20 Plants that Repel Squirrels – Keep Your Garden Squirrel-free

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Gardening is a delightful hobby that brings joy to many. However, one of the challenges that gardeners often face involves uninvited guests – squirrels. While these creatures are undeniably adorable, they can wreak havoc in gardens and yards, nibbling on everything from bulbs to bird seed.

Squirrels are known for their destructive habits such as digging up plants, eating newly planted seeds, and damaging tree barks. These small critters can turn your beautiful garden into their personal buffet, leaving a trail of devastation behind them. If you’ve tried various methods to keep these agile intruders at bay with little success, it might be time to consider a different approach.

This brings us to the concept of using plants as a natural squirrel repellent. Yes, you heard that right! Certain plants are less appealing to squirrels, either because of their smell, taste, or texture.

By incorporating these plants into your garden, you can create a natural barrier that deters squirrels, preserving the beauty and integrity of your green space.

In this article, we will explore 20 such plants that can help you keep squirrels away, naturally and harmlessly. So, let’s dive in!

Why Squirrels Are A Problem?

Squirrels, with their bushy tails and playful antics, may seem harmless at first glance. However, they can be quite problematic for homeowners, especially those who maintain gardens or yards. These small mammals are known for their incessant gnawing habits – a behavior that can lead to significant damage.

Squirrels can chew through just about anything in their path, including bulbs, seeds, fruits, and even tree barks.

They are also notorious for digging up gardens to bury their food, disrupting the root systems of plants and causing them to die. This not only ruins the aesthetic appeal of your garden or yard but also poses a threat to the growth and survival of your plants.

In addition to these damages, squirrels can also be a nuisance due to their persistent nature. Once they find a reliable food source, they tend to stick around, making it particularly challenging to keep them away from your garden.

While there are several ways to repel squirrels, it’s important to find methods that are both effective and safe. Some traditional methods such as traps or chemicals might harm these creatures or other wildlife in your garden.

Hence, the importance of finding a solution that keeps your garden safe from destruction, without causing harm to squirrels or the environment, cannot be overstated.

This is where the concept of using plants as natural squirrel repellents comes into play. It’s a gentle yet effective approach to maintaining the balance of your garden ecosystem while ensuring your hard work isn’t destroyed by these furry intruders.

Understanding Squirrel Behavior

To effectively deter squirrels from your garden, it’s crucial to understand what attracts them in the first place. Squirrels are primarily attracted to gardens and yards for two main reasons: food and shelter.

Squirrels have a varied diet that includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even birdseed from feeders. They are particularly drawn to gardens that offer these food sources readily. Additionally, trees and shrubs provide excellent shelter and nesting spots for squirrels, making your garden an ideal habitat.

Understanding why certain plants repel squirrels is another key aspect. Squirrels have a keen sense of smell and taste, which they use to find food. Certain plants emit smells or have flavors that squirrels find unpleasant. Some plants may also have prickly leaves or stems that make them uncomfortable to touch or navigate around.

For instance, some plants produce strong scents that we humans might find pleasant or barely notice, but squirrels find overwhelming or offensive. Other plants may have a bitter or spicy taste that deters squirrels from eating them.

By incorporating these kinds of plants into your garden, you can create an environment that is less appealing to squirrels. This natural form of pest control is not only effective but also ensures the safety and well-being of the squirrels and other wildlife that visit your garden.

Benefits of Using Plants to Repel Squirrels

Using plants as a natural deterrent against squirrels offers a host of benefits. First and foremost, it’s a non-harmful way to manage these furry critters. Unlike traps or chemicals which can harm squirrels and other wildlife, using plants is an eco-friendly and humane method that doesn’t pose a threat to their well-being.

Another significant benefit is the maintenance of your garden’s ecological balance. By choosing plants that deter squirrels, you can reduce their presence without disrupting the overall ecosystem of your garden. This is particularly important if you’re aiming to create a garden that’s not just beautiful, but also supportive of local biodiversity.

Moreover, using plants to repel squirrels can save you both time and money in the long run. Once these plants are established in your garden, they require minimal upkeep and continue to deter squirrels season after season. This reduces the need for constant monitoring and the recurring cost of other squirrel deterrent products.

In addition to serving a practical purpose, these plants can also enhance the beauty of your garden. Many squirrel-repellent plants are quite attractive, boasting colorful flowers, lush foliage, or interesting textures. They can add visual interest and diversity to your garden, making it more enjoyable for you and less attractive to squirrels.

