Q. How can I stop squirrels from eating the roots of my outdoor potted plants?
Squirrels can really make a mess digging for tasty bulbs or for places to hide nuts. But they won't invade if the soil surface is uncomfortable to their paws. So laying down chicken wire or hardware wire can deter them from digging. Alternatively, imbed bamboo cooking skewers vertically in the soil, with the pointed ends protruding up from the soil.
Using several control methods at once often works better than just one. In addition to making the soil surface uncomfortable, here are some other ideas:
- Large stones: Cover all exposed soil with stones too heavy for squirrels to easily push aside. Obviously this method won't work for seedlings or plants just breaking the soil surface, but it can be effective for established plants.
- Crushed red pepper: sprinkle a little on the soil of your potted plants. Squirrels, like humans, can taste the spicy hot flavor, and once they’ve tasted it, they’ll try to avoid it. The spiciness of the pepper will not harm your plants. However, it’s not unthinkable that some brands may contain viable pepper seeds. Do some experiments first before you commit to using this across all your potted plants. Ground garlic and ground cloves are also distasteful to squirrels.
- Vinegar: Some squirrels are repelled by the scent of cider or white vinegar. Place vinegar-soaked rags near plants, or spray vinegar onto hard surfaces such as plant pots.
- Predator hair: Place human, canine or feline hair in mesh bags near your plants. Squirrels usually steer clear of an area that smells like one of their many predators.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service