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Pet-friendly plants for your garden and home - TNK Green

Pet-friendly plants for your garden and home

When approaching clients for a garden design, I often hear the phrase, ‘I can’t have a nice garden because my dogs destroy and eat everything.’ If this seems familiar and resonates with you, there is good news. Nature is exceptionally resilient, and there are many ways to design a pet-friendly garden.

In this blog, we will discuss twelve pet-friendly plants for your indoor or outdoor spaces and highlight four poisonous plants to avoid if your furry friends tend to nibble on your plants.

Pet-friendly garden plants

  • Bromeliads (Bromeliaceae)


Bromeliads are found in the tropical to temperate regions of South and North America, with only one species having been discovered in tropical West Africa. This diverse family of plants, including pineapples and tillandsia (air plants), are hardy, mostly epiphytic, and generally drought tolerant. Many terrestrial and epiphytic bromeliads have their leaves in the form of vase-shaped rosettes, which accumulate water. There are approximately 3200 species divided into 58 genera and thousands of hybrids, including many bigeneric crosses. Depending on your climate zone, bromeliads can be grown outside in most frost-free regions in South Africa. A popular houseplant if given enough light, they will also be safe for your furry friends indoors.


  • Ferns

One of the oldest broadleaf plant clades in the world, the diversity found among ferns is amazing. Members of a group of vascular plants that reproduce via spores and have neither seeds nor flowers. There is a fern for almost every condition, found on every continent (except Antarctica) and about 10,560 known extant species. Although most sought-after indoor ferns are very water-hungry, multiple drought-tolerant and frost-hardy ferns that will thrive in your garden are available on the market. Even though your pooch might run through them, ferns will grow back quickly. Generally spread via a rhizome or antheridia (small spherical structures underground), they are usually resilient and withstand much abuse. For the best ferns for your climate and soil conditions, please ask your local nursery to assist.


  • Chlorophytum (Spider Plant)

Also known in South Africa as ‘hen en kuiken’ these plants related to asparagus spread by growing small pups on the end of training shoots that make it looks like a spider lending it its common name. With almost 200 species native to Africa, Australia and Asia, there is bound to be one for you. The most popular one, Vittatum, is endemic to South Africa, so we have adapted to our climate and environmental conditions. Drought tolerant but preferring a thorough watering every couple of weeks to look its best, it’s an excellent native and non-toxic plant to grow in your garden or home. Not frost hardy


  • Lavender (Lavandula)


Well known for its oil and fragrance, lavender is a sturdy woody perennial that can handle some bruising. Cultivated since Roman times for their sweet-smelling flowers and medicinal uses, these plants pose no threat to you, your children or your pets. With 47 known species native all across the Mediterranean, East Africa and India, they are drought tolerant they are made to last multiple seasons. And as a bonus, it’s great for pollinators like bees and butterflies.


Pet-friendly indoor plants

  • Calathea (Prayer-Plants

Calathea is a genus of flowering plants belonging to the family Marantaceae. They are commonly called calathea’s or (like their relatives) prayer-plants. Most often grown for their colourful and unequally patterned leaves. Consisting of 31 genera and around 530 species, defining it as one of the most species-rich families in its order. Species of this family are found in lowland tropical forests of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The majority (80%) of the species are found in the American tropics, followed by Asian (11%) and African (9%) tropics. Requiring a bit more care and humidity than most indoor plants, they can be challenging to grow, but regardless of their care, they will make an impact in your home and won’t hurt your pets either.


  • Begonia

Begonia is a genus of perennial flowering plants in the family Begoniaceae. The genus contains more than 2,000 different plant species. The Begonias are native to moist subtropical and tropical climates. Often grown for their ornamental and multilayer flowers, some more rhizomatous species are revered for their ornamental leaves in various colours ranging from metallic blue to intense pink and red. Generally requiring more water than most houseplants, these plants are ideal for those who often overwater your plants. Easy to propagate, some begonias have been grown and cloned for centuries.

  • Zamioculcas (ZZ Plant)

Zamioculcas is a genus of flowering plants in the family Araceae, containing the single species Zamioculcas zamiifolia. It is a tropical perennial plant native to eastern Africa, from southern Kenya to northeastern South Africa. With underground rhizomes, these plants can store a lot of water in their roots and stems and should be watered sparingly. A general saying among plant lovers is ‘if you water it more than you pay your rent, it is too much’. However, there are only a few commercially available versions of these plants; they make for a great feature plant in the home.

