How to Keep Squirrels out of Potted Plants


how to keep squirrels out of potted plants

Who thinks that squirrels are cute? Wait until the furry little garden invaders scratch up your flowerbeds and dig into your potted plants!

Squirrels are most active between summer and fall as they search for food to last them during the winter. They dig into potted plants and soil, especially early in the morning and late afternoon.

Now, if you want to learn how to get rid of squirrels quickly, then read on. I will share my personal experiences and tell you which methods I found to be the most helpful.

Let’s get started!

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Why Do Squirrels Dig in Potted Plants?

To figure out how to keep squirrels away from our potted plants, we need to learn the reason why they are attracted to them in the first place.

Squirrels like to dig mainly to hide their food and nuts so they’ll have food in winter. Your potting soil is the perfect place to stash their caches since it’s soft and easy for them to dig.

Also, squirrels tend to dig as they’re in search of food. They will eat fruit, vegetable, and plant bulbs.


How to Identify Squirrel Damage in the Garden

Whether or not you’ve seen a squirrel in your home before researching this article, other signs can indicate how severe your issue with these pests is.

Messy pot soil spill because squirrels digging into potted plants

Here are tell-tale signs you are dealing with squirrels infestation:

  • Damaged garden plants
  • Dug-up potted plants and mess of soil.
  • Potted plants were falling over.
  • Chew and claw marks on the bark of any young trees
  • Scratched and chewed wooden doors, windows, and furniture around the house
  • Squirrel droppings and footprints
  • Squirrel nests on a nearby tree branch.

If you’re seeing multiple signs of squirrels’ activity, you need to act quickly before they destroy your garden and houseplants.

Now, let’s explore ways to protect our potted plants from these cute but destructive creatures!


How to Protect Potted Plants from Squirrels

There are lots of information on the internet about protecting outdoor gardens and potted plants from squirrels.

Some of these methods are effective, while others are less so. However, I prefer ways that do not hurt or kill the squirrels, only repelling them away.

Use Natural Squirrel Deterrent Spray

The spicy odor of garlic, cayenne pepper, and black pepper makes a great natural deterrent against squirrels trying to eat your garden plants.

Simply mix the ingredients with water and dish soap. Use a spray bottle to apply the mixture to your plants. You should also make sure to reapply it after a wet day, as rain will likely wash away the smell.

However, my favorite pick for natural squirrel deterrent spray is this Peppermint Oil Rodent Repellent Spray.

My squirrel problems disappeared after using the product, and I really enjoyed the peppermint smell around my garden.


Fertilize your Plants with Blood Meal or Bonemeal

Yes, I know the sound of blood meal and bonemeal might make you and most people cringe!

A blood meal is a type of fertilizer made out of dried cow blood. It has a strong ammonia scent which squirrels hate, and it also has high nitrogen levels that can boost plant growth.

Bone meal, on the other hand, is ground-up animal bones that have a high phosphorus level. However, I found that bonemeal has a less potent smell, making it less effective than a blood meal.

Apply the blood meal directly to the soil of your potted plants and water it. Do not let the blood meal contact your plant leaves so that you don’t cause them burn damages.


Prevent Digging By Layering Munch or Rocks

Pine bark mulch on planted pots

While squirrels enjoy digging soil, I found that they stay away from the pile of fallen tree leaves I have at the side of my yard.

And then I learned from a friend that squirrels hate certain types of mulch, especially organic leaf mulch.

I personally cover my outdoor potted plants with pine bark or coco fiber mulch. Not only does it help repel squirrels, but it also reduces the amount of moisture evaporation.

Alternatively, you can also try layering your potted plant with rocks such as lava gravel. Squirrels will be discouraged from pushing the gravel and dig as it can hurt their paws.


Setup Physical Barriers to Keep Squirrels Away 

One way to keep squirrels from digging up your potted plants is by putting physical barriers around them, such as chicken wire fences or chew-proof netting.

Squirrels can squeeze through tight openings, so fencing or netting must be small enough to prevent this. The quarter-inch galvanized mesh will keep squirrels out effectively.

