How to grow your very own zoo

How to grow your very own zoo

Get kids interested in gardening by planting a whole host of animals

Ever thought of having lions and tigers in the garden? Well now you can with Lion’s Ear and Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ or how about some Elephant’s Ears? Anything that gets children interested in gardening and the natural world has to be a good thing and growing plants named after their favourite animals might just be the thing that fires up their imagination. Even better if they can grow them in their own little plot of garden; it doesn’t have to be a huge space, you can cram a lot in a little plot. Try and go for interesting names, bright flowers and, dare I say, gruesome carnivorous plants.

Cranesbill (hardy geranium)


Recommended plants for your zoo:

  • Bear  -  Bear’s Breeches (Acanthus), herbaceous perennial
  • Dragon  -  Dragonhead (Dracocephalum moldavica ‘Snow Dragon’), herbaceous perennial; Snapdragon (Antirrhinum), biennial           
  • Elephant – Elephant’s Ears (Bergenia. Colocasia esculenta), herbaceous perennial
  • Fox – Foxglove (Digitalis), biennial
  • Leopard – Leopard’s Bane (Doronicum orientale), herbaceous perennial
  • Lion – Lion’s Ear (Leonotis), herbaceous perennial
  • Monkey – Monkey Flower (Mimulus), summer annual
  • Mouse – Mousetail Plant (Arisarum proboscideum), herbaceous perennial; Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’, herbaceous perennial; Tiny Mice (Cuphea), summer annual
  • Porcupine – Porcupine grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’), perennial grass
  • Squirrel – (Sanguisorba hakusanensis ‘Lilac Squirrel'), perennial grass
  • Stag – Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), small deciduous tree
  • Tiger – (Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’), tender perennial
  • Zebra – (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’), perennial grass

Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris)

Cow Parsley

Or if you want to grow a farm along with some pets instead of wild animals:

  • Cat – Pussy Willow (Salix discolor), deciduous tree; Catmint (Nepeta caterina), herbaceous perennial
  • Cow – Cowslip (Primula veris), herbaceous perennial; Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), herbaceous perennial; Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris)
  • Dog - Dog Rose (Rosa canina)
  • Goat – Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus), herbaceous perennial
  • Goose – Goose Foot Plant (Syngonium podophyllum), houseplant
  • Hens – Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum), herbaceous perennial
  • Lambs – Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina), herbaceous perennial with soft woolly leaves
  • Pig – Pig Squeak (Bergenia cordifolia), herbaceous perennial, leaves squeak when rubbed

Foxglove (Digitalis) 'Dalmation Cream'

Foxglove 'Dalmation Cream'

Or if you fancy insects, reptiles, and birds:

  • Bees  -  Beebalm (Monarda), herbaceous perennial
  • Birds – Bird’s Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), herbaceous perennial, very invasive
  • Butterflies – Whirling Butterflies (Gaura lindheimeri), herbaceous perennial; Butterfly Bush (Buddleia), large deciduous shrub
  • Chameleon – (Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon'), herbaceous perennial
  • Crane – Cranesbill (hardy Geraniums), herbaceous perennial
  • Flies – Venus Flytrap (Dionaea), houseplant
  • Lizard – Lizard Tail (Saururus cernuu), herbaceous perennial, likes damp ground
  • Lobster – Lobster Claw (Heliconia), herbaceous perennial, tender
  • Ostrich – Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), perennial fern
  • Snake – Cobra Lily (Arisaema draconitum or triphyllum), tender perennial
  • Spiders – Spider Plant (Humata tyermannii), houseplant
  • Stork – Stork’s Bill (Erodium), herbaceous perennial
  • Swan – Swan Gourd (Lagenaria siceraria), ornamental gourd, can paint or hollow out to use as a bird feeder
  • Toad – Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirta), perennial bulb; Toadflax (Linaria purpurea), herbaceous perennial
  • Turtle – Turtle Head (Chelone obliqua), herbaceous perennial

Dog Rose (Rosa canina)

Dog Rose

You can even have fruit and vegetables named after animals, reptiles and birds:

  • Bear – ‘Baby Bear’, pumpkin; ‘Honey Bear’, squash
  • Birds – ‘Red Hawk’, beetroot; ‘Hawk’, squash; ‘Kestrel’, potato; ‘Sparrow’, sweetcorn; ‘Brown Turkey’, fig
  • Bush Baby – 'Bush Baby', marrow
  • Cat – ‘Jaguar’, pea
  • Dog – ‘Greyhound’, cabbage
  • Dragon – ‘Dragon’s Tongue’, rocket, salad leaves
  • Elephant – Elephant garlic
  • Reindeer – ‘Rudolf’, broccoli
  • Sheep – Lambs Lettuce, salad leaves
  • Snake  - ‘Cobra’, climbing bean
  • Tiger – ‘Tiger Cross’, marrow

Profile Image Angela Slater

Angela Slater

Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas.