It's too bad plants can't sue for slander. Petunias (Petunia spp.) got a bad rap somewhere along the line and you'll frequently hear people say that these bright and beautiful flowers are toxic to dogs. But while Fido chowing down a bedful of petunias might put his human in a poisonous mood, that's the only toxic effect likely from the consumption of these bright blossoms of the summer garden.

Pretty Plants Are Not All Poisonous

Just like the old "truism" that all pretty girls lack brain power, the saying the all pretty plants are poisonous is simply false -- and the petunia is the poster child to prove it. Nothing could be lovelier than these bright and lively blossoms, filling the garden with sweet fragrance from spring until the first frost. The ease of cultivating the trumpet-shaped beauties doubles a gardener's pleasure. All you have to do is fill a sunny bed or border with well-drained soil and transplant the petunia starts. Petunias are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11 but can be grown as annuals anywhere.

Eating Petunias Is Not Advisable for Dogs

Given the hordes of dogs that are brought into vet's offices every year after eating toxic plants, it is not wise to assume that canines can identify poisonous plants by instinct. The ASPCA makes it very clear that petunias are not toxic to dogs, cats or other animals, but their website contains a very lengthy list of other, equally pretty plants that are mildly or lethally toxic. For that reason, it's not a good idea to allow or encourage dogs to lunch on flowers. In addition, too much foraging isn't good for a dog's digestive track. If your dog seems ill after spending time in the garden, consider a visit to the vet.

Keeping Dogs -- and Petunias -- Out of Trouble

Let sleeping dogs lie, by all means, but not in your petunia beds. With a little effort, you can protect your petunias as well as Fido from harm. Your options for keeping the two apart are They start with good puppy training to set boundaries in the yard, but physical boundaries are not a bad idea either. Good fencing can separate pooch and garden. Surrounding your flowering plants with a hedge of thorns is another possibility. Or you can make a separate, enclosed dog play area inside the garden.