non toxic flowering shrubs?

Hiccups4November 21, 2012

Hi there, I was all excited about planting a multitude of reblooming hydrangeas and now realize they are toxic to dogs :(. I have both dogs and children and need to pack a punch with flowering shrubs..they just need to be non toxic.

Does anyone or could anyone please compile a list of wonderful shrubs that are non-toxic to both children and dogs? Flowering and foliage interest are preferred. Thanks! full sun / part sun Z4-5ish (see city above).

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i went the easier route.. as a stay at home dad ..

i taught the kids to eat ONLY what i handed them.. often giving them a snack baggie of goodies.. as i kicked their butts out the door ...

as for the dog.. i taught a succession of them ... to mind the garden beds ... mostly by walking them on a leash around the yard.. until they understood what was mine.. and what was his.. plus some bitter apple spray ...

sorry.. but as far as i am concerned.. EVERYTHING is toxic in the yard.. simply depending on how much you eat of it ... i mean really.. if they eat an acre of carrots.. they WILL turn orange [like my old boss did once] ... ipso ergo presto.. carrots are toxic ...

good luck


    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 7:30PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

My dogs have never touched my hydrangeas. I imagine if they ate my tomato leaves, it would also do a number on them, but they've never done that either. Then there's the wild nightshade that shows up on occasion...


P.S. My oldest dog is 16 yrs old.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 8:19PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

My dogs have never touched my hydrangeas either...well, only to trample them as they run around like maniacs. I am thinking of sending them to Ken for training...;)

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 9:43PM
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Sara Malone Zone 9b

I'm with Ken...I have two dogs and thousands of plants and as he says, virtually everything is toxic to some degree. Hydrangeas wouldn't even make my top 100 of plants to be concerned about (agaves with their lethal spikes are much more worrisome!) and toxins such as rodent poison, etc are much greater hazards to dogs than most plants.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 6:36PM
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When was the last time you heard about a dog or kid munching on a rhododendron? Or a daphne? Accidental poisoning of pets or small children from ingesting outdoor plants is very uncommon - there is a far greater risk with indoor issues, both plants and other products that may be easily accessible. I gardened for years with both dogs and kids and never once restricted what I included in my garden! Never had an issue with either munching on something they shouldn't.

Common sense would dictate that neither should be left unsupervised anywhere while still small. IME, dogs are much easier to train than kids but both will respond to gentle guidance. Ken's practice is very sound - forbid the consumption of anything found outdoors that has not been previously approved by mom or dad.

FWIW, there are very few plants whose toxicity is such that ingesting even a small amount can cause injury. In most cases, one needs to consume a quantity before serious harm can arise. Stay away from toxic plants that have appealing looking seedpods or berries as these are much more likely to generate an attraction to kids or pets than any kind of flowers or foliage. I wouldn't even think twice about including hydrangeas - they would pose virtually NO risk at all.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 1:38PM
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i assume you are the only person in this country that cares about their dog.

in twenty years, i have never heard anything about hydrangea being toxic in the slightest. not from trusted, reliable sources, not from unsubstantiated gossip in the nursery yard. until now, haven't even heard a whisper of a possibility.

want a safe list? invest in bubble wrap? hot pepper spray? start your own rumors about the hidden menace in your garage so deadly that a single touch could cause instant traumatic injury, internal bleeding, broken bones, even death? but that car sure makes getting to the vet easier.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 7:16AM
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I do appreciate everyone taking the time to read and reply. However, I was not asking for child rearing or dog training advice. I was simply asking for a list of non toxic flowering shrubs. I understand that water can be toxic if consumed in great quantities..i'm not an idiot :) I would also not want to plant poison ivy next to my child's sandbox. Perhaps, it is my error of not being clear. I would like to avoid high/medium toxic plants and stay in the realm of medium to low non toxicity. Sheesh! I was just asking for help as I am new to gardening. There is a list :
Perhaps, from this list could someone recommend flowering shrubs/small trees that are good in my zone? If you are going to be mean spirited or judgmental then keep your thoughts to yourself please.
Thanks again.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 7:48AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I have a ten acre garden with all sorts of plants. All my friends with dogs bring them here for exercise. In 35 years, I haven't had a problem, and I have probably fifty hydrangeas.
People bring their kids and grandkids. At times it looks like a daycare center.
I can't comment on what plants you should grow as I'm not familiar with your Zone, but I think your fears are unfounded.
Ask your local nursery for advice. Join a garden club.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 8:44AM
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In that case, stay away from the Daphne, Rhododendron, Leucothoe, Kalmia, and Pieris. They are among the most toxic flowering shrubs that will grow in your zone...they are also fairly unappealing to anything other than a grazing herbivore.

