How to keep squirrels out of potted plants – 6 ways to stop squirrels from ruining your container garden

Had enough trying to keep squirrels out of potted plants? Here's how to deter squirrels – without harming them

How to keep squirrels out of potted plants
(Image credit: Giedrius Stakauskas / Alamy Stock Photo)

It is easy to forgo squirrel control through the summer and fall months, but taking the pressure off these invasive opportunists at this time of year can quickly undo previous efforts to keep them in check, especially if you want to keep squirrels out of your prized potted plants.

Lapses in getting rid of squirrels during the warmer months can usually be attributed to the summer foliage. In the winter and early spring, when the trees were devoid of leaves, it was much easier to spot the bushy-tailed rodents up in their treetop haunts. 

These unexpected squirrel sightings serve as reminders that squirrels are present and up to their usual mischief, and that is as much of a push as most of us need to find new ways to keep squirrels out of potted plants so as not to disturb recently planted bulbs, young roots or, simply from making a mess in yards.

As with the backyard, it is important to get rid of squirrels in the attic as they can wreak havoc if they get inside your home. It’s not just the noise that’s the problem, of course. Squirrels can damage wood, shingles, ceilings, electric wires and insulation.

How to keep squirrels out of potted plants

There are many ways to keep squirrels out of potted plants naturally – from using odors they despise to water sprays to ultrasound. None of these methods will kill or harm squirrels but a combination of the methods will deter them. These are the best ways to keep squirrels out of potted plants for good.

1. Get a cat – or dog

'The most simple way to keep squirrels out of your potted plants is to get a cat or dog,' says Rachel Crow, garden editor at Homes & Gardens. 'But, you’ll have to let them outside during the daytime in order for them to spot and chase squirrels away. Their predatory presence alone may be enough of a deterrent for the rodents that like to ruin your container garden.' 

You could also try collecting your cat's litter to use around your most prized plants, just don't apply it to flower beds and edible plants. 

2. Use coffee grounds 

Coffee grounds

(Image credit: GettyImages)

Coffee ground have undeniable benefits when it comes to waking up the human body, especially during the early hours. However, its power is not limited to the kitchen. Instead, this caffeinated pantry staple is equally as impactful in the yard, where experts are using coffee grounds to keep squirrels out of potted plants.

To make the most of your coffee grounds, simply mix the leftover grounds from your coffee pot with the top layer of soil for a dual-purpose way to keep squirrels away. Not only are coffee ground good for plants, but squirrels are believed to strongly dislike the scent and taste of coffee ground, while your plants will absorb all the nutrients, such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.

Alternatively, work garlic cloves, lemon or orange peel into your compost – they dislike these scents.

3. Lay down chicken wire 

Squirrels love to forage for bulbs in containers. Place some chicken wire or other mesh cover over the pot once you've planted it to stop them digging. As soon as the bulbs start to peak through, you can remove it.

4. Invest in ultrasonic sensors 

Ultrasonic devices are used by many amateur gardeners to repel pests without altering their yards in any way. But do these ultrasonic devices deter squirrels? The good news is that, yes, high frequency sound can deter these pests, however, it is vital that you invest it one that is designed to do so. 

This Ultrasonic Animal Repeller from Amazon is said to do the trick. Ultrasonic devices work by emitting noise at a frequency only detectable by certain animals, and most cannot be heard by the human ear. 

5. Arrange large pebbles around plants

landscaping with rocks and plants in Mediterranean style garden

(Image credit: Basie B/GettyImages)

If you want to keep squirrels out of potted plant without too much hassle, then large pebbles and stones are an easy solution. Ensure that the stones you use are too heavy for a squirrel to simply push aside. Be careful not to overload your flower bed or container plants; you still want rainwater to fall through or, for your to water your foliage as and when needed. 

6. Deter squirrels with essential oils 

Essential oils are not just a medicine cabinet staple, but they can also be used to keep squirrels out of potted plants, too. 

It comes as no surprise to learn that many natural over-the-counter squirrel repellents use essential oils in their formulas, so it is possible to make them at home. Mint extract, lemongrass, clove and cinnamon are known to deter squirrels, so keep these oils and spices close to hand. In a spray bottle, mix one part vinegar to two parts water, a drop of dish soap, and add the essential oils to it. 

Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.