How to Keep Pests Out of Flower Pots

Keeping animals out of garden planters can be a real challenge. Cats, chipmunks, squirrels and other pests like to dig in the dirt, eat bulbs, and store food for the winter. But this not only makes a mess but can damage or kill your plants as well. Luckily, there are some easy and natural ways to keep animals out of your flower pots.


Natural Ways To Keep Pests Out of Garden Planters

In general, things that have strong smells will detract animals from digging in your pots and spilling soil everywhere. Note that when it rains or just over time you will need to re-apply these to the flowerpots.

Spices like cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes sprinkled onto the top of the soil will often make animals go away once they take a sniff of whatever you put down. We’ve heard of people getting hot sauce and diluting it with water in a spray bottle and spraying the pots too. You can also use strong smelling essential oils like eucalyptus oil. Coffee grounds can also work, but that will change the pH of the soil if enough is used. We don’t find coffee grounds as effective either. Another idea that we’ve seen but haven’t tested is getting a bar of Irish Spring soap and shaving off pieces of the soap over the dirt.

Some gardeners also use a physical barrier to prevent animals from getting in. Large rocks the size of your fist or a very thick layer of mulch can stop animals from digging. Another option is laying chicken wire on top of the soil (after you’ve planted of course). A very funny and unique idea we’ve seen is putting toothpicks all over in the soil sticking up, so if an animal steps on the dirt the animal will have to get poked by the toothpick first.

Best Natural Ways To Keep Pests Out of Planters

  • Cayenne pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Hot sauce diluted with water
  • Strong smelling essential oils
  • Large rocks or mulch
  • Chicken wire

How to Keep Cats Out of Flower Pots

Cats will often dig in flower pots to poop in the pot. They treat flower pots like a litter box. Most of the natural ways listed above will work for cats. The toothpick idea mentioned was actually to prevent the gardener’s pet cat. We did not hear how effective that was though. We’ve also seen cat owners get a water spray bottle and spray the cat as soon as it steps on the pot. The most effective approach we’ve seen is using ground cayenne pepper sprinkled on top of the soil.


How to Keep Squirrels Out Of Flower Pots

Squirrels dig in garden planters to bury and store their food in the winter. A physical barrier is probably the most effective approach for preventing squirrels from digging. Large rocks and gravel can be put on top of the dirt. You can also apply a very thick layer of mulch too. Spicy powder like cayenne or pepper works but needs to be applied at least weekly. Predator urine can also be purchased to spray on the flower pots.


How to Keep Chipmunks Out Of Flower Pots

Chipmunks will dig in garden planters to eat bulbs and other tender new growth from plants. This not only makes a big mess but can kill the plants. A sure fire way to do this is by creating a physical barrier for the chipmunks. Chicken wire is very effective and so are large fist-sized rocks. Also, one extra action you can take for chipmunks is by ensuring there are no hiding spaces next to the pots. Create space between the pots and buildings or structures so there is no place for them to hide. Chipmunks like to run from hiding spot to hiding spot so predators can’t get them. So this will make it riskier for the animals to try and get to the planter.


We’d love to hear other ideas that you’ve tried. Please write to us if you have other ways that you’ve been successful with or other critters that we didn’t mention! And if all else fails, you can just curse at the animals. That will at least make you feel better.

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 Author Chris Link - Published 9-01-2020