Lastly, some of these plants have other benefits too. For instance, many herb plants that repel squirrels can also be used in cooking, offering fresh, home-grown flavors to your meals. Some plants may also attract beneficial insects, like bees and butterflies, further contributing to a healthy and vibrant garden ecosystem.

20 Plants that Repel Squirrels

1. Daffodils

Daffodils, with their bright yellow blooms, are a sure sign of spring and a delight in any garden. But apart from their aesthetic appeal, daffodils have another significant advantage – they are known to repel squirrels.

Squirrels are typically deterred by the taste and smell of daffodils. These plants contain lycorine, a substance found in the bulb of the plant, which is bitter and toxic to squirrels. As a result, squirrels tend to avoid digging up and eating daffodil bulbs, making them an excellent choice for squirrel-prone gardens.

In terms of care, daffodils are relatively low-maintenance. They prefer full sunlight but can tolerate partial shade. These hardy plants are also resistant to most pests and diseases. Daffodils should be planted in the fall, about 2-4 weeks before the ground freezes. Plant the bulbs about 3-6 inches deep and 3-6 inches apart in well-drained soil.

Not only will daffodils deter squirrels from your garden, but they will also add a burst of color to your spring landscape. Their cheerful yellow flowers can uplift the mood and make your garden a more enjoyable place for you, minus the squirrels!

2. Alliums

Alliums are a diverse family of plants that include onions, garlic, chives, and ornamental varieties like the giant Allium ‘Globemaster’. These plants are known for their strong scent, which is often a deterrent for squirrels.

The sulfur compounds that give alliums their characteristic smell are what keep the squirrels at bay. These compounds are especially concentrated in the bulbs, discouraging squirrels from digging them up and eating them.

In the garden, alliums are quite easy to grow. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Depending on the variety, they may need to be planted in the spring or fall. For instance, onion and garlic varieties are typically fall-planted, while many ornamental alliums are spring-planted.

Ornamental alliums produce striking globe-shaped flowers that can add a unique visual element to your garden. On the other hand, culinary alliums like onions, garlic, and chives can serve a dual purpose in your garden – repelling squirrels and providing you with fresh, homegrown produce.

Incorporating alliums into your garden can thus help to deter squirrels, while adding both aesthetic and culinary value.

3. Fritillaries

Fritillaries are a group of flowering plants that include several different species, all of which are known to be effective at repelling squirrels. These plants have a distinct musky odor that squirrels find unappealing.

The Crown Imperial Fritillary, in particular, is renowned for its squirrel-deterring properties. This plant emits a strong scent that is often compared to that of a fox, a natural predator of squirrels. This scent acts as a deterrent, making squirrels think twice before approaching your garden.

Fritillaries prefer full sun to partial shade and require well-drained soil. They are typically planted in the fall, with the bulbs placed about 4 inches deep and 6-8 inches apart. The Crown Imperial variety grows quite tall, reaching heights of up to 3 feet, and produces striking orange or yellow flowers in the spring.

While the smell of fritillaries might deter squirrels, it’s generally not offensive to humans, especially once the plant is established and growing. By incorporating fritillaries into your garden, you can enjoy their unique beauty while also keeping squirrels at bay.

4. Galanthus

Galanthus, commonly known as snowdrops, are one of the first flowers to bloom in late winter or early spring. These delicate white flowers can bring much-needed cheer after a long, cold winter. But apart from their beauty, Galanthus has another notable advantage – they are resistant to squirrels.

Like daffodils, snowdrops contain lycorine, a bitter and toxic compound that squirrels find unappetizing. As a result, squirrels typically avoid digging up and eating snowdrop bulbs, making them an excellent choice for gardens prone to squirrel visits.

Galanthus prefers partial shade but can tolerate full sun. They require well-drained soil and should be planted in the fall, about 2-3 inches deep and 3 inches apart. Once established, snowdrops require minimal care and can naturalize over time, spreading to cover larger areas of your garden.

By planting Galanthus in your garden, you can enjoy their delicate beauty in late winter while also deterring squirrels. It’s a win-win situation that enhances the visual appeal of your garden and protects it from unwanted visitors.

5. Geraniums

Geraniums are popular flowering plants known for their vibrant blooms and aromatic leaves. Besides their visual appeal, geraniums also serve a practical function – they are known to deter squirrels.

The strong scent of geranium leaves, which some people describe as lemony or spicy, is unpleasant to squirrels. This makes geraniums an excellent choice for gardeners looking to naturally deter these critters.

Geraniums are quite easy to grow and care for. They prefer full sun but can tolerate partial shade. These plants require well-drained soil and should be watered regularly, but let the soil dry out between waterings to prevent root rot.

