Safe & Toxic Plants For Australian Dogs

Updated June 14, 2021

The internet is full of useful lists of plants that are poisonous to dogs. However, it is a lot harder to find out what you can plant. That’s what I do here from an Australian point of view.

Below you can find lists of plants I either know to be safe or I see used so much that toxicity is extremely unlikely.

Designing A Garden For Dogs

Before starting, it’s worth a quick list of what makes a good space for dogs.

  • Areas to run and play (typically grass as paving can hurt the pads in summer)
  • Shady areas
  • Areas with loose dirt where digging is allowed
  • Permanent water (but not ponds due to the risk of blue green algae)
  • People

The focus of this article is on choosing the plants that go between grass and trees. These are great for creating hiding places, complexity and areas to snuffle and explore.

Note: any plant can be toxic if enough is consumed. You will reduce the risk further by offering edible grass to chew on. The items marked with an asterisk (*) have no data but widespread usage suggests that they are safe.

Grasses and Strap-Leafed Plants

Low strap-leaved plants are great to pee on or snuffle around in.

  • Bamboo (though it tends to try and take over the garden)
  • Clumping grasses* (esp Lomandra)
  • Cordyline australis & rubra (others less known)
  • Kangaroo Paw*
  • Sedges (Carex species)*
  • Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Watch out for Dracaena which looks very similar to Flax or Cordyline.

Exotic Shrubs

  • Camellias
  • Diosma (Coleonema pulchrum)*
  • Ferns & Palms (avoid cycads, bracken or sharp-tipped palms)
  • Pittosporum tobira (‘Miss Muffet’ is a nice compact form)
  • Plumbago auriculata (dogs love exploring in these when they get straggly)
  • Rosemary (may attract bees and make your dog smell like a lamb roast)
  • Star Jasmine (more of a climber but great on fences)

Native Shrubs

Many Aussie shrubs are theoretically poisonous due to the irritant oils they contain but in practice dogs find them too unpleasant to nibble.

  • Callistemon (bottle brush)
  • Correa*
  • Lilly pilly (Syzygium comes in a wide variety of sizes so don’t get a tree by mistake)*
  • Tea tree (Leptospermum)
  • Westringia fruticosa (‘Native rosemary’)*

My favourites here are Lilly pilly, Westringia and Correa, as you can tell by the garden at Walkerville Vet! Your final plant list will depend on your climate and the space available.

Succulents are also generally safe with the exception of aloe. However, be careful with any spiny or sharp edges, especially in dogs with short faces like Pugs and Bulldogs where the eye could be damaged.

Plants To Avoid With Dogs

It’s worth a quick list of the plants I don’t recommend, especially with puppies who tend to chew everything. You’ll notice that these are generally the more ornamental species. Asterisks (*) mark the extremely toxic plants.

  • Azalea & Rhododendron
  • Agapanthus & Clivea
  • Box (English, Korean, Japanese)
  • Brunfelsia* (yesterday, today, tomorrow)
  • Bulbs
  • Dracaena*
  • Lilies (very toxic to cats)
  • Grapevine*
  • Ivy* (read about that here)
  • Euphorbias eg Poinsettia 
  • Fig (except the edible fig)
  • Flowering quince
  • Gardenia
  • Geranium
  • Hellebore
  • Hydrangea
  • Nandina or Sacred bamboo
  • Oleander*
  • Periwinkle*
  • Philodendron
  • Privet
  • Strelizia
  • Umbrella plant
  • Wisteria 
  • Yucca

How Common Are Plant Poisonings Anyway?

Some years ago I cataloged all the dog and cat poisonings seen at Walkerville Vet; you can find it here. If you visit you’ll see that despite toxic plants being common in Australian gardens, actual poisonings are rare.

Instead, here were the top five threats from the garden:

  1. Rat poisons
  2. Mushrooms
  3. Pesticides
  4. Fertiliser
  5. Compost

Compared to plants, it’s actually quite easy to prevent dogs getting to these, and well worth the effort. Add in a well-designed dog friendly garden and you can hardly go wrong.

Except of course, by thinking that a garden is enough on its own. As any dog would love to tell you, it’s never a substitute for a good outing with the family.

