How to keep Squirrels out of Flower Pots

squirrels in plant potsAre you fed up with squirrels digging up your potted plants? Spring is on its way and it’s the time of year when the battle between gardener and squirrel commences. Squirrels can cause a lot of damage in plant pots and the garden and I’m sure many of you have gone out to tend to your carefully planted containers only to find chaos, with pots knocked over, bulbs gone & plants & flowers uprooted and lying half dead next to the pots. On investigation of the remaining soil in the pot you may have found buried whole peanuts or even wrapped chocolates! The squirrels have visited….

How to stop them

Here are a few tricks to stop these pests from becoming a serious nuisance. These work best with container gardening but they can also be applied directly to small areas of your garden beds.

The most obvious way to stop squirrels in their tracks is to put physical barriers in their way… Try covering the surface of the pot with attractive rocks and stones. Henry Street Garden Centre sells a good variety of decorative cobbles and rocks that the squirrels won’t be able to budge and yet they’ll enhance the appearance of your garden containers.

A very economical solution is to stick bamboo skewers in your pots with the pointy ends upwards. The squirrels will be deterred by the sharpness of the points and your plants will be left alone to flourish!

Try laying chicken wire just under the top level of soil when planting bulbs to prevent squirrels from digging them out. Remove it when shoots appear.

One of the most commonly used tricks to keep squirrels out of potted plants is to put something in the pots that the squirrels won’t like. Mix in fresh, strong smelling coffee grounds with the top layer of soil. The odour is repellent to squirrels but does them no harm.

Make your own Hot Pepper Spray. They do not like the spiciness at all and having come across it once, they will try their hardest to avoid it. You can make pepper spray by combining a couple of teaspoons of washing up liquid with a small bottle of hot pepper sauce and water. Put it into a plastic spray bottle to apply.

Commercial pepper sprays are also available specifically for keeping squirrels away from plants and gardens. If you don’t want to actually spray your plants, sprinkle hot red pepper flakes or powder in the soil around the plants to keep squirrels away. Of course you’ll need to repeat this regularly, especially after each time it rains.

Bone meal is also pretty repulsive to squirrels. Usually made from the blood of pigs and cows it is a natural fertiliser high in nitrogen and ammonia, and has a strong bloodlike scent that scares off squirrels. The added bonus is that you will be adding nitrogen to your soil at the same time!

There are products on the market which work by taking advantage of the squirrels fear of its predator and encourages them to well and truly keep their distance. It has been reported that the same thing applies to human and animal hair. It does sound gross but you don’t need huge clumps, just a few strands sprinkled on the top of your pots each time you cut your hair or brush your dog.

Whatever method you deploy we wish you luck! If you have found something that works particularly well that we have not listed here, please do tell us about it! What methods have you used to keep these pesky animals away from your growing plants?

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  • i have used pepper spray but doesn’t seem to help still digging in my troughs!!
    can you give me anymore ideas?

    • I am in a similar situation. I have tried many things including electronics to scare them off. They are as my neighbor says “they are ballsy.” They yell at my cat and don’t fear his dog. I am starting to bury spiky things and I hope it works.

      • Pretty messed up burying spikes to hurt a living thing just so they don’t dig up a flower bulb. We humans really are the worst creature to ever live.

        • Judith Kornafel
          2nd June 2020 1:10 am

          Yeah dont do the spiky things……They are innocent, they only know digging and eating your prized possessions lololol I agree it is frustrating

        • I agree!!

        • Lol. Really? Furry rat lover. I’ve relocated a bunch to parks and preserves when they start getting problematic, you want them?

          • I could care less about some annoying rodent. These things destroy not only flowers, but insides attics, etc. Worthless creatures.

        • Agree! That’s horrible!

      • Critter Ridder does the trick! I tried everything until I discovered this product from Amazon. And it’s pretty coarse granules so it lasts longer than regular ground red pepper.

        • I have a ornamental pepper plant. One day I noticed one of the little peppers laying on top of the soil with a junk out of it. Obviously a Squirrel bite. Must not have tasted so “HOT” because I never seen anymore little peppers off the plant, unless they were old and shriveled up.

  • I tried really strong coffee grounds in my pots and the squirrels haven’t touched them. I also tried the bamboo skewers in another pot and no squirrels either. Thanks for the advice, I don’t like the thought of using cayenne or pepper spray because I’ve heard the squirrels can get it in their eyes and possibly blind them or put them in pain, so I was excited when these two options worked. Thanks!

