Your garden may be a relaxing retreat, but it's not a place to let your guard down, especially when it comes to small children and the family pet. Some popular plants you prize for their ornamental beauty can turn into toxic killers within minutes if ingested, whether consumed out of curiosity or by mistake. With this list you'll know what flowers, shrubs, and berries to warn young, inquisitive minds about and which bushes and flowers to keep out of paw's reach. You'll also learn the symptoms of poisoning because—after prevention—rapid treatment is the only defense against death.
Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum)
Why we grow it: Give them moisture and shade, and rhododendron shrubs offer showy red, white, pink, or purple flower clusters in spring and thick, glossy leaves that thrive into the winter.
Deadly parts: The entire plant.
Toxic toll: Who knew both West Virginia and Washington's state flower was a silent killer? Swallow any part of this plant, and you're going to look as bad as you feel. While drooling from the mouth and teary-eyed, you'll begin vomiting violently, just as your pulse slows down and low blood pressure sets in. Death can occur shortly after falling into a coma or during a violent seizure.
Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Photo by Miika Silfverberg
Why we grow it: Low to the ground with spires of tiny, white bell-shaped flowers, lily-of-the-valley packs a potent, sweet-smelling scent despite its small size. It's also an excellent groundcover in shady settings.