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Squirrels Digging in My Plants

By Ellen Brown

Q: How can I keep squirrels from digging in my outdoor potted plants?

Georgia from N.O., LA

A: Georgia,

Commercial repellents (sprays, etc.) are usually only marginally effective for controlling squirrels. Your best line of defense is to physically separate them from wherever you don't want them to be. Here are some things to try:

  • You might try fitting screen or wire mesh around your potted plants, or covering the dirt around plants with sticky tape or stones. Squirrels seem most attracted to digging in loose, newly turned dirt so follow up with a top layer of mulch.

  • Lure them away from potted plants and bulbs by feeding them corn or sunflower seeds in a feeder located in another part of the yard. This can ultimately result in an increase in the population of squirrels in your yard, but the distraction of the constant food supply is also a good distraction.

  • Try laying human, dog or cat hair around the base of your potted plants. Blood meal may also work in some cases. To be effective, these will need to be reapplied weekly and after it rains.

  • Spray a foul-tasting product, like cayenne pepper spray on and around your plants as they are growing and after each rain.

  • Plant bulbs that squirrels don't like to eat, like narcissus, alliums (ornamental onions) and hyacinths.

  • If all else fails you can live-trap them and relocate them. You'll need permission from authorities to do this, however, and it will not reduce the density of squirrels in your area over time. As old squirrels are transported out, new squirrels simply move into the newly emptied habitat.

Since the squirrel population is likely to outlive your potted plants, your best bet is to deploy a number of these methods, alone or in combination with one another until you find something that works. Plan on having a few victories and probably a few defeats.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at



Squirrels Digging in My Plants

If you are talking about plain old digging around plants and not digging them up, you can use pepper spray (available at Lowe's etc.) around and on the plants. Be careful though, some people are very allergic to the spray and just brushing against leaves with the spray on them will give them hives. If you are talking about squirrels digging up and eating tulip bulbs, the best thing to do is to put chicken wire over the bulbs so the little varmints can't dig down to them. (10/14/2004)

By Lea Soffer

Squirrels Digging in My Plants

Don't bother spending money to buy a spray that is already mixed up, just sprinkle cayenne pepper on the top of the plants and soil. If you have another kind of pepper that is hot, that will work too. I sometimes spray the plant with water first so that the pepper will stick better to the plant. Some people use Tabasco sauce just like you would with an indoor rabbit chewing on the corner of your table legs. You should have no problem with squirrels after this. (10/14/2004)

By valleyrimgirl

Squirrels Digging in My Plants

Try putting mothballs in amongst your plants. I did this in South Georgia and it stopped them from digging in my hanging baskets. It also stopped them from digging up my impatiens planted in the ground. (10/15/2004)

By tedsmom

Squirrels Digging in My Plants

You can buy blood and bone meal at the hardware store. Squirrels hate it and it does wonders for you plants Mix some in with the soil and the smell will drive them off. There is no noticeable smell for humans. (10/15/2004)

By Susan from Hamilton

Squirrels Digging in My Plants

Squirrels in potted plants, here is what we do; put some chicken wire on top of pot around the plant and weigh it down with a few medium size stones. Works every time. (10/15/2004)

By ThriftyFun

Squirrels Digging in My Plants

Moth balls didn't work very well for us. The squirrels just used them like bowling balls and played with them all day long. We will try the hot pepper spray and hopefully it will work. (05/24/2007)

By Greg

Squirrels Digging in My Plants

Not only are the little varmints digging in my plants, they left a big piece of chicken in my tiny tree and broke a bunch of branches. My neighbor said he left his subway sandwich in the car and when he came out, squirrels were stealing it from inside the car. They are starting to get bold. I might leave my cat on the deck as a deterrent, he has gotten bits and pieces of them but never a kill. The squirrels could care less about my 85lb. dog, but they do fear the cat! (06/30/2007)

Squirrels Digging in My Plants

I have recently found a great product that protects the soil of my potted plants from the cats! It keeps them from using the soil as a litter box. Maybe this will help you resolve the squirrel issue. Check out the web site: (11/18/2007)

By Lisa

RE: Squirrels Digging in My Plants

Squirrels Digging in My Plants

I have had great success with using mothballs. A cheap alternative to these sprays and other treatments. I would have them in my pots and garden every morning. Once I scattered mothballs throughout the garden (about 8 feet apart) and placed a mothball in pots that I didn't want them in, they have not been back. I see them on my fence, but not a single hole or dug up seedling again. It's worked for me! Good luck! (05/16/2008)

By Paul R. Lewis

Squirrels Digging in My Plants

Forgot to mention that the moth balls worked for me here in the Dallas, TX area. Here's a site that offers a lot of suggestions for dealing with pesky squirrels:

Good luck! (05/16/2008)

By Paul R. Lewis

Squirrels Digging in My Plants

Get a Jack Russell. My dog spends his whole day looking for ground squirrels with enough guts to come anywhere near my garden! Before I got him and trained him to be obsessed with protecting my garden from the little buggers, the squirrels would dig up my baby plants and chew the skin and branches off, killing my plants. The squirrels will not come close anymore thanks to my dog. (07/16/2008)


By bear

Squirrels Digging in My Plants

I decided to stick wooden skewers in the dirt around my plants. Works like a charm. (08/01/2008)

Squirrels Digging in My Plants

I find forks work well. Push them just under the soil, poky side up. You can't see them but they'll get a stab as soon as they start to dig. (03/14/2010)

By Beck_wi

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