How to keep chipmunks out of potted plants – 6 tips for protecting your pots

Pestering chipmunks tearing up your pots? Here is how to keep them out of your plants

A chipmunk sitting on the side of a garden pot
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Our potted plants can look like a plated meal to pestering chipmunks – no matter how cute these ‘dinner guests’ can appear. 

Between digging up bulbs and using our potting soil as storage, these tiny rodents can have a huge impact on the look of your yard, destroying perfectly planted patios and porches.

If chipmunks have been causing havoc in your pots, then there are some simple ways to help get rid of chipmunks for good without harming the little critters – with some home remedies for getting rid of chipmunks offering the perfect natural solution that won't damage your delicate container plants. 

How to keep chipmunks out of potted plants 

There is more to deterring chipmunks than only using chipmunk-repellent plants, pest and garden experts say. And they are all super simple – and often attractive too, to keep your garden looking its best.

A chipmunk sitting on the side of a garden pot

(Image credit: Getty Images)

1. Use a physical barrier

A go-to for dealing with any pest, such as keeping squirrels out of potted plants, a physical barrier is a great way to keep chipmunks out of your pots. A.H. David, pest control expert and writer for Pest Control Weekly suggests using wire mesh or hardware cloth placed over the soil surface of your pot to deter chipmunks from digging in it. If you are looking for a more attractive barrier, then decorative gravel can be applied to the top of the soil instead, which will allow for better water drainage than fabrics. 

‘To stop chipmunks climbing up the edge of your pots full stop, then you can also use a cylinder made of hardware cloth around the pot for added protection,’ he adds.

A.H David
A.H. David

A.H David is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Pest Control Weekly. By hobby, he is a gardener and has experience dealing with all types of pests found in backyard gardens. His goal is to provide well-researched and authentic information about pests from his own experiences.

2. Spray a natural scented repellent

Much like getting rid of squirrels, or getting rid of mice, scented deterrents are hard workers in keeping minor pests away from potted plants. 

There are three options for this, explains Hala Zaqqout, pest control expert with over seven years of experience, and current editor at Lawn-Advisor; a commercial repellent containing capsaicin or castor oil, mothballs (thanks to their equally strong odor), or a homespun approach using oil infused with cayenne pepper and chili powder to produce strong spicy smells that chipmunks hate. 

When using scents, make sure to regularly reapply them to your pots, both on the exterior of the pot and on the ground around them, to ensure the protection continues, especially after periods of rain, or after watering your plants. 

3. Consider a decorative, visual deterrent

Such small creatures can be easily spooked by visual deterrents. For this approach, creating bright, moving reflections can discourage them from coming closer to your pots as the blinding light disorients them, explains A.H. David, pest control expert. 

‘Hang aluminum foil strips, old CDs, or even small mirrors near your pots,’ he recommends. ‘The unexpected and unpredictable movement of the reflective lights will keep them at bay.’

4. Gently scare chipmunks away

When the pests are outside, you have more options in the way of gently scaring the animals without causing any further damage. As with getting rid of rats and getting rid of moles, you can use an ultrasonic deterrent to omit high, uncomfortable frequencies only the pests can hear to chase them away, or opt for a motion sensor sprinkler system that startles the animal as they approach your pots, suggests Diana Cox, horticulturalists and gardens expert, founder of The Gardening Talk. 

One downside to these deterrents is they rely largely on a negative response from the chipmunk. If they can't hear the ultrasonic frequency, or perhaps do not mind a shower, then these solutions may fail, she adds.

Compact Solar Ultrasonic Repellent | $44 at Walmart

Compact Solar Ultrasonic Repellent | $44 at Walmart
This solar recharging ultrasonic deterrent quickly and efficiently expels pests from your garden and keeps them out of it.

5. Relocate bird feeders away from pots

Bird feeders are a great addition to any yard or garden ideas, but they add another alluring feature for pests who love nuts and seeds, such as chipmunks. If your feeders are close to your pots, clean up any spillages in pots and the ground around them that may draw them in, reminds A.H. David, pest control expert. ‘Pots add an additional hiding space for fallen seeds that chipmunks will love, as it offers them shelter as they snack. Keeping the area around them clear is vital.’

Given we often keep our pots on patios and decks, it is also important to clean up any food we drop in outdoor dining areas too, he adds, as these crumbs will have the same effect.

6. Keep your pots neat and tidy

Besides keeping the ground area around your pots tidy, Diana Cox, gardens expert, recommends also keeping your container plants neat too. Ensuring that they are well pruned to remove seed heads before they drop and keeping them well watered to discourage them from digging can minimize chipmunks' interest and keep your potted plants safe.

Diana Cox
Diana Cox

Diana started her website as a way to help others who are new to the world of gardening and plant care. She has been growing plants since she was a little girl, and started to document her experience in gardening a few years ago.


Does baking soda repel chipmunks?

Although it is a practical multi-purpose powder for household cleaning, baking powder has not been effective in deterring chipmunks. Instead, you are better off spreading a harsher substance such as gravel over the tops of your potted plant soil to prevent chipmunks from digging down while maintaining drainage.

How do I tell if chipmunks have been digging in my pots?

There are several signs that you might have chipmunks in your yard, but the first sign is often disturbed soil and nibbled-on plants and bulbs. Chipmunks may also set up home in your yard, burrowing under your lawn and plants – the entrances to such burrows are two to three inches in diameter, and lay flat to the ground, unlike the burrows of moles which often pile the dirt up on the surface. 

When it comes to keeping chipmunks out of potted plants, it is important to remember it is about deterrence and not about harming the critters. Chipmunks, despite their penchant for digging, are not dangerous pests and pose little to no threat to your home's structure, so humane treatments are strongly advised. 

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.