Critters Can Wreak Havoc With Plantings

by Ms. Grow-It-All on June 9, 2011

in Weekly Column Archive

Q: Last summer, I had lovely pots of verbena, potato vine and Knockout roses on my deck that the squirrels completely ignored. This summer, the squirrels continue to strip all leaves and flowers from these same plantings. Crushed red pepper doesn’t faze them. The deck is in full sun. What can I plant that squirrels will hate but do well in this hot area? Or how do I get rid of the squirrel problem?

A: Are you sure it’s the squirrels eating your verbena, potato vine and roses? Those plants are tasty treats for other critters, particularly deer, so I want to make sure that we’re targeting the correct animal. Not that I can guarantee much success either way. Both can be wily creatures, and everybody’s gotta eat.

If critters – squirrels, deer, raccoons, etc. – are targeting your potted plants this year when they left them alone in previous summers, then they’re not getting fed at their usual places this year. Given the abundance of squirrels in our area, as well as other wildlife as development destroys their native habitat, your choices are limited.

If squirrels are indeed your nemesis, I suggest installing a squirrel feeder on the other side of the yard and keeping it well-stocked with seeds and nuts they find particularly toothsome. If they fill up on preferred foods, they won’t be as tempted to munch on your plants.

And at the risk of enraging some readers, I will also suggest that having a pet dog hang out on your deck might keep squirrels from poaching your plants. The mere presence of a canine is usually enough to discourage squirrels from approaching the area where your pots are located. When the subject has been discussed previously, I have managed to raise the ire of more than one squirrel lover. We can co-exist. The question is how much you’re willing to share.

Internet radio show: Leon County/University of Florida forester Stan Rosenthal will join Ms. Grow-It-All on Blog Talk Radio at 5 p.m. today to talk about heat stress on plants – how to recognize it and what to do about it. Join us at If you can’t join us live, you can download a podcast of the program.


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