How To Keep Squirrels Out Of Potted Plants And Digging Bulbs

You might think that squirrels are cute. To an extent, they are. But if you’re fine with squirrels coming and going from your property as they please, I can almost guarantee that you don’t have a garden!

Squirrels are infamous for digging up plants and flower bulbs, which can turn a well-manicured garden into a mess that needs to be cleaned up. 

Fortunately, I’ve learned how to keep squirrels out of potted plants and prevent them from digging up flower bulbs, and I’d like to share that information with you in this article. Hopefully, your garden will meet a better fate than my first flower garden.

How To Keep Squirrels Out Of Potted Plants

When it comes to keeping squirrels out of planters, there are a few techniques that I have used with some success. The first and one of the most effective methods is to place wire mesh over the soil. This will prevent the squirrels from digging and eating your bulbs and young roots.

However, squirrels can chew through wire mesh, so make sure that you place a board on top to strengthen it and make it harder for the squirrels to chew through. 

Another option is to put any container plants in cages. Squares made out of hardware cloth can be used to protect your bulbs and other plants. The squares should be sturdy enough that they can’t be bent easily by squirrels who try to get at the soil beneath them.

Finally, you can always use a squirrel-proof planter. These planters have a solid base with drainage holes, along with sides made out of hardware cloth, which is too small for squirrels to squeeze through. 

You can even make your own by taking an old plastic pot and drilling holes in its bottom so water can drain out properly when you water your plant. Then add hardware cloth around three sides of the pot, leaving one side open facing you so you can still add water as needed without removing any protection from your plant’s root system.

If these techniques fall short, or you need to keep your local squirrels away from larger garden bed, I recommend trying out the methods below:

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1. Let Your Dog Loose

You can always just let your dog roam freely around the yard. Squirrels will avoid a yard where they know a dog lives, even if the dog is primarily indoors (though an outdoor dog can be more effective). 

Dogs are much more effective than cats in squirrel-deterring, as cats don’t make much noise and tend to spend the vast majority of their time sleeping. 

Your dog doesn’t have to stay outside all day. Just let him out a few times a day for an hour or so, particularly when you’re not home, to scare off any squirrels that may appear.

2. Use An Ultrasonic Deterrent

If you want a quick solution, you can purchase an ultrasonic deterrent at a local home improvement store or online from stores like Be mindful that ultrasonic deterrent has hit and miss reviews, some seem to be very effective whilst others have little or no effect. This product from Diaotec has 5-star reviews and is one of the better options, available as a set of two.

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If you do try this method, I recommend the motion-activated, solar-powered devices because they’re easy to install and require very little maintenance. All they do is emit high-frequency sound waves when they sense movement. 

If squirrels hear the piercing sound of the device repeatedly, they will eventually get sick of it and stay away!

3. Fertilize With Blood Meal

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Blood meal is a fertilizer that you can find online or at your local garden center. It’s an all-natural product made from dried and ground blood. While it may not sound pleasant, it actually has a whole host of benefits. 

The great news about blood meal is that squirrels don’t like the smell of it, so it’s a fantastic way to keep them out of your garden while benefiting your plants at the same time.  

Blood meal is high in iron and nitrogen. I’m a particular fan of Down to Earth Blood Meal, which has an N-P-K ratio of 12-0-0. It can increase soil pH, as well as help plants, grow healthy leaves as well as strong roots. 

You can sprinkle some over the soil in your flowerpots (or even on the ground around them) to deter squirrels from digging through them for tasty bulbs. 

4. Sprinkle Cayenne Pepper

You can also use some cayenne pepper to deter squirrels from rummaging through your potted plants and digging up your flower bulbs. Squirrels hate the taste and smell of cayenne pepper but it won’t hurt them. 

Sprinkle a light dusting around your pots after it rains. Just take care when applying it so as not to get any on the plant itself. Be careful not to get any of it in your eyes either!

5. Install A Weed Barrier With Pebbles On Top

Another option is to create a weed barrier. The idea here is to cover the top of the soil with a layer of mulch, crushed rock, or pebbles. 

This serves as a physical barrier that prevents squirrels from gaining access to your plants. Plus, it doesn’t have any scent and is safe for humans, pets, and the environment. They are also easy to find and relatively inexpensive to buy.

The only drawback is that the mulch or pebbles will need to be replaced after one season because they will break down at different rates depending on weather conditions and how often you water your plants.

6. Use A Plant Pot Protector

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Protectors are metal or plastic plant pot covers that sit around the top of your planter. They prevent squirrels from digging in your dirt by shielding the pot. These can be used with potted plants, as well as bulbs like tulips and daffodils.

They’re also super easy to install. Just put one on each pot you’d like to protect. They come in a variety of sizes, so make sure you get the right size for your pots. To ensure they stay in place, use tacks or wire to attach them at multiple points along the rim of the pot.

Most plant protection covers will keep out squirrels and chipmunks but not necessarily other critters like raccoons or dogs. 

So, if you have any pesky animals with paws bigger than about four inches across, then consider lining the bottom of your pots with chicken wire before planting. That way, even if they dig into or overturn your pots, they won’t be able to reach the roots or bulbs inside.

7. Apply Hot Pepper Spray

Pesticides are effective but they can also cause serious damage to your plants. Worry not! I’ve discovered an easy-to-make home alternative that works just as well: hot pepper spray. 

To make hot pepper spray, all you need to do is mix one tablespoon of cayenne pepper with one quart of water and throw in a tablespoon of liquid dish soap. 

Once you’ve created the spray, simply pour it into a spray bottle and spray your flowerpots, plants, and bulbs thoroughly. Again, make sure you cover all sides, especially the underside, to keep squirrels from digging at your plants.

8. Try Squirrel Repellent Pouches

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Squirrel repellent pouches can be placed in the soil of a potted plant or around bulbs to deter squirrels from digging and eating your plants. These pouches are filled with predator urine, such as coyote, bobcat, or fox urine. 

The scent of the urine is then released into the air by special gelling beads contained in the pouch. Squirrels are always on high alert for predators and will avoid any area that smells like a predator’s territory.

Again, you can pick repellent pouches up for around $20 or more depending on how many pouches you purchase.

9. Scare Them Away With Noise

Some of my favorite tips are the simplest, and this one is certainly simple. Squirrels don’t like noise and are easily frightened. If you scare them away when they first come around, they’ll probably just move on to another yard that doesn’t make so much noise.

This can be as simple as a barking dog alarm. You might have seen or used these before. They look like a small box with an eye hole in it (the “eye hole” actually has motion sensors). 

When something moves past the box, it barks loudly, scaring off any intruders or burglars who might be nearby. 

You can also use other types of alarms for this trick: high-pitched sounds, wind chimes, etc. These all make loud noises at random times that will scare squirrels away from your garden and home.

10. Companion Plant With Garlic

Yet another way to naturally repel squirrels from your plants is by companion planting. Companion planting is the idea of planting certain plants together for mutual benefit. 

For example, if you plant tomatoes and marigolds together, the marigolds will help deter tomato-eating pests from attacking your tomato plants and also help improve their growth quality. 

Garlic is one of the best companion plants for use against squirrels for a number of reasons. First and foremost, garlic grows quickly so it’s easy to start tackling the issue promptly. 

Second up, it’s a relatively hardy plant meaning it doesn’t die when it gets cold as some other plants do in colder climates. Therefore, you can leave the garlic out all winter long if needed and then use the leftovers in your cooking.

Also, squirrels hate the smell of garlic, and they don’t like eating it because they think it tastes bad. 

Garlic can be planted as a companion plant with many different types of bulbs that squirrels like including tulips, daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, chives, and scallions, among others.

11. Scatter Human Or Dog Hair

The scent from human or dog hair will act as a repellent to squirrels who will think the smell is a predator. 

To use human hair as a squirrel repellent, you can ask a barber or hairdresser to save clippings in a plastic bag. 

Alternatively, gather dog hair from your dog’s brush and spread it over the soil surface. Don’t worry if the fur is dirty. No one will notice, but the squirrels certainly will. 

Change the hair every two weeks to keep it fresh and potent as a squirrel repellent. 

12. Use A Catch And Release Trap

Another alternative is to use a catch-and-release trap. The idea here is that you put some squirrel bait, such as nuts, seeds, or peanut butter, onto a trigger plate located inside of a cage. 

When the squirrel enters the trap to retrieve the bait, they will step on the trigger plate, which will cause the door to close, trapping them inside. 

Once the squirrel has been trapped, you’ll need to drive it a few miles away before releasing it. Otherwise, it could very well return to your yard, which would defeat the whole purpose of trapping it in the first place. 

There are other types of traps that are lethal but I would advise you to get some professional advice before embarking on this method of capture. Besides, there are so many other ways of keeping squirrels away from your plants that don’t involve anything dying.

Why Do Squirrels Dig In Flower Pots?

There are many possible reasons why squirrels might do this. They may be munching on the bulbs, searching for food, digging for water, chewing on roots, burrowing, looking for nesting materials, or using your flowerpot as a latrine.

While squirrels make great gardeners in the wild by scattering seeds from their food cache under trees and shrubs throughout the woods (and in my yard), they’re not so welcome when they come into our yards and gardens to dig up our potted plants and bulbs.

FAQs Keeping Squirrels Out Of Flower Pots