Best pet-friendly ground cover plants – 5 non-toxic plants that don't mind being trampled on

Create a beautiful landscape for you and your pets to enjoy with these ground cover plants perfect for curious paws

Pet-friendly ground cover plants
(Image credit: Teresa Kopec via Getty Images)

When you have furrier members of the family, you have to make sure your outdoor space is safe for them to explore. Unfortunately, not all plants are safe for pets and those that contain toxins can make pets unwell if ingested.

Not only does this mean that you need ground cover plants that are non-toxic, but you'll also need to choose walkable ground cover plants that will bounce back if trampled on when pets run around. Luckily, there are plenty of ground over plants that fit the bill for a pet-friendly garden.

We've compiled an expert list of the best pet-friendly ground cover plants for you to explore so that you can have a beautiful carpet in your backyard that won't harm or become damaged by your pets.

Pet-friendly ground cover plants

(Image credit: rasevicdusan via Getty Images)

5 pet-friendly ground cover plants

If you have pets and want to create a colorful carpet across your yard, it's a good idea to stick to ground cover plants that are non-toxic and don't mind being trampled on. Discover our expert picks of the best pet-friendly ground cover plants below.

1.  Labrador Violet

Labrador violet

(Image credit: shapencolour via Alamy)

If you love purple plants and want to create a pet-safe purple haven, opt for Labrador violet (Viola labradorica). This robust plant has deep purple-green leaves, dotted with charming purple flowers that appear in spring and summer. The foliage also often remains throughout the year.

As the name suggests, this is a dog-safe groundcover. 'It is edible and not toxic, and can take some foot traffic and occasional dog urine,' notes Kathy Jentz gardening expert and author of Groundcover Revolution.

This vibrant plant grows best across US hardiness zone 3 to zone 8, where it enjoys bright light but it's also a good ground cover plant for shade, as it adapts well to darker areas. It can be a good idea to keep moisture levels up for this plant so that its foliage remains luscious throughout the year.

Kathy Jentz headshot
Kathy Jentz

Kathy Jentz is editor and publisher of the award-winning Washington Gardener Magazine, based in Washington, DC. She is also the editor of three plant society journals: the Water Garden Journal (IWGS), The Azalean (ASA), and Fanfare (Daylily Society Region 3). Kathy has written a couple of books, including Groundcover Revolution.

2. Snow-in-Summer


(Image credit: Malgorzata Larys via Alamy)

To achieve a bright yard, try planting snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum) - a hardy drought-tolerant ground cover plant.

'Growing well in full sun or partial shade, this low-growing perennial produces a carpet of silvery foliage with white flowers in late spring,' says Autumn Janus, plant expert from Perfect Plants. 'It can tolerate moderate foot traffic,' she adds.

This charming flowering plant is non-toxic and perfect for pets that want to run around. It grows best in US hardiness zone 3 to zone 7 and you can grow it with these snow-in-summer seeds from Walmart.

Autumn Hilliard-Knapp
Autumn Janus

Autumn is a horticulture specialist and marketing professional at Perfect Plants Nursery. With four years of experience in the horticulture industry, she has developed a passion for helping people create beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces to enjoy. Her expertise in horticulture encompasses a broad range of activities, including plant care and selection, landscape design, and maintenance.

3. Creeping Thyme

red creeping thyme flowers

(Image credit: Stocktaker / Alamy Stock Photo)

Creeping thyme is a herb that can be grown for ground cover. Give it plenty of sun and it will reward you with pink flowers in summer. Growing a red creeping thyme lawn is a great choice for your pet-friendly yard because it's soft to walk on and is non-toxic.

'It has an absolutely lovely herbal smell that will fill your lawn or garden space after a light stroll or rain shower,' says Diane Kuthy, the founder of How To Grow Everything. 'It has a tendency to cascade and drape down over rocks and walls in a moss-like fashion. When in bloom, this draping behavior creates a waterfall of beautiful purple flowers,' she adds.

This fast-growing ground cover plant will quickly create a bright, dazzling display in your backyard and you can also harvest this thyme to cook with.

This low growing plant thrives in US hardiness zone 4 to zone 9 and it can be bought from a range of suppliers, like this creeping thyme from Nature Hills.

headshot of Diane Kuthy, founder of how to grow everything
Diane Kuthy

Diane Kuthy is the founder and lead plant expert at How To Grow Everything, a collection of comprehensive grow guides for every plant and vegetable. Diane has over 10 years of gardening experience and she currently manages a 5-acre farm, a four-season greenhouse, over 50 perennial fruit and vegetable varieties, and a large indoor plant conservatory.

4. Lily Turf


(Image credit: Lee Hyuck via Getty Images)

A staple for those areas that get a lot of footfall - from both pets and humans - lilyturf (Liriope) is a sturdy grass-like plant that produces dramatic spikes of purple flowers.

'Lilyturf is safe for pets, low-maintenance and adaptable to different light conditions,' says Mary Helen Horn, pet health expert and President at ZIWI.

Lilyturf has evergreen foliage that will provide year-round interest and can grow well in part-shade, although sunlight will encourage blooms. Its tall flowers also make it a great option for growing alongside garden paths.

It does best in US hardiness zone 5 to zone 10 and can be bought online, like this lilyturf from Nature Hills.

Mary Helen Horn
Mary Helen Horn

Mary Helen Horn is a leader in the pet food industry and serves as President & Executive Director at ZIWI, a leading brand in pet nutrition worldwide. With two decades of industry experience, she is dedicated to educating pet owners about the vital role of nutrition in maintaining pet health. 

5. Moss


(Image credit: Ali Majdfar via Getty Images)

If you want a green groundcover that will last from pets trampling on it, growing moss is a safe choice. Moss is hardy, evergreen and non-toxic to pets. It can cope with footfall and will thrive for years in the right conditions.

Moss loves shady, moist environments, making it perfect for ground cover under trees and darker corners of your yard. Take care to keep moisture levels up so that it remains green and doesn't dry out.

Its a popular addition in Japanese garden design and can grow happily across the US as an evergreen ground cover plant.


Which ground cover plants are toxic to pets?

Ground cover plants that may cause your pets to become unwell if ingested include crocus, cyclamen, and geraniums. If you think your pet has eaten a plant that is toxic, you should seek professional veterinary help. Always research the plants you want to grow in your yard to ensure your pets aren't at risk of becoming unwell.

It's always wise to choose pet-safe plants for your yard if you have curious pets that might nibble at any foliage and florals. There are plenty of options for non-toxic ground cover plants that will also cope well with footfall, so you can have a beautiful landscape that is perfect for pets.

There are also plenty of other dog-friendly backyard ideas that will help you to make your outdoor space fun and enjoyable for the furrier members of the family.

Tenielle Jordison
News Writer (Gardens)

Tenielle is a News Writer in the Gardens team at Homes & Gardens with five years of journalistic experience. She studied BA Journalism, Media and English Literature and MA Magazine Journalism at Cardiff University. Before coming to Homes & Gardens, Tenielle was in the editorial department at the Royal Horticultural Society and worked on The Garden magazine. She is passionate about sustainable living and likes to encourage gardeners to make greener choices to help tackle the effects of climate change with a trowel in hand. Tenielle is also a houseplant lover who is slowly running out of room for her ever-growing collection.