For anyone who spends time, money and effort on creating beautiful displays of flowers and plants in pots and containers there are few things more frustrating than squirrels.
By digging up bulbs, roots and eating flowers and leaves they can leave your efforts in disarray.
One solution is to put mothballs in your plant containers, but will mothballs keep squirrels out of flowerpots?
We have put together a guide for dealing with this problem including all the plants that will attract and deter squirrels.
We’ll also look at other ways to keep squirrels from digging up your flowerpots including using household items and physical barriers.
How Do Mothballs Keep Squirrels Out Of Flowerpots?
Mothballs are an effective deterrent to squirrels because of the strong smell that they give off.
The active ingredient in mothballs is either paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene, both of which are very pungent with strong odors.
As the mothballs break down from a solid state they emit this smell as a gas. They are effective at repelling squirrels but will need to be replaced every week as and when they disintegrate.
Squirrels have a much better sense of smell than humans and this is why the mothballs are so good at keeping these little rodents away from your flowerpots.
Why Do Squirrels Dig In Flowerpots?
As we all know squirrels spend a lot of their time hunting for food to store up for the winter months.
This process is known as caching. They basically hide their food in all sorts of places and unfortunately for gardeners this includes flowerpots.
The soft soil inside the flowerpot is nice and loose compared to the sometimes solid ground so is a much easier target for the squirrels.
While this is very frustrating and annoying for gardeners it is just a natural thing for squirrels to do as part of their normal routine.
What Plants Are Squirrels Attracted To?
While the soft, easily accessible soil in flowerpots is a prime target for squirrels to dig in and hide their winter stores of food there are also plants that attract them.
This is useful to know as it will allow you to target specific plants in your garden with mothballs to keep the squirrels away.
As well as adding mothballs to the soil for these squirrel attracting plants you can also use physical barriers to keep them away.
Let’s take a look at some of the plants that squirrels love.
One of the most popular flowers to keep in flowerpots tulips provide a beautiful and colorful display in early spring. They are also one of the easiest flowers to grow so are plentiful in many gardens.
The attraction for the squirrels are many when it comes to tulips. First they can often be tempted to eat the flowers of a full grown tulip but also dig up the bulbs.
Of course, they may also just be looking for somewhere to use as a cache for their winter stores of food.
Squirrels are particularly attracted to the leaves, flower buds and bulbs of rhododendrons. These flowers are related to azaleas which are another plant that squirrels like to munch on.
To protect your rhododendrons you’ll have to take some drastic measures such as covering the plant with either plastic or wire mesh.
You can also use mothballs, but this may not deter them from eating the flowers or buds that are far from the base of the plant.
Some people put dog hair around the plant as the smell deters the squirrels but like mothballs you have to replace it regularly as the smell begins to fade.
Sadly, squirrels do like hydrangea bulbs and will dig them up from your flowerpots.
They will also nibble on the young flower buds. For the most part if you notice something eating the leaves of your hydrangea plants this is likely to be Japanese beetles not squirrels.
As with most of the flowers that squirrels eat, if there is a scarcity of food then these little rodents will turn to what food source is available.
Unfortunately if that is your young hydrangea bulbs then they will be targeted. Time to reach for the mothballs.
A member of the Asparagaceae family, the hosta plant is a shade tolerant foliage plant.
They are also a favorite of squirrels, deer and rabbits who will eat the plant all the way down to the roots. Squirrels will dig up young plants and eat the bulbs or roots.
As the leaves are so succulent and easily accessible they are usually targeted by rabbits and deer while the squirrels go for the roots and bulbs.
So if you do have hostas in your flowerpots you have a lot of competition for them.
As a heat and drought tolerant plant, petunias are very easy to grow. They are very popular because of the wide range of colors and more than twenty species. Chances are you will have petunias either in flowerpots or as border plants.
Unfortunately squirrels will eat the flowers of these perennial plants if there is nothing else for them to eat.
They do like the sweet taste of the petals and may also dig up the plants to use the flowerpot for their cache of winter food.
The forsythia is part of the Oleaceae family and will be eaten by squirrels although not in abundance.
They will nibble on the flowers and leaves of the plant and will also dig up the bulbs from your flowerpots to plant their cache.
Like most mammals squirrels will often turn to food they wouldn’t normally eat if there is a scarcity of their preferred food.
So there are quite a few flowers and plants in your garden that may be at risk of damage by squirrels.
