Some of the most commonly used plants, both indoor and in landscapes, pose a hidden threat to our pets. That threat could range from mouth irritation and behavioral changes, to digestive distress, to death. In order to protect your pets, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the risky varieties.

WHY DO ANIMALS EAT PLANTS?

Cats and dogs love to nibble on plants. Often, they use plants to aid in digestion. Sometimes animals eat plants to induce vomiting, to clear their systems of toxins, parasites, bones or fur. Sometimes pets eat plants just because they taste good. We would be hard-pressed to monitor our pets 24/7 to prevent undesirable plant chewing, so it makes sense to eliminate access to dangerous varieties.

WHAT PLANTS ARE HARMFUL TO PETS?

As I scrolled through Facebook this week, I noticed a photo featuring a store display of potted Easter lilies. Underneath was a note warning consumers against bringing a lily home if there is a cat in residence. Some pet owners have learned the hard way that lilies are highly toxic to cats, causing renal failure, and often death, if any part of the plant is ingested. Lilies do not pose a threat to dogs or humans.

Not only do we need to be mindful of our houseplants, many common landscape plants are toxic to animals. Plant varieties that are toxic to both cats and dogs include:

  • Amaryllis
  • Azaleas and Rhododendrons
  • Caladium
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Cyclamen
  • Daffodil bulbs
  • Dieffenbachia
  • English Ivy
  • Foxglove
  • Hydrangea
  • Kalanchoe
  • Morning Glory
  • Oleander
  • Peace Lily
  • Pothos
  • Rhododendron
  • Sago Palm
  • Schefflera (Umbrella Tree)
  • Tulip and Narcissus bulbs
  • Wisteria
  • Yew

While this list is by no means comprehensive, it includes many of the most widely used plants in our homes and landscapes. The Sago Palm, for example, is one of the most dangerous plants for pets. All parts of the plant are toxic for animals, but the seed pod is the most deadly. The toxin, Cycasin, can do its damage in as little as 15 minutes post-ingestion. If untreated, liver failure is imminent.

WHAT PLANTS ARE SAFE FOR PETS?

  • African Violets
  • Air Plants
  • Aluminum Plant (Watermelon Plant)
  • Begonias
  • Camellias
  • Christmas Cactus
  • Some Ferns (Boston and Maidenhair are safe; Asparagus Ferns are actually in the Lily family and are toxic)
  • Friendship Plant
  • Fuchsia
  • Some herbs, including Rosemary, Thyme, Dill, Fennel, Basil
  • Lipstick Plant
  • Marigolds
  • Parlor Palm
  • Phalaenopsis Orchid
  • Polka Dot Plant
  • Prayer Plant
  • Snapdragons
  • Some succulents (excluding Jade)
  • Summer Hyacinth

SIGNS OF DISTRESS

Some toxins take only minutes to have affect, while others may develop over time. Some symptoms to watch for include:

  • redness, swelling or itchiness of the skin or mouth
  • difficulty breathing
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • lethargy
  • seizures
  • excessive drinking or urinating
  • fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat

IMMEDIATE CARE

Time is of the essence if you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic plant. Identifying the plant is a crucial step in a correct diagnosis. Certain toxins impact specific organs, so the veterinarian will want to run tests specific to those organs.

It is important to consult with a veterinarian before inducing vomiting, as that may actually make matters worse. The caustic toxin may damage the esophagus on the way back up. If the animal has vomited, the veterinarian may give the animal activated charcoal to absorb any remaining toxic material in the gut.

Winston

Lilium shop dog, Winston (who himself is a connoisseur of fine acorns) says, “prevention is always the best plan, but if your pet manages to find a toxic plant to nibble, contact your veterinarian or one of the following help lines immediately.”

Pet Poison Help Line: 1-855-213-6680

ASPCA Animal Poison-Control Center: 1-888-426-4435

Not born with a green thumb? If you choose to grow succulents, your lack of aptitude with plants will be your little secret. Succulents are easy to plant, easy to maintain, and easy to incorporate into any decor. Plus, there are hundreds of varieties of succulents from which to choose, making endless creative possibilities.

SUCCULENTS ARE LOW MAINTENANCE

By definition, succulents are drought resistant plants that store water in their leaves, stems and roots. The storage of water gives them a fleshy appearance, known as succulence. While you can’t forget about them completely, they need very little attention. To create a low maintenance arrangement, make a little effort up front. Make sure the plants have good drainage. You can purchase cactus soil, or add sand or gravel to ordinary potting soil. Be sure your container has a hole in the bottom for drainage.

Succulents are slow-growing plants, so place them tightly together in the container. After planting, water well, then allow the soil to dry out between watering. Over watering is the most common mistake made by plant owners. Succulents do not like to sit in water. They need more water in the spring and summer, but less in the winter when they enter a dormant phase.

Succulent arrangement
Lilium created this long-lasting botanical arrangement using finger cactus and assorted succulents.

SUCCULENTS COME IN MANY VARIETIES

There are few categories of plants with greater variety than succulents. From tall and spikey to low and mounded, from vibrant greens to pinks and reds, with and without stripes, some blooming, some cascading.  Many varieties are prolific reproducers, with offshoots called pups. If your container becomes overcrowded, simply pinch off the pups.

Burro's Tail Succulents
Burro’s Tail

 

Hens and Chicks Succulents
Red beauty Hens and Chicks
Trachyandra succulents
Trachyandra

 

Propagating  succulents is as painless as maintaining them. Remove cuttings and allow the clipped stem to dry out and form a callous. Then, simply place the cutting into prepared soil. New roots will grow, and you will have a brand new plant.

SUCCULENTS MAKE HIGH IMPACT DISPLAYS

Because of the vast array of colors and textures, succulents look great when displayed individually or in a collection of plants. They are so versatile, however, that they fit right in with traditional florals. They can channel fun and funky, contemporary, or soft and elegant. Succulents give an interesting twist to cut flower arrangements or traditional plant baskets.

 

Vased arrangement with succulents
Succulents make beautiful additions to cut flower arrangements.
Succulent arrangement
Multiple varieties of succulents combine to create a striking arrangement.

The sky is the limit when selecting a container to display your plants. You might choose a traditional pot, urn, bucket, bowl, wooden box, wall vase, or a more unconventional vessel like a sea shell, bird bath or hollow log. Any container will do, as long as it provides adequate drainage. Succulents lend themselves to many different styles from rustic to contemporary.

Finish off your display by adding “mulch” of polished river rocks, colored aquarium gravel, pea gravel, sea glass, marbles or moss. With minimal attention, your succulent garden will thrive. For more information on creating a succulent bowl, or a fresh arrangement using succulents, contact Lilium at 817-481-1565.