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 are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These articles are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!

Andrew

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

  1. 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

  2. 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?

  3. 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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