Animal Wisdom

Keeping Your Familiar Safe in the Garden

Ostara is a time of fertility; many of the rituals that take place are based around blessing the seeds for this year’s crop of plants. We look around us and nature is awakening, birds, animals and plants are all awakening around us. We are coming out of our own winter stupors. It is a beautiful time. The old Sabbats were all based around the planting cycle. In that vein we are going to talk about how to keep your furry friend safe from common plants and chemicals that can have severe even lethal effects on him or her.

Most animals (like us) have very sensitive digestive systems. I know it is tough for me to keep plants in the house, as my cats love things to munch on especially foliage or thin branches. Even though a plant may not be toxic it could cause a bout of indigestion. There are plenty of common plants that can harm or even kill a beloved pet so let’s review them.

Courtesy of the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center 1

Marijuana – Ingestion of Cannabis sativa by companion animals can result in depression of the central nervous system and in coordination, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, increased heart rate, and even seizures and coma.

Sago Palm – All parts of Cycas Revoluta are poisonous, but the seeds or “nuts” contain the largest amount of toxin. The ingestion of just one or two seeds can result in very serious effects, which include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures and liver failure.

Lilies – Members of the Lilium spp. are considered to be highly toxic to cats. While the poisonous component has not yet been identified, it is clear that with even ingestions of very small amounts of the plant, severe kidney damage could result.

Tulip/Narcissus bulbs – The bulb portions of Tulipa/Narcissus spp. contain toxins that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.

Azalea/Rhododendron – Members of the Rhododendron spp. contain substances known as grayantoxins, which can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness and depression of the central nervous system in animals. Severe azalea poisoning could ultimately lead to coma and death from cardiovascular collapse.

Oleander – All parts of Nerium oleander are considered to be toxic, as they contain cardiac glycosides that have the potential to cause serious effects—including gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia and even death.

Castor Bean – The poisonous principle in Ricinus communis is ricin, a highly toxic protein that can produce severe abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, weakness and loss of appetite. Severe cases of poisoning can result in dehydration, muscle twitching, tremors, seizures, coma and death.

Cyclamen – Cylamen species contain cyclamine, but the highest concentration of this toxic component is typically located in the root portion of the plant. If consumed, Cylamen can produce significant gastrointestinal irritation, including intense vomiting. Fatalities have also been reported in some cases.

Kalanchoe – This plant contains components that can produce gastrointestinal irritation, as well as those that are toxic to the heart, and can seriously affect cardiac rhythm and rate.

Yew – Taxus spp. contains a toxic component known as taxine, which causes central nervous system effects such as trembling, in coordination, and difficulty breathing. It can also cause significant gastrointestinal irritation and cardiac failure, which can result in death.

Harmful Common House Plants

While there are harmful plants we need to be aware of, there are also many other beautiful but deadly plants that are kept inside (or outside) of the home that can negatively affect our animals such as:

Aloe Vera

Seven Barks

Tomatoes – The fruit can cause anxiety.

Pothos – can cause severe mouth pain

Lily of the Valley
Red Maple (only to horses though)

White Snakeroot – all parts are poisonous most highly to dogs, rabbits and horses though

Bleeding Heart – extremely toxic to cats

Common Safe Garden Plants

There are some beautiful safe plants for cats and dogs, as well as edible flowers that can be placed in the garden or home and will flourish! Here is a list of some safe plants.

Carnations (pink petals)

Johnny-Jump-Up Petunias Dandelions




Pineapple Sage



African Violets



Hibiscus Flowers

Magnolia Miniature Roses




Spider Plant

Grape Ivy




Cast Iron Plant

To see a full listing of pet friendly plants  http://www.cfainc.org/articles/plants-non-toxic.html

Pet Friendly Pesticides

One of the most important things we need to consider is how you take care of your garden there are a ton of pests that can infest and threaten not only the beauty of the garden now but the potential harvest later. So lets look at some very easy to make, organic pesticides, using things you have around the home!

Clove Water:

Good for aphids and spider mites

1 Tbsp Cloves crushed

1 Spray Bottle filled with water

Directions: Put crushed cloves into water bottle, screw on cap and shake to mix. Spray on top of and under leaves once a day for three days or until all pests are dead. Be sure not to spray buds or flowers.

Salt Spray:

Good for cabbage worms and spider mites

2 Tbsp Salt

1 Gallon of water

Directions: Mix and Spray

Spearmint-Hot Pepper-Horseradish Spray:

Good for many different types of insects

½ C. hot red peppers

Water (read below)

½ C. fresh spearmint

12 C. horseradish root and leaves

2 Tbsp. non-toxic liquid detergent

½ C. green onion tops

Directions: Mix all vegetable and herbal ingredients in a big jar or vat, and then put in enough water to cover everything. Let sit for a couple of hours then strain. Add a half-gallon water and the detergent. To use this solution dilute it by using a half-gallon of the solution with a half-gallon of water. You can use it to spray pretty much any plant safely. Store the mix for a few days in a cool environment.

For more pet friendly and organic pesticides check out these sites!



It’s great to have your cake and eat it to. With a wide variety of plant options, and some old farmer’s tricks for bug care you can have a marvelous garden in your home or outside. Just remember to hide the catnip!