Geraniums can be grown in beds, borders, containers, or hanging baskets, making them a versatile addition to any garden. Their bright, colorful flowers can add a pop of color to your landscape, while their squirrel-deterring properties can help protect your other plants.

6. Hyacinths

Hyacinths are flowering plants known for their vibrant blooms and intoxicating fragrance. These spring-blooming bulbs add a burst of color and scent to any garden. But apart from their aesthetic appeal, hyacinths also have a practical advantage – they deter squirrels.

The bulbs of hyacinths contain alkaloids that are bitter and toxic to squirrels. As a result, squirrels are usually discouraged from digging up and eating hyacinth bulbs, making these flowers a natural squirrel deterrent.

Hyacinths prefer full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. The bulbs should be planted in the fall, about 4-6 inches deep and 3 inches apart. Once established, hyacinths require minimal care and can provide years of beauty and fragrance.

By planting hyacinths in your garden, you can enjoy their stunning blooms and lovely scent in the spring while also keeping squirrels at bay. It’s an effective way to protect your garden while enhancing its beauty.

7. Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley, with its delicate, bell-shaped flowers and sweet fragrance, is a charming addition to any garden. This low-growing perennial is often used as a ground cover in shady areas. Besides its aesthetic appeal, Lily of the Valley also serves a practical purpose – it deters squirrels.

The plant contains cardiac glycosides, substances that are toxic to squirrels. As a result, squirrels typically avoid Lily of the Valley, making it a natural deterrent.

Lily of the Valley prefers shady spots and moist, well-drained soil. The plants should be spaced about 4-6 inches apart and can be planted either in the fall or early spring. Once established, they require minimal care and can spread over time, creating a beautiful carpet of green leaves and white flowers.

It’s important to note that all parts of the Lily of the Valley are poisonous if ingested, not only to animals but also to humans. Therefore, they should be planted with caution around children and pets.

8. Marigolds

Marigolds are vibrant, sun-loving flowers that are well-known for their pest-deterrent properties. These hardy annuals have a distinctive scent that most garden pests, including squirrels, find unpleasant.

Marigolds contain a compound called alpha-terthienyl, which can deter a variety of pests. The strong scent of marigolds, combined with this compound, makes them an effective natural deterrent for squirrels.

Growing marigolds is quite easy. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil. You can sow the seeds directly in the garden after the threat of frost has passed, or start them indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. Once established, marigolds need little care apart from occasional watering and deadheading to promote more blooms.

Marigolds come in a variety of colors, including yellow, orange, red, and mixed hues, so they can add a splash of color to your garden while also protecting it from squirrels.

9. Narcissus

Narcissus, commonly known as daffodils, are bright and cheerful spring flowers that bring a burst of color to any garden. But apart from their aesthetic appeal, narcissus also have a practical advantage – they deter squirrels.

The bulbs of narcissus contain a bitter, toxic compound called lycorine. This makes them unappetizing to squirrels, so these critters typically avoid digging up and eating narcissus bulbs.

Narcissus prefer full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. The bulbs should be planted in the fall, about 6 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Once established, narcissus require minimal care and can provide years of beauty.

10. Crown Imperial

The Crown Imperial, also known as Fritillaria imperialis, is a striking and unique plant. With its tall stem, tuft of long, glossy leaves, and crown-like circle of bell-shaped flowers, it’s sure to be a focal point in any garden. But beyond its visual appeal, the Crown Imperial has another significant advantage – it’s a natural squirrel deterrent.

The bulbs of Crown Imperial have a strong, musky odor that squirrels find unpleasant. This makes them an excellent choice for gardeners looking to naturally deter these critters.

Crown Imperials prefer full sun and well-drained soil. The large bulbs should be planted about 8 inches deep and 10-12 inches apart in the fall. Once established, Crown Imperials require minimal care, although they do appreciate a layer of mulch for winter protection.

While Crown Imperials are relatively easy to grow, they can be susceptible to root rot if planted in overly wet conditions. Therefore, it’s important to ensure they are planted in well-drained soil.

11. Mint

Mint is a popular herb known for its refreshing aroma and taste. It’s used in everything from teas and cocktails to sauces and desserts. But beyond its culinary uses, mint also serves a practical purpose in the garden – it deters squirrels.

The strong smell of mint is unpleasant to squirrels. Therefore, planting mint around your garden can help keep these critters at bay.

Mint is a hardy perennial that prefers full sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. It’s easy to grow and spreads quickly, so it’s best planted in containers or areas where it can be controlled.

One thing to keep in mind when growing mint is that it can become invasive if not properly managed. Regular pruning and harvesting can help keep mint in check.

