safe if chewed on or swallowed by cats and dogs.

Roses also add a pleasant scent to any garden. Although their thorns may cause abrasions if your pet gets too close, ingesting the plant is not harmful.

For a pop of color, my personal favorite is the Gerbera daisy. This larger flower blooms all summer and comes in various bright colors. Just looking at Gerbera daisies brightens my day. Other safe and colorful flowers that are hearty and bloom all summer include violets, petunias, and zinnias.

If you want greenery, avoid hostas (also known as plantain lilies), which are toxic to our pets—instead, plant ferns. Most ferns, including the Boston fern and sword fern, are safe for pets. Harmful ferns to avoid include the Bracken fern and the asparagus fern. The spider plant and polka dot plant can also add some greenery to your garden.  Sunflowers and tall grasses also add a dramatic effect.

Some popular flowering plants, including the classic daisy, hibiscus, petunia, cosmos, geranium, and hydrangea, are not toxic but can cause gastrointestinal upset if consumed. If your cats like to chew on leaves and flowers, it's best to avoid these plants. While known for its healing properties, aloe vera can also cause stomach upset if eaten by some pets.

Some plants are extremely toxic to our four-legged pets and should not be planted. All types of lilies, including the Stargazer, Tiger lily, and Easter lily, can cause kidney failure if even a leaf is chewed on by a cat. (Note—the peace lily and cala lily are not true lilies, but ingestion can lead to GI upset.) Sago palms are also beautiful and popular trees but are highly toxic to both dogs and cats. Ingestion may cause liver failure and death.

Other highly toxic plants include daffodils, caster bean plants (aka African Wonder Tree or Mole Bean), Oleander, Azalea, and Cyclamen.

Please note that this is not an all-inclusive list. Some of the plants listed may have other names in your area. For a comprehensive list of safe, toxic, and potentially hazardous plants with photos, visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center website at

Enjoy planning your garden and send me a photo of your pets enjoying their new space!

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