Related: Designing a cat friendly garden | Causes of sudden death in dogs

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.

Andrew

34 Replies to “Safe & Toxic Plants For Australian Dogs”

  1. Hi, we’ve recently learned that the cheesetree roots are strongly linked to acute liver failure in dogs – ref Sydney University Vet School paper by Griebsh C., Bennett P., Whitney J., & Angeles J. 2018. It’s proving to be very difficult given that our dogs love to chew exposed sticks & roots, and dig for others. We have to closely monitor the dogs whenever they are in the yard, & race to the vet if they show early symptoms of cheesetree poisoning. Hoping this comment helps others reduce risk to their dogs.

    1. Hi Jay. Thanks for this. The reference is Griebsch, C., Whitney, J., Angles, J., & Bennett, P. (2019). Acute liver failure in two dogs following ingestion of cheese tree (Glochidion ferdinandi) roots. Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, 29(2), 190-200.
      Regarding your question, the only reliable solution is likely to be fencing off the tree so that the dogs do not have access.

      1. Hi Andrew,
        Thank you.
        Unfortunately the neighbours cheese trees are planted very close to the boundary & the roots of the cheesetrees have invaded all the lawn area of our yard which is the only outdoor area our 3 gorgeous dogs have to play in off-leash,
        Many of the tree roots are close to, or on the surface. It’s very concerning! As well, cheesetree twigs, leaves, fruit & small branches are often falling into our yard.
        Unfortunately the neighbours wont do anything about the trees, even though we’ve explained the risk to our dogs.
        We are thinking fake turf might be an option if it can provide a dig-proof barrier & comply with development regulations. We’d much prefer real lawn, but have to protect the lives/health of our dogs.
        We’d greatly appreciate any suggestions that could help us deal with this very concerning issue – we have 3 beautiful dogs who are like precious children to us.
        And, we’re hoping our comments help reduce the risk for other dogs, as we understand fast action is critical to saving a dogs life if it has been poisoned by ingesting cheesetree roots (or potentially other parts of a cheesetree).
        Thank you again.

  2. Hi there. Our 5 month puppy keeps digging up agapanthus roots, chews on them for a bit and leaves them at the back door. Should we pull out the plant just to be safe?

    1. Hi Jenny. That’s for you to decide. I’m just here to tell you where the risks are, how you deal with them is entirely in your court.

  3. Oh my! I have a modern garden full of Yakkas and Agave and grasses. And have just bought a Miniture Dachshund. Will I need to remove all the Yakkas?

    1. Hi Meridee. Many people do, but look in any dog owners garden and you’ll see poisonous plants. It comes down to whether the animal will eat them, and if they do it’s only usually while a young puppy.

  4. Hi Andrew, thank you for this very helpful article. Do you know if lemon myrtles are safe to have around dogs?

    1. Hi Oscar. Lemon myrtles are likely to be safe just judging by the fact that humans can ingest them, but the standard disclaimer applies: no one knows for sure, and every plant is toxic if you eat enough of it!

      1. Hi Ruby. There is no information but I have planted them in the past in my veterinary clinic so you can see I’m not too concerned by them. Perhaps a greater worry is that they do have spiky leaf tips and sometimes also flowering spikes for small dogs.

  5. Hi, in NSW but find your site very informative, we have a 4 month old lab pup who thinks the backyard is a salad bar. Every time we are out there she jumps and pulls leaves or flowers off plants, and we have to get them out of her mouth so now it’s a game. After going through so many lists online, we are today pulling out gardenias, agapanthus, and nandina, leaving us with camellias, tibouchina, lilli pilli trees, paperbark tree, magnolias and frangipani (not in bloom), which seem to be non toxic. We also have an out of the way bay tree, so that will go next week, but we have a Christmas bush, and I can’t find anywhere online if that is toxic or not, would you know?

    1. Hi Tanya. My golly, you certainly are taking this seriously! New Zealand Christmas bush (Metrosideros excelsa) has been a common garden species here in Adelaide for a long time and we have not heard of any poisonings. I would be surprised if it is very toxic, but of course I cannot guarantee it. I would also not look forward to trying to remove one!

