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Safe Plant Choices for Children & Pets
Penny J. Leisch

Selecting safe plants challenges the savviest gardener. Since personal preferences rule design and color choices, this information will focus on safe choices of plants and resources where you can search for answers as you make selections.

Before discussing specific plants, please be aware that many plants have the same common name. When you shop, you must purchase plants by the technical name. In addition to confirming the plant name, check the date of the resource you use. Veterinary information changes constantly, like human medicine. If one reference lists a plant as toxic and another lists the same plant as non-toxic, avoid the plant.

Many avid gardeners give up dreams of enjoying a durable, low maintenance, well-groomed lawn when their families include children and pets. If you are open to new ideas, science and technology offer many new options. Hardy hybrid turfs need less maintenance and offer greater durability than ever before. As an added bonus, people and pets with allergies often find hybrid grasses easier to tolerate. Artificial turf-the ultimate high-tech solution-offers all the advantages and few of the disadvantages. And it really does stand up to broiling sun and kids and pets. You'll find it pays for itself quickly when you calculate the money you spend on lawn care and lawn products over several years.

Of course, shrubs and annuals add wonderful variety to your garden, but some old favorites are very dangerous to pets and children. Oleanders, castor beans, poppies, chrysanthemums, eucalyptus, sago palms, asparagus ferns, aloe vera, geraniums, lantana, onions, potatoes and tomato plants contain toxic substances. Most of the ivy family and virtually all pitted fruits also contain toxins-some lethal. In addition, plants beginning from bulbs rate very high in toxicity. Even certain cacti are toxic. We often remember to take measures to pet-proof and childproof the inside of our homes and forget the yard may contain equally hazardous materials.

Try these favorites for adding safe color and interesting textures. Chinese plumbago grows into a beautiful shrub that blooms in lovely blue clusters, and carob trees also make a pretty addition to the landscape. Hollyhocks blossoms come in a variety of interesting types and colors. They add height and background color, while blooming for an extended period of time. In shady areas, coleus plants grow well near fountains and also come in a variety of colors, to mix or match. Tropical purple passion vines provide climbing color and sometimes bear delicious fruit too. Other popular plants that add color include annuals and perennials, such as snapdragons, bachelor's buttons a.k.a. cornflowers and the blue marguerite daisy.

Unfortunately, most gardeners discover a disagreeable insect invasion at some point. While avoiding all pesticides is the best environmental option, you may feel it is necessary to eliminate the worst cases of house and garden pests. For those times, the safest pesticide I've found is diatomaceous earth (DE). It works well and it is cheap. Arbico (http://store.arbico-organics.com) sells DE in quantity for a reasonable price.

And finally, remember to check the resources below to determine the toxicity of houseplants and vegetables too. Thanks to the Internet and advances in scientific information, we can do more than ever before to keep all of our family members safe.


Plant Resources:

ASPCA, National Poison Control Center, List of Nontoxic Plants
http://www.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=apcc_nontoxicplants

Merck Veterinary Manual
http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp

Cornell University Poisonous Plants Informational Database
http://www.vin.com/WebLink.plx?URL=http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants


Bio & URL:
Penny and Michael share their home with two dogs and one cat. They have over twenty years experience with special needs pets. Penny is also a monthly contributor to Loving Pets Magazine in Arizona. http://www.pennyspensandpics.com

 
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