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.
ASPCA, National Poison Control Center, List of Nontoxic Plants
Merck Veterinary Manual
Cornell University Poisonous Plants Informational Database
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.