12. Salvia

Salvia, also known as sage, is a genus of plants that includes more than 900 species. These plants are valued for their aromatic leaves, vibrant flowers, and the variety they bring to any garden. Beyond their aesthetic appeal, some species of salvia also have a practical advantage – they can deter squirrels.

Certain types of salvia produce a strong scent that squirrels find unpleasant. This makes salvia an effective natural deterrent for these critters.

Salvias prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Depending on the species, they can be grown as annuals or perennials. Once established, most salvias are drought-tolerant and require minimal care, although regular pruning can help promote more blooms.

13. Thyme

Thyme is a versatile herb that adds a savory flavor to a variety of dishes. Its tiny, aromatic leaves are used in everything from roasts and stews to sauces and marinades. But beyond its culinary uses, thyme also serves a practical purpose in the garden – it deters squirrels.

The strong scent of thyme is something that squirrels find off-putting. Therefore, planting thyme around your garden can help keep these critters away.

Thyme is a hardy perennial that prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It’s easy to grow and can be used as a ground cover or in rock gardens. It’s also well-suited to container gardening.

One thing to note when growing thyme is that while it’s drought-tolerant, it doesn’t like to sit in wet soil. Therefore, it’s important to ensure good drainage.

14. Rosemary

Rosemary is a fragrant herb that’s as beautiful as it is useful. Known for its needle-like leaves and delicate blue flowers, rosemary adds a touch of Mediterranean charm to any garden. But beyond its aesthetic appeal and culinary uses, rosemary also serves a practical purpose – it deters squirrels.

The strong scent of rosemary is something that squirrels find off-putting. Therefore, planting rosemary around your garden can help keep these critters away.

Rosemary is a hardy perennial that prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It’s drought-tolerant and relatively low-maintenance once established. While it can be grown from seeds, it’s often easier to start with a young plant or cutting.

One thing to note when growing rosemary is that it doesn’t tolerate waterlogged soil or harsh winter conditions very well. Therefore, if you live in a colder climate, you might want to grow rosemary in a pot that can be brought indoors during the winter.

15. Lavender

Lavender is a beloved plant known for its fragrant, purple flowers and silvery-green foliage. It’s often used in aromatherapy and cosmetics for its soothing scent. But beyond its beauty and fragrance, lavender also serves a practical purpose in the garden – it deters squirrels.

The strong scent of lavender is something that squirrels find off-putting. Therefore, planting lavender around your garden can help keep these critters away.

Lavender is a hardy perennial that prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It’s drought-tolerant and relatively low-maintenance once established. Lavender plants should be spaced about 18 inches apart to allow for proper air circulation.

One thing to note when growing lavender is that it doesn’t tolerate humid or waterlogged conditions very well. Therefore, it’s important to ensure good drainage and avoid overwatering.

16. Oregano

Oregano is a staple herb in cuisines, known for its robust flavor and aroma. It’s used in everything from pizza and pasta to meat dishes and marinades. But beyond its culinary uses, oregano also serves a practical purpose in the garden – it deters squirrels.

The strong scent of oregano is something that squirrels find off-putting. Therefore, planting oregano around your garden can help keep these critters away.

Oregano is a hardy perennial that prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It’s easy to grow and can be used as a ground cover or in rock gardens. It’s also well-suited to container gardening.

One thing to note when growing oregano is that while it’s drought-tolerant, it doesn’t like to sit in wet soil. Therefore, it’s important to ensure good drainage.

17. Basil

Basil is a fragrant herb known for its bright, spicy flavor. It’s a staple in Italian cuisine and is the star ingredient in pesto. Beyond its culinary uses, basil can also deter squirrels with its strong scent.

Basil is an annual herb that prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It’s easy to grow from seeds or transplants, and it does well in both garden beds and containers. Regular harvesting of the leaves can encourage the plant to produce more.

18. Sage

Sage is a perennial herb with gray-green leaves and a savory flavor. It’s often used in poultry dishes and stuffing. Like other aromatic herbs, sage’s strong scent can deter squirrels.

Sage prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It’s drought-tolerant once established and doesn’t require much care beyond regular pruning to keep it bushy and productive.

19. Chives

Chives are a member of the onion family, known for their delicate, onion-like flavor. They’re great in salads, soups, and as a garnish. The strong aroma of chives can help keep squirrels at bay.

Chives are a hardy perennial that prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil. They grow in clumps and can be easily divided to produce more plants.

20. Garlic

Garlic is a flavorful bulb that’s used in a wide variety of dishes. Its pungent scent can deter many garden pests, including squirrels.

