Shade, shrubs and dogs

Tue. Jun. 5, 2018

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Shade, shrubs and dogs

I had a listener who was looking for a shrub for shade.  Sounded simple except she needed one that was not toxic to dogs.  Her backyard is small and fenced so it’s important to make sure that whatever she plants is safe for her two curious dogs.  Take the Yew, please, it’s toxic to nearly everything.

Yew berries

While it grows in shade, the seed inside the berries is toxic to pets and people.

Hydrangeas are pretty but poisonous to pups. In fact, the leaves and buds are also toxic to cats and horses. These parts of the plant contains a chemical more commonly known as cyanide. If a pup chews on the plant, the chewing action releases the toxins. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea and depression.

‘Lime Rickey’ and ‘Strawberry Vanilla’

Euonymus is poisonous if large quantities are ingested.  There are many types of euonymus.

Euonymus ‘White Album’

The seed and subsequently the fruit of an alpine currant, a decent shrub for shade, is toxic to pets, however, there needs to be a male and female plant to get the fruit.

A cultivar named ‘Green Mound’ is male and does not produce fruit, so it could be planted.

Alpine Currant ‘Green Mound’ by Chalet Nursery

Leaves, flowers and nectar of rhododendrons and azaleas are toxic to dogs and honey from rhodo flowers can be toxic, even in humans.  Here’s a link to more information on rhododendron poisoning in dogs from

Rhodos and Azaleas photo taken at MN Landscape Arboretum

So what the heck can she plant? Aside from the non-fruit bearing currant, there’s a lovely shrub called Clethra.  It’s commonly called Summersweet and uncommonly delivers heavenly scented flowers in shady locations from July to August!    ‘Sugartina Crystalina’ is by Proven Winners.   ‘Ruby Spice’

Sugartina ‘Crystalina’ by Proven Winners
Clethra ‘Ruby Spice’ by White Flower Farms