Knock Out Roses
A disease tolerant member of the rose family, knock out roses are attractive to squirrels who will eat the succulent young buds and flowers.
These plants are also eaten by both deer and rabbits. So while they may be disease tolerant they are still a target for pests.
Squirrels will dig around the roots of these roses and break off stems, so they do cause a lot of damage.
Use mothballs in the flowerpots to deter the squirrels and stop them digging in the soil.
Squirrels absolutely love sunflower plants and will happily feed on the seeds. There are more than 70 species of sunflowers but all of them are attractive to squirrels.
Even before the seeds have sprouted in the flowerpots you may find the squirrels have dug them up and eaten them.
Physical barriers such as wire netting is the only way to protect the seeds while they are germinating and producing shoots.
Once they have flowered you can tie fluttering items to the stalks to keep the squirrels away.
Hibiscus have dark green foliage which squirrels are attracted to and will eat.
They will also eat the flower buds and mature flowers and are particularly partial to the tender stems.
So if you have hibiscus in flowerpots you will need to provide a physical barrier to protect them.
It is thought that the bright colors of the hibiscus flowers are what attract the squirrels.
Regardless of the reason, your potted hibiscus is in danger of being destroyed by these little rodents if you don’t protect them by one means or another.
There are many species of impatiens, and they are a great choice for borders and flowerpots on your patio.
While squirrels don’t seem particularly attracted to the flowers themselves they do seem to like digging up the bulbs and eating them.
Most likely the squirrels are digging in these flowerpots and hiding food but may also munch on the bulbs if there is no other food available.
These are just a few of the flowering plants that you may plant in flowerpots and which can be targeted by squirrels.
It is most certainly not an exhaustive list, and you may find that some squirrels will eat plants and flowers that other animals won’t.
If there is a scarcity of food then most mammals will eat things that they wouldn’t otherwise eat although of course they won’t eat anything that is toxic to them.
In times of scarcity animals cannot afford to be picky. Squirrels are no exception to this rule.
Which Plants Will Repel Squirrels?
While there are plenty of plants and flowers that squirrels are attracted to there are, fortunately also a lot that will repel them.
These plants can be used in flowerpots on your patio, or around the garden as a way of keeping squirrels away from other areas such as your vegetable plot.
Like mothballs, it is normally the smell of these plants that repel squirrels however for gardeners the majority of these plants are pleasant in appearance and smell.
Let’s take a look at some of the plants that you can use in your garden or on your patio to repel squirrels.
Hyacinths are a popular flower with gardeners and can have a strong perfume.
Luckily, squirrels are not a fan of this powerful aroma and as a result hyacinths are one of the flowers that squirrels don’t like.
This is good news for you if you are partial to these flowers. It means you can plant them in flowerpots around your garden or patio without worrying about squirrels digging them up.
You can mix and match them with other flowers and plants that squirrels are repelled by.
The galanthus is also known as the snowdrop and there are more than 20 different species of this flower to choose from.
They are a perennial herbaceous plant with a strong perfume that repels squirrels.
As these flowers appear early in the spring often when the weather is still very cold and the ground is hard.
However, they are still not appealing to squirrels and are a good deterrent to plant with other flowers that you want to protect from these little marauders.
Another plant that will repel squirrels is the fritillary which has a perfume that is highly unappealing to them.
These are part of the Liliaceae family and can thrive in a variety of conditions including rock gardens, meadow areas and mixed borders.
While adding vibrancy to your garden or patio with their range of colors they will also serve as a repellent to squirrels.
One of the best species to introduce into your garden is the fritillaria imperialis which has large red, yellow and orange blooms.
With more than 420 species of geranium you will have no lack of choice for planting in pots around your garden while also keeping squirrels at bay.
They are one of the most popular flowers to grow in pots and containers, and it’s good to know that they also repel squirrels.
The lovely aroma that gardeners love so much from geraniums is exactly what the squirrels in your garden will be trying to avoid.
While some geraniums smell like roses, lemon or even chocolate all of them have a slight peppery perfume that squirrels really don’t like.
Lily Of The Valley
Lily of the Valley is one of the prettiest flowers that you can have in your garden.
Their delicate bell shaped flowers are very dainty, and they are famous for their beautiful perfume. But it is this very smell that is repulsive to squirrels.
However, it should also be noted that these flowers are highly toxic to cats and dogs. It may be that squirrels are sensitive to this fact and deliberately avoid them.