  6. Hi Andrew
    I was wondering if Japanese box is poisonous to dogs as I have a new puppy who keeps going into the garden where the box plants are and as she is chewing everything I want her to be safe!

    1. Hi Pip. Given English box is toxic, it’s a fair bet that the Japanese and other members of the genus Buxus are equally of concern if ingested.

    1. Hi Vee. I have no information sorry. However, it is a good sign that there are no reports of poisoning given how common it is in New Zealand.

  7. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for this informative article.

    I’m planning an edible and ornamental garden for my sister, who has 2 malamutes. I was hoping to use comfrey as a soil conditioner. I’ve heard it can be toxic. Do you think it would be safe for dogs in the garden?

    Regards,

    Andrew
    (Brisbane)

  8. Are Caribbean/Carob seeds safe for dog to eat…..they look like a dried up brown banana peel….I have never been able to find out either way.

  9. Hello Andrew,
    On the Mornington Peninsula a common succulent ground cover is ‘Pigface’. Although having beneficial alovera properties and edible by humans it causes vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs. Following on from that, dehydration, lethargy and in our golden retriever’s case gastrointestinal haemorrhaging. Not good.
    I can’t believe there is minimal to no mention of this on the ‘toxic’ list

    1. Hi David. I’m sorry to hear about your Golden. However, I would be careful in attributing the poisoning to pigface. There is no reported instance of Carpobrotus toxicity that I am aware of and no known toxic principle (of course, please let me know if you are aware of any). Additionally, it is extremely rare for a plant to be edible to humans and poisonous to dogs given our similar metabolisms. The only examples that come to mind are onion and grapes . Most of the toxins like chocolate would probably be just as toxic to humans if we ate as much as dogs did relative to body weight and so this could be an alternative explanation if a large quantity was consumed – as I say in the article any plant can be toxic if you eat enough of it.
      Haemorrhagic gastroenteritis is a poorly understood disease which has no known cause to this date. It appears sporadically and without warning and I’m so happy your dog survived.
      Perhaps the confusion might arise because another plant called pigface (Portulaca) is an ornamental garden plant known to be highly toxic to dogs, and I thank you for reminding me of it. However, I am very wary of adding a common Australian plant to walnuts, apples etc that have existing unfounded fear attached to them. Stay tuned for a similar article on eucalyptus!

  10. Any idea if Geebung fruit are safe for a dog to consume? I’ve only found info that says generally safe for humans, mammals and birds.

  11. Hi Andrew,
    Thank you for your guidance on safe plants for dogs. Just wondering if the acmena smithii (high & mighty Lilly pilly) is also safe for dogs?

    1. How interesting! Until now I had not realised that it was a Lilly Pilly. According to Wikipedia Acmena smithii is now a synonym of Syzygium smithii. This is a common plant in Adelaide and we have no reports of poisons but I would still be careful.

      1. Thank you. We wont plant it in the dog’s play area.

        We’ve also being considering tibouchina, however haven’t been able to find it listed as either toxic or safe for dogs.

        Thanks again for your very helpful information & website.

  12. This is a great site. Australian and not American. We have just bought a little Cavoodle home, and this advice will be invaluable. Thanks so much Andrew. Ree

  13. Hi Andrew I have a Lily Pilly tree in my backyard and I eat the fruit. Is it safe to feed my small dog these berries?

  14. Hi Andrew, thank you so much for this!!! It’s so informative when a lot of sites were American! We live in NSW and for a puppy last week and our backyard is covered in Jade Plants!! Should I be removing this? There’s just so many of them, we also have Lilly Pilly trees that get the berries, are those okay?

    Never realised puppies bit absolutely everything ‍

    1. Hi Ellie. Jade plants are considered to be toxic, and with a puppy it is possible they could chew up enough to make themselves sick. Therefore I would prevent access or remove them unless your dog is old or wise enough to ignore them.
      Lilly Pilly on the other hand seem quite safe – I have in fact planted them down the drive of my veterinary clinic. There is no data (and therefore also no guarantee!) but experience suggests that these fruits are safe for dogs.

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