  • Louise Perry
    5th May 2018 12:17 pm

    I put shiny, metallic plastic Easter eggs in my pots. So far, so good. (Of course, my grandchildren think we’re having an Easter Egg hunt!)

  • I put some seedling trays outside to harden them off for a few hours today. The trays were in the driveway. Something ate some of the smaller seedlings, but the weird thing is that a lot of the dirt was missing, too. It wasn’t anyway, it didn’t get spilled next to the trays, it was gone like something ate it. Was this squirrels? Birds maybe?

  • Pepper spray or powder didn’t work for me either. Human hair was a deterrent until I stopped cutting my husband’s hair. We’ll try the chicken wire. Thanks for the suggestions.

  • Similar to the bamboo skewer trick, but a little longer lasting, I have had good luck with galvanized nails or metal garden staples. Stick them in the pot pointy side up and it seems to deter the little varmints. I have not tried those anti-cat prickly pads that are sold, but I imagine those might also work. The downside to all these, of course, is that they detract somewhat from the beauty of the flower display in the pots. But then, of course, so does a pot with dug up plants strew all over!

  • I put fresh coffee grounds on the soil around my potted plants last night and things look good this morning. The little varmints usually hit nightly. I hope it continues to work.

  • Silvana Apuzzo
    17th May 2018 10:39 am

    Canyeen pepper working so far sprinkle on the soil and flowers when it rains need to repeat

  • Kathy Robertson
    19th May 2018 1:01 am

    I am using strips of aluminum foil to keep them out. So far so good. I am also putting some of my dog’s hair on top of the soil. Maybe one of these will work.

  • Marianne McCooey
    30th May 2019 6:41 pm

    Today I’m trying black mulch in my flower pot ,hope it will keep the squirrels away.

  • Dog hair on the soil works

  • Blood meal works great but I am out. Going to try the coffee grounds.

  • I use fine garden netting, it worked last year and I have to do it again this year but for me it works. When your plants start to grow just snip a bit of the netting and allow your plants to grow through! ?

  • Cayenne pepper did not work for me

  • Coffee grinds work good to keep the cats away to I’m corona try it in my pots for the squirrels.

  • Elaine taiani
    21st May 2020 1:55 am

    Coffee grounds. Fresh or after you have made coffee wet grounds

  • Coffee grounds, before or after making coffee?

  • K. S. Bickel
    12th June 2020 8:20 pm

    I used clear, plastic forks, stuck upside down (fork tines up) into my flower pots and it worked very well. No more squirrels digging in my flower and tomato pots. Make sure that you cover the whole pot from edge to edge. I used about 55 forks, but it works!

  • What about mothballs?

  • Coffe but not used fresh works great. Sprinkle and no issues

  • Coffee but not used grounds. Sprinkle fresh coffee and it works!

  • I mark my spot.

    • Wow does this work for you? If so what an easy thing to do…pee is always in ready supply after all! 😀

  • I’ve tried coffee but it didn’t work with these determined squirrels. I’d be concerned about the bone meal as it might instead attract foxes. I think some bamboo or big stones will be next!

  • I live in a mountainous region of California, we have large Loud gray squirrels. All year long (with the exception of winter when I take my potted plants in) they would ravage my plants on a nearly daily basis. I love my plants dearly like children, so this has been extremely distressing for me. I’ve tried rocks, well all my plants have rocks, shells and sand atop anyway before I warred with the squirrels. I couldn’t believe they were able to lift some of the rock layers I have, egg sized rock Layers!! I’ve tried various pepper sprays, even leaving full on coats of Cayenne pepper atop the soil, which they would still dig up and come back for more. In a fit of rage and desperation, I started leaving mouse traps on top of the rocks, at the time I no longer cared if squirrels were harmed in the process. I painted the traps a nice egg shell black, so they are less of a eye sore, they work great! Not a single trap has been lost, which means no squirrels have been harmed. They will set them off once a week or so, but the shock of it seems to scare them off and my plants with traps remain unmolested. I realize it’s a bit unorthodox, but it’s a very simple trick.

  • I use 27 bobcats. They’re really effective. No more squirrels!😃

  • I also have problems with squirrel constantly digging in my plants pots I have been using plastic forks which has detered them but doesn’t look very nice so I’m going to try some galvanized mesh and place then all around my plants pots as I’m getting desperate now as they actually killed one of my well loved yuccas

  • Marlene L Andreason
    27th June 2021 6:34 pm

    I have already tried plastic forks & then bamboo sticks and they still manage to destroy 3 of my plants. I have tried spicy liquid & recently purchased spicy bird food. “birds like it but squirrels don’t” guess what, they ate the spicy bird food!

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