Incorporating tropical plants and shrubs into your landscape design is always a good idea. Their loud and vibrant flowers partnered with attractive foliage are nothing short of wonderful. However, there are certain types of tropical plants and shrubs that have been proven to be dangerous for your pets. Most of these plants, like hibiscus and azaleas, will give you a showy display of colors but they will also cause distress and dangerous effects when they are ingested by your furry family members.

If you have a pet at home, take a look at the list below. We have described 4 tropical plants that emit toxins that could harm your pet. Learn about these plants and make sure to remove them from your property ASAP!


1. Hibiscus

Red hibiscus blooms near Siesta Key, FL.

The hibiscus flower, with its huge petals, is great landscape addition. These shrubs come in an array of colors that provide your lawn with the cheerful colors of a tropical paradise. Tall stems hold the big flowers with glossy, green leaves that provide a stunning backdrop to its bright blooms. However, some cultivars of the hibiscus can be toxic to cats, dogs, and even horses.

The Rose of Sharon cultivar has bell-shaped flowers with stamens sticking out. Dogs should not ingest these flowers as they can cause distress to the digestive system. If your pets have recently been around this flower, you should monitor them for diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and excessive drooling, as these are symptoms of Rose of Sharon poisoning. If the symptoms persist for more than 12 hours, we recommend contacting your veterinarian.


2. Azaleas

Bright pink and red azaleas near Lido Key, Florida.

Once you have set your eyes on a fully-bloomed azalea shrub, it might be hard not to add them to your landscape. There are many azalea varieties you can choose from, and any one of them can easily enhance your curb appeal. Azalea flowers come in orange, red, pink, purple, and white.

Although they are stunning plants, all parts of all azalea varieties are poisonous to pets and livestock. Livestock animals are more likely to consume them during grazing. They contain grayanotoxins that cause dramatic effects when ingested. The toxin is commonly found in the nectar produced by azaleas and the species it belongs to, rhododendrons. The affected honey is called mad honey and might cause these symptoms:

  • Burning sensation in the mouth upon ingestion
  • Salivating
  • Blurred vision
  • Low blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Arrhythmias
  • Mild paralysis
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Although these symptoms sound scary, it is important to note that most animals that have been affected by the toxicity of azaleas fully recover. However, it would still be best to take your pet to the veterinarian to receive proper treatment and detoxification.


3. Oleander

Pink oleander blooms near Longboat Key, FL.

Oleanders have exuberant colors in pink, red, white, and yellow that will grow singularly or double petals. This shrub is resilient to poor soil conditions, excessive shearing, heat, and drought. Although it is a good low-maintenance option for your landscape, it can be dangerously toxic to your pets.

All parts of the oleander part are toxic and coming into contact with them can cause skin irritations, among other symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Dehydration
  • Shock
  • Depression
  • Hyperkalemia and hyperglycemia

Please bring your pets to your veterinarian immediately if you suspect that they have been in contact with an oleander shrub.


4. Sago Palms

Sago palm plant growing at a property in Sarasota, FL.

Sago palms are slow-growing tropical plants that sport feather-like fronds and produce nuts. They look like tiny palm trees that grow one leaf per year, so it takes them at least five years before reaching maturity.

The entire sago palm, most especially the nuts, is toxic to pets and humans when ingested. Sago palm nuts contain toxins that can largely affect the liver. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals lists vomiting, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, and liver damage as symptoms of sago palm poisoning.

Contrary to its name, sago palms do not belong to the palm group of plants. They are cycads or ancient tropical plants that date back to about 200 million years ago.


We can help you choose the right plants to keep your pets safe. Call us today!

We know it can be scary to learn that there are plants that could cause harm to your beloved pets. That's why our experts are here to help you make sure that your landscape doesn't include these types of plants. We offer plant installation services to the Sarasota, Siesta Key, and Longboat Key, Florida areas. Call us today at (941) 993-2442 for help with your plant installation needs.