Also, you should bury your mesh cage at least 6 inches because squirrels may try to dig their way in if you don’t.

Maybe it’s just me, but this is not my preferred method to squirrel-proof my houseplants, as wire fences can be aesthetically displeasing.


Tidy up the Yard to Discourage Squirrels – Don’t feed them

Your garden will attract squirrels if you have fallen nuts, acorns, fruits, and seeds lying around. They may eat what they find within the yard, but they also explore your house and dig into potted plants.

So if you want to keep squirrels out of potted plants, then clean up your yard daily. Make sure that all food and compost scraps are inside tight-fitting trash cans.

I replaced my bird feeders with these squirrel-proof feeders. Before the new devices were installed, it was easy for squirrels to access the bird feeders by simply climbing up the feeder poles. Also, birds have a tendency to drop seeds on the ground – and once they are there, squirrels will most likely also appear in your garden.


Other Methods that Works but I Avoid Using

Moth Balls to Keep Squirrels Out of Flower Pots

Naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene are the chemical compounds found in mothballs, which slowly turn into fumes when left at room temperature.

Squirrels hate the smell of mothballs and will stay away if you place mothballs near your flower pots or houseplants.

Although many people claim that this is the best way to keep squirrels away from your yard, I would never use it around my house.

Mothballs are toxic for humans and squirrels; they can kill if accidentally consumed. I am afraid that my three-year-old twins might play with mothballs and accidentally swallow them.


Dog Will Chase Away Squirrels but May Annoy Your Neighbour

Dogs are a great deterrent to keep squirrels from digging into potted plants. If you have a dog in the house, it will scare squirrels off even from miles away.

However, my beagles bark a lot at squirrels, and I fear that they might annoy my neighbors too. That’s why I tried to keep the squirrels away with other methods.

But, I do save my dogs’ hair when I groom them and sprinkle it in potted plants and around the yard. The scent of their fur discourages squirrels from coming close.


If All Else Fails, Use a Live Squirrel Trap

Now, if you have a horrible squirrel problem and none of the other methods work for you, then you might need to consider getting a squirrel trap.

Once you have placed nuts or acorns in the trap, it should only take one day to catch a squirrel.

But please, please, please, do not kill or starve the squirrels you caught.

Relocating squirrels three miles away from your home ensures that they won’t come back, but studies indicate they will die soon after because they are not familiar enough with the area to survive. Also, you may separate adult squirrels from their babies.

After trapping a squirrel, the best thing to do is to call a wildlife rehabilitator, who will provide instructions for a proper release.


The method that is not working for me

It’s worth mentioning an additional method that I have tried (and failed) to use as a way of keeping squirrels away.

Keep Squirrels Out of Flower Pots with a Sonic Deterrent

You might be tempted to get rid of squirrels by using an ultrasonic wave gadget. These devices emit high-pitched soundwaves, which are meant to scare the animals away from your yard.

However, I found that squirrels are not affected by the sonic deterrent. Maybe I am just using it wrong?

The only one annoyed by the sound from this device is my husband!


Let’s Recap

Squirrels tend to come into your yard and potted plants looking for food or hiding their findings to prepare for winter.

If you want to keep squirrels away, first, make sure the food they eat and prefer is not lying around in your house. Put all leftovers in a tight-fitting trash can.

Next, you can discourage the squirrels from digging into your potted plants by either fertilizing the top of the soil with blood meal or layering it with mulch or lava gravels.

Alternatively, you can use natural squirrel deterrent spray or make your DIY cayenne pepper solution on your potted plants to keep them away.

I hope one of these methods helps you keep squirrels away from your yard and houseplants. If you still have problems with these critters stealing food from your potted plants, please feel free to contact me to discuss more!

Gabriella Anastasia

I have been growing houseplants for most of my life and have been collecting them ever since I was 11 years old.  Now 33, I've always had a green thumb (even though my parents thought otherwise) and love to share my knowledge with others.

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