En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - May 21, 2009

From: Woodmere, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Dog-proof shrubs in Woodmere NY
Answered by: Barbara Medford


My chocolate lab thinks that shrubs are the same as "fetch" sticks..she's ripped out my azalea, rhododendron, andromeda and a few others I'm not sure of the names. She's a great pup (almost 1 yr old), but I'd really like to re-landscape my back yard without fear of her ripping everything out. I don't want to use additional fencing or walling around the plantings. Are there are any particular shrubberies that she won't go after? Thanks so much.


With all due respect, it would seem that training the dog might be a good idea before replanting the shrubs. Perhaps waiting to replant until your dog is past puppydom could also help. We have lists of deer-resistant plants, but don't remember being asked for dog-resistant plants before. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we recommend only plants that are native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. Plants native to an area will be accustomed to the climate, rainfall and soil and therefore need less water, fertilizer and maintenance. However, even plants native to New York are not accustomed to being pulled up by an enthusiastic pup. We will, however, go to our Native Plant Database and see what we can find in shrubs that we think might better resist lab attacks. We have tried to choose some low plants (as well as some taller ones) that have tough spreading roots and/or branches and, of course, are not known to be toxic. We want to stop your dog from chewing on them, but we don't want to poison her. Some of the shrubs we chose have prickly or aromatic foliage which we hope will discourage dog tasting.

Shrubs for New York

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick) - trailing evergreen, ground cover, 6 to 12 inches tall, blooms white, pink March to June, low water usage, sun, part shade or shade

Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern) - aromatic, mound-shaped, 2 to 4 ft. tall, blooms white, green May to August, low water use, part shade

Empetrum nigrum (black crowberry) - dense, mounded shrub to 6 inches tall, blooms pink, purple May to July

Ilex glabra (inkberry) - evergreen, leathery leaves, 6 to 12 ft. tall, blooms white May to July, high water use, part shade

Juniperus horizontalis (creeping juniper) - evergreen, prickly, 2 to 3 ft. tall, high water use, sun, part shade - pictures

Lindera benzoin (northern spicebush) - deciduous, 6 to 12 ft. tall, aromatic foliage, medium water use, sun, part shade or shade

Mahonia aquifolium (hollyleaved barberry) - evergreen, 3 to 6 ft. tall, spiny leaves, blooms yellow March to May, low water usage, part shade or shade

Morella pensylvanica (northern bayberry) - fragrant gray-green leaves, semi-evergreen, 3 to 12 ft. tall, blooms yellow July to October, medium water use, part shade

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Comptonia peregrina

Empetrum nigrum

Ilex glabra

Lindera benzoin

Mahonia aquifolium

Morella pensylvanica






More Shrubs Questions

Could lilacs grow in Georgia?
April 27, 2010 - Hi Mr Smarty Pants, First off, I want to commend you on your promotion of native plants. I am passionately anti-invasive plants (in fact, it was the subject of my master's thesis). That being said...
view the full question and answer

Pruning and deadheading rosa rugosa while blooming
August 01, 2008 - Can you prune the dead flowers and branches of rosa rogosa while it is still blooming?
view the full question and answer

Pruning a rough-leaf dogwood in spring
May 04, 2012 - Is it OK to trim a rough leaf dogwood now? Should I spray after trimming? Thanks
view the full question and answer

Shrubs and small trees for a slope in NY
May 21, 2012 - We are looking for a living wall made of shrubs / small trees - no more than 25' for the top of a steep creek bed. We are looking for the best erosion preventing types.
view the full question and answer

Small Tree or Shrub for Northern Virginia
March 04, 2011 - I live in Northern Virginia in the metro D.C. area and we just had a large pine tree topple over in the front of our house. We would like to replace it with a native evergreen that wouldn't grow up a...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center