In the spring and summer, I always look forward to the blooming of beautiful trees and shrubs. After a hard winter, our yards are ready to wake up to the warmer weather, and we are ready for more outdoor activities, including enjoying the back yard. Our pets are no different from us; when it gets warmer, they are happy to spend some time outside too. 

When you have pets, sometimes landscaping can be a bit of a challenge. Some pets love to dig in (or even munch on) the beautiful fruits and flowers on your trees. However, did you know that many common trees and shrubs planted in our yards can be harmful to our pets?   If you have dogs or cats that like to go outside and “graze,” it is essential to know what varieties of trees, flowers, and shrubs you may have in your yard. Thankfully, there are a lot of trees and shrubs that are relatively harmless to pets and are still beautiful to include in your landscaping. 

Let’s review some common trees and shrubs that can be harmful to pets in various ways. Furthermore, we will also suggest some great alternatives to landscaping that are still beautiful and, most importantly, not toxic to your pets.

Please note that the following is NOT an all-inclusive list of trees and shrubs that are harmful to your pets. If you have concerns about a specific tree or shrub, visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control website or the Pet Poison Helpline website.  These two websites have an extensive list of plants, flowers, trees, and shrubs that are harmful to your pets.

Common Trees and Shrubs Harmful to Your Pets

Oleander

Oleander

The Oleander has a tree and a bush variety and comes in many different colors. Chewing on this shrub can cause nausea, excess drooling, vomiting, and even more severe symptoms such as abnormal heart rates or seizures.

Texas Umbrella Tree

Texas Umbrella Tree

If eaten, this tree can cause diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, seizures, and even death. The berries on this tree are the most toxic part. However, the bark, leaves, and flowers can also cause your pet to get very sick.

Rhododendron

Rhododendron

There are over 1000 species of rhododendrons. If eaten, these plants can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and more severe symptoms such as abnormal heart rate, tremors, and even seizures.  Azaleas are also in the rhododendron family.

Sago Palm Tree

Sago Palm Tree

If eaten, this tree will cause vomiting, bruising, and even liver failure in dogs and cats.

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

This beautiful bush will cause vomiting. Ingesting large amounts of the seeds may cause hallucinations.

Citrus Trees, Such as Orange, Lemon, or Lime Trees

Orange Tree

The fruits from these trees are OK for pets to eat. However, the skins and bark, leaves, and branches may cause vomiting, diarrhea, skin irritations, and lethargy.  

Peach, Plum, and Apple Trees

Plum Tree

These trees are very dangerous to pets. The stems, leaves, and seeds contain cyanide. If these parts of the trees are ingested, this can cause your pet to have bright red gums, dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, and even go into shock.

Arborvitae Tree

Arborvitae

If your pet decides to munch on this shrub, they could experience vomiting and diarrhea. If your pet plays in or rubs against this tree, it could cause severe skin irritation.

Juniper Bush

Juniper Bush

Ingesting this shrub will cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Myrtle Bush

Myrtle Bush

This beautiful shrub will cause vomiting and diarrhea if eaten.

Wisteria

Wisteria

Although this shrub is beautiful, it could be very uncomfortable for your pet if they decide to eat it. Ingesting the plant or its flowers will cause vomiting and diarrhea. This shrub may even cause your pet to vomit up blood.

Trees and Shrubs NOT Harmful to Your Pets

The following is a list of trees and shrubs that are pet-friendly. Although a tree or shrub is recognized as “pet-friendly,” any pet that consumes a large amount of a tree or shrub may experience stomach upset, vomiting, or diarrhea. Please observe your pets around your trees and shrubs to ensure they are not going to be “grazing” on them, and as a result, not feeling too well afterward.

Jasmine

Jasmine

Jasmine is a vine that has fragrant flowers when it is in bloom. This shrub does great on areas it can climb, such as a trellis, fence, entryway, porch, or arbor. Jasmine likes morning sunshine.

Magnolia

Magnolia

Magnolia bushes can grow very tall, up to 15 feet or more! They produce fragrant, beautiful colors in a variety of colors. They bloom in the springtime and prefer to be planted in a place with morning sunshine.

Pampas Grass

Pampas Grass

This is a beautiful, fast-growing ornamental grass with abundant white flowering that resembles feathers. Pampas Grass can be used as a windbreaker or a privacy screen for a back yard. This plant likes to be in an area with full sunshine and is a perennial.

Sword Ferns

Sword Ferns

Sword ferns can be great additions to any garden. They like to be planted someplace primarily in the shade or protected from the sun. The leaves of the greenery can grow several feet long, so prepare to plant the ferns in a place that gives them room to grow.  They grow great against your house or fencing and add a touch of natural color.

Mondell Pine Tree

Mondell Pine

The Mondell Pine tree is a fast-growing tree that can get up to 50 feet tall. It is a great tree to provide shade for your back yards. This tree is very drought tolerant, making it popular in desert climates.

Canary Date Palm

Canary Palm

If you are looking for a pet-safe palm tree to plant in your yard, the Canary Date Palm will do great! This tree can up to 30 feet tall, so make sure to plant it in a place that will accommodate its height.  This tree is very slow-growing and tolerates drought conditions well.  

Lilacs

Lilacs

Lilacs can come in a tree or shrub variety and are very fragrant when they are in bloom. They come in a variety of color options. Lilacs like morning sun with afternoon shading. Lilacs are perennials, meaning they come back every year.

Bottlebrush

Bottlebrush

Bottlebrush is another shrub that would be a great addition to any garden. It has many unique flowers that are colorful and have a spiky appearance, hence the name of the plant.  Bottlebrush is an excellent plant for hot, dry climates and likes plenty of sunshine.

Hibiscus

Hibiscus

Hibiscus is a beautiful flowering shrub, available in many color varieties. It loves morning sun and needs to be protected from frost and freezing temperatures. 

The Possibilities Are Endless

As we discussed, this is only a small list of trees and shrubs that are used in landscaping. Take a walk around your property to get familiar with what trees, shrubs, and flowers that you have in your yard. Pay attention to the areas that your pet has free access to roam around in.  Furthermore, pay attention to how your pet reacts to their environment. Some pets don’t pay any attention to flowers and greenery, while others love to make messes with your landscaping plants and trees.

If you already have some trees or shrubs in your yard that are harmful to your pets, don’t panic, you have plenty of solutions.

When looking at adding some landscaping to your yard, think about how you want to design the area. Where is the area you wish to landscape? Is your pet going to be in the area you are landscaping at all?  Spend some time deciding where and how you would like to landscape the area, and then you can determine which trees or shrubs you would like to put in the areas.  If you find that Flowers and Plants are more of what you would like to landscape your yard with, check out my article on “Plants and Flowers Toxic to Pets, and Safe Alternatives”.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and the Pet Poison Helpline have excellent websites listing a directory of plants, flowers, trees, and shrubs that are toxic to pets.  The ASPCA also has a downloadable app for your mobile device, so when you are out shopping, you can research the items before you even decide to purchase them.  Have fun landscaping with your pets!

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