10 garden plants that are safe for cats

These cat-safe plants are worth growing to create a sensory experience for your feline friend, but they’re also beautiful and impactful from a gardener’s perspective. From easy-to-grow flowers like sunflowers to perennial shrubs and herbaceous plants, there’s a wide variety of plants to choose from if you care about your cat’s safety while spending time outdoors.

Avoiding plants toxic to cats is key to avoiding stomach upsets and trips to the vet, but enhancing your cat’s time outdoors with plants they like to sniff and/or nibble on is even better. . Sit back, relax and enjoy your time in the yard with your pet.

To note: Remember that when we talk about garden plants in this article, we are talking about growing whole plants – not dried and definitely not essential oils, most of which will be toxic to your pet. The exception is lavender: this plant is generally safe for cats in its dried form, but not in fresh plant form.

1. Catnip

Catnip or blooming catmint closeup

(Image credit: Jacky Parker Photography / Getty)

Catnip is our number one recommendation because this herb is not only safe for cats, but enjoyed by them as a kind of recreational drug. Jason White, CEO of All About Gardening (opens in a new tab)advises that if you have cats, you should “plant some catnip in your yard and watch your cats have fun with them.”

“There is a reason the plant is named like this. Catnip emits a scent that induces euphoria in cats, making them hyperactive around the plant. Don’t worry about your garden being ruined, as this hyperactivity in cats is usually harmless, tossing, turning and rubbing.

Catnip plant seeds can be purchased from Amazon (opens in a new tab), which is probably the best place to get them because nurseries don’t always stock this plant. Catnip also happens to be a natural mosquito repellent plant.

2. Blue Mist

Blue Mist or Blue Beard Shrub

(Image credit: Tom Meaker/Getty)

Blue Mist, or Bluebeard, or Caryopteris, is a deciduous sub-shrub, that is, it is a plant with woody stems that partially die back during the winter. It has unusual looking fluffy blue flowers that make a nice statement in your planting scheme. Blue mist is also completely safe for cats. White recommends planting blue haze shrubs in your cat yard to make it more feline-friendly. This will give your feline friends plenty of shelter and privacy to do their business.

3. Sunflowers

Sunflower growing next to a fence

(Image credit: Jacky Parker Photography / Getty)

Growing sunflowers is one of the best options for beginner gardeners – they are very easy to grow from seed and make a real statement next to a fence or garden wall. What’s even better is that all parts of this plant are safe for cats. The founder of DIY and gardening publication PlumbJoe (opens in a new tab) Joe Taylor says “the massive flowers will provide shade for your cats and allow them to play.” Your cats can also climb on the plant and observe the surroundings.’

4. Asters

Blue Aster or St. Michael's Daisy close up

(Image credit: © Debi Dalio/Getty)

Asters are a valuable addition to any garden layout, perfect in borders or along a garden path. They come back every year if planted in a sunny location (and will do well even in partial shade), but their best feature is probably the fact that they provide color when most other things have finished flowering, often until October. Asters are safe for cats and wildlife.

5. Rosemary

Rosemary blooming in full sun

(Image credit: Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Getty)

Not all cats like the smell of rosemary, but they will at least sniff it, and those who are interested and taste the plant won’t be harmed in any way. In fact, rosemary may even be beneficial for cats struggling with digestive issues. If your cat has had a stomach problem and is munching on rosemary, it’s a good sign because he’s probably instinctively looking for a medicinal plant. Rosemary is also one of the best drought-tolerant plants, so if you live in a dry area and have a cat, this is definitely a plant to consider.

6. Cosmos

Cosmos blooming in full sun

(Image credit: Rosemary Calvert/Getty)

Cosmos is a pretty, bright annual that comes in pretty shades of pink and red, as well as white. Cats are unlikely to nibble on it as it is not very fragrant, but they will not be harmed if they do. It’s best to plant in a garden border where your cat will likely walk around the flowers rather than stepping on them.

7. Valerian

Valerian plant with butterfly

(Image credit: Gary Chalker/Getty)

Valerian, like catnip, induces euphoric hyperactivity in cats which, interestingly, is the opposite effect of what this plant has on humans. Valerian is a bit unfairly overlooked as a garden plant, but its bright pink flowers are very pretty. Valerian also makes a great addition to a wildlife garden, popular with pollinating moths and butterflies.

8. Violet

Common violets growing on a wall

(Image credit: Rosmarie Wirz/Getty)

The common or dog violet is by far the least maintenance plant you will ever grow. Once established, this hardy little plant with a sweet, powdery scent will last for years (even decades), growing in even poor soil or out of a garden wall. It is also one of the best shade plants and makes a perfect ground cover under trees and shrubs. Completely safe for cats, it tends to please them with its scent.

9. Zinnias

Blooming zinnias

(Image credit: Chuanchai Pundej/EyeEm/Getty)

If you want to start a cut flower garden, zinnias should be at the top of your list of flowers to plant. Easy-care annuals, they produce showy, bright blooms that make great accents in bouquets. Safe for cats even when nibbling.

10. Jasmine

True jasmine or star jasmine

(Image credit: Daniela Duncan/Getty)

True jasmine, or Jasminum officinale, is completely safe for cats and will add a beautiful, heady scent to your garden during the summer. True jasmine should not be confused with night jasmine, which is actually a different plant species (Cestrum nocturnum) and is toxic to cats.

Non-toxic plants for cats

Fortunately, there are plenty of plants that are completely safe for your cat and will make a great addition to your garden:

  • Shares
  • Roses
  • Freesias
  • Lavender
  • Catnip
  • Calendula
  • nasturtiums
  • Sunflowers
  • violets
  • snapdragons

Which shrubs are suitable for cats?

Bamboo, blue haze, bottlebrush, olive, foxtail, and crape myrtle are all considered safe for cats. Roses are not poisonous but they can be a problem with the thorns. Jen Stark, master gardener and founder of Happy DIY Home (opens in a new tab)advises against “plants with thorns, as it could hurt your cat”.

What can I put in my garden for cats?

Stark advises to “choose a pet-friendly fertilizer, such as seaweed concentrate (opens in a new tab) should be considered in addition to healthy plant selection. Herbicides and insecticides should never be used as they can harm your cat. Because cats are attracted to the smell of dung, bone and blood meal, it is strongly advised to use these materials with caution as they can be dug up, rolled over or even eaten. Magic of organic plants (opens in a new tab) is a good choice available on Amazon.