Squirrels can be cute with their fluffy little tails and occasionally humorous antics. But they quit being so cute when you walk outside to find your favorite spring bulbs dug up for a snack. Or when your freshly transplanted flowers get uprooted out of your gorgeous planters to make way for acorn storage.

These are quite common problems for most gardeners, and the solutions to them are numerous and… a bit confusing. So, I decided it’s time to tackle our squirrel problems once and for all. Today, we’re chatting all about how to keep squirrels out of potted plants and bulbs with a bit of help from your TGG friends!

how to keep squirrels out of your garden, potted plants, and bulbs with tips submitted by TGG subscribers

How I Gathered These Squirrel Solutions

If you are subscribed to the TGG newsletter, you know about community questions. For those who aren’t, I’ll get you up to speed. We have a way for newsletter subscribers to submit gardening questions, and then routinely send them out to gather answers and ideas from other subscribers. This is a fun way to get new ideas and solutions from fellow gardeners, and I personally love reading your responses! After getting questions submitted about how to keep squirrels out of planters and from eating planted bulbs, I put the question out to our subscribers. 

The responses were so numerous and varied and creative that I just knew they needed a permanent home on the blog. The resulting post you’re about to read is a combination of shared wisdom from subscribers with some research done on my own to round out the information. I hope you find a new creative way to tackle your squirrel problem as you read on!

My Experience Keeping Squirrels out of Potted Plants

I dealt with squirrels big time at a townhouse I used to live in. We were lucky enough to have a beautiful shared green space full of trees… but those trees were full of squirrels. I had several flower pots and raised planter boxes on my porch that squirrels would just never leave alone. As you can see from the photo below, they even had the audacity to head to my planters as I was sitting just feet away!

squirrel on a railing about to get into a potted plant

So, I’ve tried a few of these solutions myself, and I’m sure to let you know my opinions on them as we go along! Some worked for me and some definitely did not. However, keep in mind that your experience is likely to be different from other gardeners, so experiment until you find something that works for you!

Use Scents that Deter Squirrels

One of the most popular solutions to keeping squirrels out of the garden- whether it’s your bulbs or your potted plants you need to protect- is through smell. There are many scents that squirrels dislike, and many ways to employ this method. Read on for all the tips we’ve gathered!

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds are a great way to keep squirrels out of potted plants and bulbs because they happen to serve double duty! Squirrels apparently dislike the smell, and coffee grounds are a great natural fertilizer, too! To use this method, sprinkle coffee grounds all around the soil surface immediately after planting and reapply consistently as needed (especially if it rains).

grounds for your garden at Starbucks

Cayenne Pepper

Numerous subscribers rely on this tip! Cayenne pepper leaves a strong smell that will help to repel squirrels… but it’s got one more little trick to it. The cayenne will create a burning sensation when their paws make contact with it. So even if the squirrel is not deterred by the scent, it will certainly run off after this encounter. Like most of these scent-dependent solutions, however, it will need to be reapplied after rain.

You can also use cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to create a pepper spray for easy application. For a quick shortcut, consider using hot sauce in your spray like in this recipe shared by Hunker.

red pepper spray solution prepped to go into a spray bottle

Baby Powder

Here’s one I had not heard of before! Who knew baby powder could repel squirrels? Simply sprinkle it over the soil after planting bulbs to keep the squirrels at bay.

My answer to squirrel eating your bulbs is: baby powder. First you plant your bulb, cover with soil, and finishing touch is baby powder,Squirrels hate the smell. I do this method all the time, and it works.

-TGG Subscriber

Irish Spring Soap

This bar soap might be used more in the garden than in the shower! It’s recommended to help keep deer out of the garden and mice out of your home, so it’s no surprise it’s also supposed to repel squirrels as well.

I will say, though, that I personally have never had much success with it. That’s why it’s important to experiment with different solutions- what works for one gardener will not always work for you too. While it doesn’t work for me, one subscriber swears by it!

If you put half a bar on a dowel rod and put them near where you do not want the squirrels,  they will avoid that area.   Put Irish Spring shavings or chunks in your pots.

-TGG Subscriber

Cinnamon

Ok, this is one that I have used and was astonished by how well it worked. I bought a large container of cinnamon and would dust the surface of the planters on my porch “kitchen garden” every few days.  In the photo below, you can see I started with cayenne pepper first. Later on, I realized Cinnamon worked just as well! I stuck with cinnamon for its additional benefits. (Did you know it’s got anti-fungal properties)?! That makes it great for protecting newly started seeds, as this subscriber does!

After watering, sprinkle powdered cinnamon on the newly planted seeds. Squirrels don’t like the smell of cinnamon.

-TGG Subscriber

I was most diligent about this any time I had plants that were more susceptible to damage. For example, I didn’t really bother with my planter that had an established rosemary bush, but when I had tiny arugula seedlings growing, you better bet I was adding cinnamon every single day!