If you are trying to keep squirrels from other plants in your garden planting lilies of the valley may be a good idea.
One of the most ubiquitous flowers of spring are daffodils which look great in flowerpots and containers on your deck or patio.
These are another flower that squirrels are deterred by, so you won’t have to worry about them being dug up.
Daffodil bulbs are poisonous to dogs, so it may be that squirrels are aware of their toxicity through smell and deliberately avoid them.
As such they make a great barrier plant if you are trying to shield other plants or flowers from squirrels or other pests.
Like the sunflower, marigolds are a member of the Asteraceae family. Unlike sunflowers however they are not appealing to squirrels.
Marigold flowers have a mildly citrus taste which is not something that squirrels seem to like, although they are not thought to be toxic.
They also have quite a strong aroma which even some people do not like.
So, combined with the unappealing taste, squirrels are likely to avoid marigolds in your flowerpots and containers. Plant with other flowers or plants that you want to protect from squirrels.
While irises are not top of the squirrel deterrent list for flowers the bushy tailed rodents do seem to avoid them. In fact, they will eat irises if there is nothing else to eat but seem to prefer not to.
As they are so easy to grow a lot of people do like to plant irises, so it is worth putting them in your garden and see if they do actually repel squirrels.
Putting them with other more obvious squirrels deterrents will help to preserve them if squirrels are tempted.
The California poppy is a widespread and vigorous plant which can be found on roadsides and vacant lots. The stems and flowers have a bitter taste that squirrels don’t like.
While they will eat Iceland poppies these are actually a different species to California poppies.
As they grow almost anywhere and even in the worst soil they would make an excellent barrier plant to keep squirrels away from other flowers and plants.
You could use them to encircle your vegetable plot or any flowers that you are keen to preserve from squirrels.
Alliums are a large group of flowers and include plants such as onion, leek, chives and garlic.
It isn’t difficult to understand why squirrels may not find these plants particularly appealing. With their keen sense of smell they avoid these plants based on their aroma.
If you do have a vegetable garden or container you could plant onions or chives next to carrots which are a favorite of squirrels.
As most vegetable growers know, planting onions next to carrots protects them from carrot fly as well as from squirrels.
Nasturtiums are part of the Tropaeolaceae family and there are approximately 80 species of this flower.
For humans the smell of nasturtiums is a fresh, floral one. However, squirrels have the ability to detect the slight peppery aroma in nasturtiums which they dislike.
As a result of this smell squirrels will not eat nasturtiums, so these are a good choice for planting in flowerpots and containers in your garden or patio.
Having said that, they may dig up the soil in the pots to store their cache of winter food.
Part of the mint family, dragonheads are perennial plants. They produce a variety of flowers which resemble the head of a dragon.
Only one species is native to the US which is the American dragonhead, most others are native to Europe or Asia.
They are an ornamental plant grown for their attractive flowers. The plants have a combined taste that is nutty, grassy, peppery and spicy all at once.
It is this that squirrels find so unappealing. As a container flower they make an attractive display with a variety of colors.
Crocuses are members of the iris family with more than 90 different varieties. The flowers come in a range of colors such as purple, white, cream, lavender and yellow.
They are a poisonous plant which squirrels are somehow aware of, probably through their smell.
As a result squirrels will not eat crocuses, and they serve as a good deterrent if you are looking for a barrier plant.
Like other bulbs that they won’t necessarily eat, squirrels may dig up crocus bulbs while they are digging out soil to store their winter food.
Basket Of Gold
Basket of gold is perhaps not the most appropriate container plant, but it does make excellent ground cover.
It is also one of the plants that squirrels do not like so would make a good barrier plant.
It is a low growing evergreen perennial which produces beautiful golden yellow flowers in the spring.
It is actually part of the mustard family and is typically seen on borders. Squirrels don’t like it because of the foul smell emitted by the plant and will usually leave it alone.
The last of our squirrel deterrent plants is the bleeding heart. It is a spring herbaceous perennial which has arching stems and flowers that are heart shaped.
It belongs to the poppy family and its flowers are truly gorgeous.
There is not a lot of foliage on this plant so not much for a squirrel to munch on anyway, but none of the plant is edible anyway and is considered toxic.
Squirrels seem to be aware of this and so avoid it.
Other Natural Repellents For Dealing With Squirrels
With the above list of plants that squirrels avoid or which actually repel them you are not short of something to plant in your flowerpots or containers.
However if there are plants that are on the squirrels menu, and you want to add to your collection that are ways to keep these pesky rodents away.