Dogs favour nice tender leaves that taste sweet....most often grass-like and leave pretty much everything else alone.

Kids favour brightly coloured berries that taste good. In most cases the consumption is self limiting because the berries taste horrible. Daphne and Taxus are two to avoid here if you're not sure they'll spit out a FOUL tasting berry.

The issue that other posts are trying to articulate is that animal (& people) behaviour is a bigger factor than acute toxicity. These plants didn't evolve for the sole purpose of tricking animals into eating them and dying. The plants are much better served by making themselves unappetizing and they do it well.

If acute toxicity was the sole decision factor, we'd have to eliminate rhubarb, potatoes, and tomatoes from the garden as well. People who garden also have kids and dogs and a lot of experience to share about real vs. perceived risks.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 9:04AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

At the site you mention, there is one kind of Hydrangea listed, H. arborescens, a white-flowering shrub. The blue ones that most people are probably referring to are not part of this, they are H. macrophylla. The linked site also mentions that the toxicity is gastrointestinal distress, not death. I get gastrointestinal distress if I eat too many bell peppers... Many plants are also labeled as toxic if they, to be blunt, give you a buzz, and would be considered desirable for that reason in certain cultures.

Most new gardeners go through this same "toxic phase" that you are experiencing, realizing a plant they like is "toxic." You are in good and abundant company. There are hardly any plants that would cause an emergency from a nibble.

I would be more worried about dogs becoming sick from fertilizers, 'cides, lawn treatments, than from ingesting plants that dogs don't eat anyway. Knowing that a particular plant is toxic to a particular critter is a moot point if it is never ingested. I have kids and a long series of dogs throughout my life also, and have never had any issues with Oleander, nightshade, Foxgloves, Castor bean, Nandina, tomato leaves, and many other plants with high toxicity.

Since the beginning of humanity, part of a parent's job is to teach kids to NOT eat things without knowing what they are first. Nobody is being condescending or judgmental by encouraging you to do so also. Such advice and encouragement is always offered in response to fears about toxic plants. Just like baby-proofing your home, with plants that make berries, just trim them off at the level where small kids can reach them. Very soon the kids will be grown enough to understand your instructions and it won't be an issue.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 11:20AM
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Hello. I'm providing a link to a list of poisonous plants and, yep, hydrangeas are on the list. Although the list is on an Australian site, it has information helpful for North America as well. The site lists not only the plant, but the specific parts of the plant that are poisonous.

You might pick out shrubs you like from a catalog, make a list of their names, take the list to a local nursery and ask the staff about the toxicity of particular shrubs. Or you could check particular shrubs online to see if there's any mention of them being poisonous. Unfortunately, you may get conflicting information, so you should probably give more credence to university sites.

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden plants poisonous to people.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 7:52PM
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from Poisonous Plants: A Handbook for Doctors, Pharmacists, Toxicologists, Biologists and Veterinarians, by Frohne and Pfander:

occasional reports of contact dermatitis following contact with hydrangeas. particularly after contact with seedlings. the precise quote is that people who work with hydrangeas not infrequently develop inflammation and excema. no definition of what not infrequently is.

further discussion of reports of smoking hydrangea as an alternative to cannabis. boiled down, it's wishful thinking stretched a little.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 9:36PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I just checked the poisonous plants list put out by the Canadian Department of Agriculture. Here's what they said re hydrangeas:

Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) is an outdoor ornamental that is grown in the warmer parts of Canada. This plant has poisoned humans after they ingested the flower buds. Sensitive individuals can develop dermatitis after exposure to hydrangea. Older case reports of poisoning of horses and cattle appear in the literature, but no recent reports are available.

Here is a link that might be useful: Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 10:58AM
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