  • Aspidistra (Cast iron plant)

Aspidistra is a genus of flowering plants in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Nolinoideae, native to eastern and southeastern Asia, particularly China and Vietnam. With about 100 accepted variants, from plane green to variegated and even spotted, these hardy plants grow their leaves straight from the ground. Often grown indoors for their shade and drought tolerance, they can also be grown outside and withstand temperatures as low as -5 degrees celsius. Above their ability to handle some neglect in the home, they are also non-toxic and will be a favourite with your furry kids.


Poisonous plants to avoid

  • Euphorbia

Euphorbia is a vast and diverse group of flowering succulents ranging from annual plants to long-lived trees. With roughly 2000 species commercially available with various growing forms, euphorbias are found in many diverse environments. Recognisable from the milky latex that will seam out of fresh cuts or wounds on the plant’s stem or leaves. This sap contains trace amounts of arsenic; you don’t want to let your animals eat this plant. If your animal has been munching on this plant, it is advised to seek immediate veterinary care.

  • Oleander

Oleander or Nerium s a shrub or small tree cultivated worldwide in temperate and subtropical areas as an ornamental and landscaping plant. Generally considered to have originated from the Mediterranean, Oliander is grown across the globe in more temperate regions. It has sweet-smelling flowers, but Nerium contains several toxic compounds and has historically been considered a poisonous plant. However, its bitterness renders it unpalatable to humans and most animals, so poisoning cases are rare, and the general risk for human mortality is low. Ingestion of larger amounts may cause nausea, vomiting, excess salivation, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhoea and irregular heart rhythm.


  • Ipomoea alba (Moon flowers)

Ipomoea Alba often called tropical white morning glory, or moonflower is a species of night-blooming morning glory native to tropical and subtropical regions of North and South America. A herbaceous perennial can grow 5-30m tall, bearing large trumpet-shaped sweet-smelling large white flowers up to 14cm long. The name moonflower derives from their blooming in the evening and from their round-shaped flowers like a full moon. Containing several poisonous compounds including atropine and scopolamine that can interfere with the nervous system they are considered poisonous for everything from humans, and livestock to cats and dogs.


  • Digitalis (Foxglove)

Digitalis is native to Europe, western Asia, and northwestern Africa. The flowers are tubular in shape, produced on a tall spike, and vary in colour with species, from purple to pink, white, and yellow. Most often grown in gardens for their beautiful ornamental flowers, the plant is also used for drug preparations containing cardiac glycosides, particularly digoxin, extracted from various plants of this genus. Foxglove has medicinal uses but is also very toxic to humans and other animals, and consumption can even lead to death.


Hardy and pet-resilient plants

  • Echinacea (Cone Flower)

Echinacea is a herbaceous perennial in the daisy family endemic to eastern and central North America.   They have large, showy heads of composite flowers blooming in summer. Drought tolerant and growing up to 140cm high, topped with their iconic roset-shaped flowers arranged around hard spiney core that also give it its common name – coneflower. Used medicinally to treat coughs and colds, it has traditionally been used to treat insect bites, burns and wounds. With its robust root system, Echnacea will withstand a little neglect and an overactive pet running through it.

  • Aloes

Aloe is a genus of flowering succulent plants containing 650 species. Most Aloe species have a rosette of large, thick, fleshy leaves. Aloe flowers are tubular, frequently yellow, orange, pink, or red, and are borne, densely clustered and pendant at the apex of simple or branched, leafless stems. Best known for the multiple uses of Aloe vera, these succulent plants contain a bitter gel-like sap that has multiple beneficial uses. Non-toxic, drought tolerant and resilient, these plants can withstand some bruising and abuse, but with their serrated leave edges and bitter sap, most aminals would steer clear from these resilient plants.

  • Poaceae and Gramineae (Ornamental Grasses)

Grasses are a large, nearly ambiguous family of monocotyledonous flowering plants found all across the globe. One of the most successful plant groups on the planet, and have colonised large swaths of land  (up to 40% of all land on earth). There is a ridiculous diversity of more than 12000 species, including wheat, oats, sorghum,  maze and even bamboo. Extremely resilient and somewhat drought tolerant, there are multiple ornamental species available to make an impact in your garden. With every colour and shape available in cultivation, you’ll be spoiled for choice when deciding which ones to plant in your garden. Your animals and children can run around amongst and even through them, and the plants would barely be affected, so supplementing flowers with grasses is a great way to make your garden more pet resistant.

  • Tagetes (Marigold)

Tagetes is a genus of annual, mostly herbaceous plants in the family Asteraceae. These plants are native to Mexico but have become naturalised around the world. Often grown as a companion plant in vegetable gardens as a pest repellant but regularly grown simply for their bright yellow to white flowers, often with a maroon highlight. With edible flowers, these plants are also used as an organic food colouring for pastries, yoghurts, cheeses and confectionaries. Growing quickly from seed, these resilient plants can also resprout from the root if completely decapitated.

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