Lilies are a familiar and much-loved flower, even for those of us who aren't keen gardeners or very knowledgeable about flowers.

We have loved these beautiful blooms for centuries, whether the richly-coloured long-flowering Asiatic lilies (shown right); the sweet-scented longiflorum (November) lilies with their pure white long trumpets (shown left); or the amazing Oriental lilies, starry, bright and intensely perfumed.

Ancient carvings and illustrations around the world show the unmistakable curved petals of the lily, from temples in Egypt to papyrus in China.

All members of the Lilium family are popular garden plants throughout Australia, as they are easy to grow from bulbs, shoot up fast once the spring rains come, and provide weeks of bright flamboyant summer colour in beds and pots - not to mention that delicious fragrance.

They are also a beautiful cut flower for the home, often used in florist bouquets and arrangements for their large exotic flowerheads.

However, if you have cats, lilies turn from divine to deadly.

All parts of the lily (Lilium), if eaten, can be very harmful to pet cats. The plant causes vomiting, lethargy, and ultimately kidney failure.

The related day lilies (Hemerocallis) , golden and unscented; and lily of the valley (Convallaria) with tiny white scented bells, are also on the no-go-list for cat owners.

So if you have pet cats, look for lily alternatives to plant in your garden. And of course, if you suspect your pet cat of having eaten any part or a lily, take it to a vet immediately for treatment.

Here's our suggestions and recommendations for cat-friendly plants:

hibiscuscliviaSprekelia is a little-known bulb plant that has large, flamboyant, richly coloured scarlet flowers that bloom right through summer. It's a sunlover, and drought tolerant, happy to grow in beds and borders or in pots on your patio.

Dahlias are another bulb flower that blooms right through summer and into autumn in a wide palette of shades - from spicy and golden to delicate and pastel, deep red, hot pink and pure white. Plant them in spring, and like lilies, you'll have flowers three to four months later.

Go native and choose the spectacular giant-size Gymea lily, not a true lily but certainly impressive in scale and colour with that enormous multi-petalled crimson flowerhead.

If you have a frost free garden, a hibiscus shrub can make the perfect alternative to a group of Asiatic lily plants. Those big open blooms, those intense colours. There's pure white too, if you prefer.

If you're looking for long flower stems to cut and enjoy in the home, you can't go past agapanthus with their big round starry flowerheads. Shades of blue - and again, pure white if you prefer.

Clivia is a more compact alternative to agapanthus, big flower clusters in warm orange and yellow tones; or try carnations in soft shades of pastel, delicately perfumed.

jasmine flowermock orange flower

To recreate the intense exotic fragrance of lilies, look to other white flowers. White flowers usually have stronger fragrances than the same flowers of a different colour.

The scent of a lily flower that we find so seductive is based on a component called indole - this indole is also found in climbing jasmine, star jasmine, gardenia, tuberose, and orange blossom (such as Murraya, the Australian mock orange), all of which do very well in a warm frost-free Australian garden.

Smaller-sized Gardenia make beautiful indoor plants too in cooler regions, where their ivory-white frilly flowers can be appreciated - and sniffed - up close.