Companion Planting 

Unlike the scent deterrent options listed above, these don’t require reapplication because they grow right in your garden! Most of these plants work through emitting a scent that repels squirrels, and many offer other benefits such as repelling garden pests, attracting beneficial insects, or adding some color to your garden!

Plants that deter squirrels through smell:

Use the companion planting method by incorporating any squirrel-repellent plants into your landscaping and you’ll have your squirrel repellent on auto-pilot!

To keep squirrels from eating my bulbs and other plants I interplant daffodils, alliums, and lavender with all my other plants. It seems to keep the squirrels out.

-TGG Subscriber

Remember, you’ll need to plant more than just one plant to create enough smell to deter squirrels, so pick plants that you like the look of! Here are some plants to consider

  • Lavender
  • Marigolds
  • Alliums (for vegetable gardens, consider garlic or onions)
  • Nasturtium

DIY Essential Oil Spray to Keep Squirrels out of Potted Plants

For one last option, considering using essential oils, one of my favorite handy ingredients to have on hand for DIY solutions, to create a natural repellent spray. The Spruce recommends about 15-20 drops in a spray bottle with a carrier. A variety of scents including lemongrass, peppermint oil, or cloves can create an effective squirrel repellent. For a multitasking spray, add vinegar and you can also use it as a homemade weed killer!

Other Plants that Can Help Keep Squirrels Out

As a final touch, consider using groundcover plants in your planters or around bulbs. Simply adding another layer for the squirrels to get through can inconvenience them enough to keep them from digging. For ideas, check out our list of groundcovers for your garden.

Great Groundcovers

Physical Deterrents to Keep Squirrels out of Your Bulbs and Planters

Consider using a physical barrier for squirrel control. I tried a variety of this in my own planters by inserting bamboo skewers in my planter to create an obstacle for the squirrels. It didn’t work, but I think it may have just been the way I had them organized- they were high enough out of the soil that they were more like little fence posts the squirrels could work their way around.

Plastic Forks

Plastic forks can be sued to create a spiky fortress around your plants, and it’s the method of choice for at least one subscriber!

Stick plastic forks in area surrounding the plant/plants you wish to protect. Handle in dirt, tines pointed up.

– TGG Subscriber

Gravel or Small Stones

Add a top layer in flower pots to prevent digging. Simply the inconvenience of large pebbles in the way can be enough to convince those pesky squirrels to look elsewhere.

For any new container plants, I often add a tope layer of gravel or small stones to deter squirrels from digging.

-TGG Subscriber

Cover Plants with Plastic Netting/Fencing

Use some wire mesh,  plastic bird netting, or plastic chicken wire and create a tunnel over your plants, almost like setting up row covers. This is the best way to ensure squirrels cannot access your garden bed at all. However, it’s not the most visually appealing (use black netting for the most inconspicuous option). If you dislike the look, you can always remove it after the plants are established enough to withstand some soil disturbance. These materials can also be really easy to secure onto container plants.

Here’s a creative solution submitted by one of our subscribers:

I’ve put together tall cylinders of metal fencing with a second layer of fine plastic mesh to keep squirrels out. The cylinders can be easily lifted off to tend to weeds or harvest veggies.

-TGG Subscriber

Chicken Wire

For an effective method of preventing squirrel damage from digging, consider covering the top layer of soil with a barrier when planting bulbs or transplants. Simply lay chicken wire or hardware cloth and secure it to the ground with tent stakes or sod staples. Remember to cut a small hole just large enough for the plants to grow through if you opt for soemthing with smaller holes. This method is a good way to protect larger areas like your vegetable garden or flower beds.

Noise Deterrents/Distracting Yard Decor

Consider this your sign to take on a fun DIY garden decor project? Bright, noisy decor is rumored to repel squirrels. According to The Spruce, the bright moving lights and shadows signal to squirrels a predator may be nearby. One subscriber suggests a similar solution, but focusing on noise as the deterrent rather than visuals. 

Either way, grab some old CD’s, tin pans, whatever you have around the house and experiment with it yourself!

Pets and Animals:

While this is certainly not an option for everyone, having a dog in your backyard is a great way to scare away squirrels.

General Tips

Along with employing these various methods of deterring squirrels, here are some things to help round out your efforts. 

  1. Avoid providing food near the plants you want to keep them out of – keep bird feeders in a separate area.
  2. Consider other plants. I don’t like this option- I’d much rather battle the squirrels than cease to plant bulbs. But if you are at the end of your patience, this might be the route for you.
  3. Reapply– If you opt for any of the smell deterrents, make sure you reapply consistently, especially after rain. 
  4. Experiment– Everyone’s backyard pests behave differently. While cinnamon may work for me, it may not be the best deterrent for your squirrels. So, try various methods until you determine what works best for you.

Best of Luck Tackling Your Squirrel Problems!

I hope you found a creative new DIY solution to help keep those squirrels out of your favorite plants! We’d love to hear how it goes for you, so comment below to share your stories or ask questions! And be sure to join the newsletter to be a part of the next problem-solving garden discussion!

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