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The Gentle Gardener

Please don’t eat the daisies (Or the chrysanthemum, or the sago palm, or the oleander)

When my husband and I were first married, a mutual friend asked us to watch his pet beagle “Pete” while he went out of town. We both said “Sure!” thinking, “how hard can this be?” We were clueless. We came home from work the first night to discover that “Pete” had eaten our brand-new white sofa. Upon hearing our arrival, he sat proudly regarding his handiwork with stuffing, feather and foam stuck to his head and paws. All of a sudden, it was my friend and his dog. You think we’d learn.

Several years later, another mutual friend asked us to watch his puppy. Enough time had passed that we were eager to redeem ourselves. So naturally, we said, “What the heck, how hard can it be?” We returned home from work the first night and all was well with the world. The puppy was delighted to see us and actually peed on command. “See?” we told ourselves. “We’ve got this!”

The second night we came home to discover that the puppy had eaten our carpet. We were renting at the time and saving every penny for our first home. I guess not surprisingly in hindsight, the landlord was actually thrilled to be the beneficiary of brand-new carpeting. Once again, it was my friend and his @#!$ dog. You think we’d learn.

Luckily, neither of these events were actually life threatening to the pets in question. However, things could have taken a much more deadly turn had these four-legged beasts of burden decided to chomp their way through the garden. Therefore, I thought it advisable to provide y’all with a handy reference list of plants to be avoided if you have pets that like to teeth on plants from the most toxic to the least serious.


Plants that can be lethal if ingested:
Sago palms, Azaleas, Oleander, Cyclamens, Delphinium, Lantana, Foxglove, Larkspur, Mistletoe, Dieffenbachia, Cala Lily, Carnation, Chrysanthemums, Daisies, Gladiolas, Hydrangea, Tulip

Plants that can cause organ damage if ingested:
Cardboard palm, Juniper, Crocus

Plants that can cause upset stomachs if ingested (vomiting and diarrhea, which is lethal to carpeting and furniture – take my word for it):
Boxwood, English Ivy, Holly, Kalanchoe,
Poinsettia, Pothos Ivy, Schefflera

Plants that can cause dermatitis (skin rashes) upon contact:
Agapanthus, Cactus, Chrysanthemums, Ficus, Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Pothos Ivy, Primerose, Schefflera, Sumac

Ask & Answer

We’ve just moved into the area. I love to feed the birds but was warned by neighbors that feeders can attract squirrels and worse — marsh rats. Help!
— Bird Crazy in Bluffton

Feeders can indeed attract marsh rats that have been known to infest attics. If you are adamant about placing feeders around your yard, consider hummingbird feeders which won’t leave any debris on the ground. There are also numerous plants that produce beneficial berries and nectar for birds. Your local garden center can help you decide which ones are right for you.

Got a question for the Gentle Gardener? Email [email protected]