Pets can be great gardening companions. Both cats and dogs can deter many troublesome garden pests, from moles to deer. Growing a few plants for your pets can be mutually beneficial for them and for the rest of your garden.
Most cats love catnip. About 80% in fact, have positive, if not overly gleeful, psychoactive reactions to nepetalactone, the substance found in the leaves and stems of catnip. The other 20% are not likely to respond at all. Reactions usually last about 15 minutes and are considered completely safe for felines. Catnip is a hardy perennial that is easy to grow in the home garden and even indoors. The leaves and stems can be dried similarly to mint and other herbs and stored for a long time. Catnip also produces flowers that attract many beneficial insects to the garden.
Also known as orchard grass, cat grass is often a favorite of house cats. They will likely nibble at it and roll in it. It can be grown in the garden or indoors in pots.
Accompanied by a vanilla fragrance when the flowers blossom in the spring, valerian root acts as a stimulant for most cats. Once established, valerian is a hardy perennial that can grow like a weed. Dig up the roots and dry them outdoors as the odor is not as sweet as its blossoms.
Lemongrass not only attracts cats, it makes a delicious kitchen herb used in meats and tea. This is a tropical plant that may not grow outdoors but in warm, humid environments (frost will kill it). Lemongrass also repels mosquitoes and fleas.
Mint is a fragrant herb that is said to help repel fleas. Safe for pets, it makes a great herbal tea as well. Mint also grows with abandon and can take over your garden if you don’t contain it.
A beautiful flowering plant with a great aroma that is a perfect pet plant because it repels fleas and is non-toxic. Grow it as a perennial in moderate zones or as a summer annual in extremely hot or cold climates.
Not to be confused with the popular herb, cat thyme (Teucrium marum) grows great with lots of sun and fertile soil. Lots of cats like it better than catnip and may trample it if you don’t protect it. Want to see if your cats like it? Check out Enchantacat Kitty Potpourri, which is a mixture of cat thyme, catnip, and cat mint that most cats go wild for.
Grow only the herb type of rosemary. It helps repel fleas and tastes great in the kitchen. Avoid rosemary pea or rosemary bog, which are toxic to pets.
PLANTS FOR BIRD SEED
You can grow plants whose seeds can be harvested for your pet birds. Try sunflowers, fennel and cilantro.
Sage and chamomile are non-toxic to dogs and cats and may help repel fleas.
These plants are considered safe for pets and may add a nice element to your garden or house: African violet, bamboo, banana plant, lady slipper, spider plant, money tree, money tree, cast-iron plant and ponytail plant.
PLANTS TO AVOID
Wormwood, eucalyptus, fleawort, pennyroyal, tansy, rue, citronella and sweet bay are a few plants purported to repel fleas, which may seem like a great idea, but in fact are toxic to dogs and cats. Peace lily, snake plant, ficus, philodendron and pothos are also toxic when ingested by dogs and cats.
Herbs and flowers do not kill fleas; they only repel them. However, you can dry and sprinkle flea-repelling herbs in your pet’s beds and along doorways to help keep them away.