Of course, as we’ve seen you can use mothballs, but there are other natural repellents that you can employ to preserve your flowers and plants.
Most of us are not short of coffee grounds so finding a use for them in your garden will help you recycle them in an effective way.
Although coffee grounds are not as strong smelling as mothballs they can be used to deter squirrels from digging in your flowerpots.
Simply sprinkle the coffee grounds over the surface of the soil in your containers every day as a way to put squirrels off digging in the soil.
The downside is that although mothballs last a week, coffee grounds will need to be replenished every day to retain the smell.
Another strong but natural smell which is repellent to squirrels is the aroma of cinnamon.
Most people will have a jar of cinnamon in their kitchen, so it is a convenient substance to use if you have nothing else to deter squirrels from digging in your flowerpots.
You can apply the cinnamon in one of two ways. Either sprinkle the cinnamon powder directly on the soil of your flowerpots or containers as a deterrent.
Alternatively, put the cinnamon into water and add to a spray bottle to douse the soil or leaves of your plant.
Everyone understands that vinegar has a strong odor, and it’s not difficult to see how this would serve as a repellent for squirrels.
Some people don’t like the smell of vinegar and squirrels have a keener sense of smell than humans, so it is very effective.
You should use apple cider vinegar for this purpose because it can be sprayed undiluted onto the soil and leaves of plants without damaging them.
As it causes no harm you can use the vinegar as frequently as needed to deter squirrels from digging in your flowerpots.
Ammonia has a double use for many plants. It can be used as an effective deterrent to squirrels but also as a fertilizer.
This chemical has a strong odor which will act as a repellent for squirrels who may be tempted to dig in your flowerpots.
Wear gloves when handling ammonia. Use a folded cloth and dip it into the ammonia. Then place the cloth beside the flowerpots that you are trying to protect.
If you do put ammonia into the soil make sure you don’t add too much, or it can cause ammonia toxicity.
Cayenne powder is another effective kitchen staple that you can use to keep squirrels away from your flowers and plants. You will need some Vaseline as well as some cayenne flakes to create a sticky mixture.
This is then smeared on the stems of plants to deter squirrels or other animals such as rabbits or deer from eating them. The smell should also keep squirrels from digging in the soil too.
Different Methods For Keeping Squirrels Out Of Flowerpots
If you have problems with squirrels constantly digging in your flowerpots you now have lots of options to choose from.
Planting Bulbs That Squirrels Dislike
Although it does limit your selection somewhat, there are a lot of flowers and plants that squirrels dislike that you can plant in your flowerpots and containers.
This will negate the need for you to be extra vigilant or to use one of the repellents that we have discussed.
You could also create a mixture of plants that combine the ones that you want to plant with some barrier plants that repel squirrels.
This gives you more choice but also a good chance of keeping the squirrels away from your plants.
Creating Physical Barriers
One of the most effective ways to keep squirrels from digging up the soil in your flowerpots is to put a layer of rocks on top of the soil.
This is also a good way to retain moisture in the soil and employed in hotter climates to minimize the evaporation of water from the ground.
The squirrels will find it impossible to dig through the rocks to get to the bulbs or roots of your plants.
However they may still eat the flowers or leaves of your plants. In these instances you can create a dome of wire mesh to protect your plants.
Another tactic is to add something like a wild rose with sharp thorns to your flowerpot.
Burying one or two stems below the soil means that when the squirrels dig down they will encounter the thorns and hopefully be put off repeating the action in the future.
Using Homemade Repellents
As we’ve seen there are many homemade repellents that you can employ to deter and repel squirrels from digging in your flowerpots and containers.
These range from mothballs which can be added weekly to daily coffee grounds sprinkled on the soil.
Vinegar, cayenne pepper and cinnamon are all effective at putting off squirrels due to their pungent smells and ammonia can also be used in this way.
Another homemade solution is to use peppermint oil which squirrels really dislike.
We hope that you have enjoyed this guide to using mothballs and other substances to keep squirrels out of your flowerpots and containers.
Try some of the tips that we have suggested, and we wish you happy gardening!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes you can safely put mothballs in flowerpots as they will not cause any harm to your plants. They emit a gas that smells foul to squirrels and keeps them away without damaging the flowers or plants.
Squirrels typically dislike any strong smells as they have a keen sense of smell. Aromas such as citrus, pepper, and ammonia will discourage them from digging in your flowerpot soil.