Garlic is a hardy perennial that prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It’s typically planted in the fall for harvest the following summer.

Tips for Implementing These Plants in Your Garden

  1. Border Planting: Use these plants as a border around your garden. This will create a natural barrier that squirrels are likely to avoid. Incorporate different types of plants for a varied look and consider the height and spread of each plant when planning your border.
  2. Mixed Planting: Intersperse these plants among your other garden plants. This method distributes the scent throughout the garden, which can be more effective at deterring squirrels.
  3. Container Gardening: If you have a patio or deck that squirrels frequent, consider planting these herbs in containers. Place the containers around the perimeter to deter squirrels.
  4. Near Squirrel Favorites: If there are certain plants that squirrels seem to favor in your garden, make sure to plant these herbs nearby. The strong scent can help keep squirrels away from their favorite snacks.

Suggestions for Creating a Comprehensive Squirrel Repellent Plant Strategy

  1. Plant Variety: Use a variety of these plants in your garden. Each one has a different scent that squirrels dislike, so using several types can be more effective.
  2. Regular Maintenance: Keep your plants healthy and well-pruned. A stronger plant will produce a stronger scent.
  3. Use Fresh and Dried Herbs: Besides planting these herbs, you can also scatter fresh or dried leaves around your garden, especially in areas where squirrels are most active.
  4. Patience is Key: Remember that implementing a squirrel repellent plant strategy is not an immediate solution. It may take some time before you notice a decrease in squirrel activity. Be patient and persistent.
  5. Complementary Methods: Consider combining your plant strategy with other squirrel deterrent methods. This could include squirrel-proof bird feeders, motion-activated sprinklers, or safe and humane traps.

Other Natural Squirrel Deterrent Methods

  1. Motion-Activated Sprinklers: These devices detect movement and spray a burst of water when triggered. The sudden spray of water can startle squirrels and deter them from returning.
  2. Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders: Squirrels are often attracted to bird feeders. There are many designs available that prevent squirrels from accessing the food, such as feeders with weight-sensitive perches that close off the feeding ports when a squirrel lands.
  3. Mulching with Cayenne Pepper: Squirrels dislike the scent and taste of cayenne pepper. Sprinkling it around your plants can help keep squirrels away. However, you’ll need to reapply after rain or watering.
  4. Use a Squirrel Repellent Spray: There are natural sprays available that deter squirrels with their scent and taste. Look for ones made with natural ingredients, such as garlic and white pepper.
  5. Install a Garden Net or Fence: A physical barrier can be an effective way to keep squirrels out. This could be a net over individual plants or a small fence around your entire garden.
  6. Provide an Alternative Food Source: If squirrels are a persistent problem, consider providing them with an alternative food source away from your garden. This could be a feeder filled with corn or nuts.
  7. Predator Scents: Squirrels are naturally afraid of predators. Using products that mimic the scent of predators like foxes or owls can deter squirrels.

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Conclusion

Implementing plants in your garden to deter squirrels is a natural, humane, and environmentally friendly solution. It not only helps protect your garden from these critters but also adds beauty and aroma. Each of the herbs discussed – basil, sage, chives, garlic, oregano, rosemary, and lavender – brings its own unique benefits, from their culinary uses to their medicinal properties.

Strategically placing these plants around your garden creates a barrier that squirrels are likely to avoid, helping to keep your garden safe and thriving. Moreover, these plants are relatively easy to grow and require minimal care, making them a great choice for both novice and experienced gardeners.

While using plants to repel squirrels may require patience and persistence, the rewards are well worth it. Not only will you enjoy a squirrel-free garden, but you’ll also have a variety of fresh herbs at your fingertips. So why not give it a try? Your garden and your taste buds will thank you!

Frequently Asked Questions about “Plants that Repel Squirrels”

Do plants really repel squirrels?

Yes, certain plants have strong scents that squirrels find off-putting. These include herbs such as lavender, oregano, basil, sage, chives, and garlic. Planting these in your garden can help deter squirrels.

How do I use these plants to repel squirrels?

You can plant these herbs around the borders of your garden, intersperse them among your other plants, or plant them near the plants that squirrels seem to favor. The scent of these plants can help keep squirrels away.

Will these plants harm the squirrels?

No, these plants won’t harm squirrels. They simply produce a scent that squirrels dislike, which encourages them to stay away.

Can I use these plants in combination with other squirrel deterrent methods?

Absolutely! In fact, it’s often more effective to use a combination of methods. This could include squirrel-proof bird feeders, motion-activated sprinklers, or natural squirrel repellent sprays.

How long does it take for these plants to start repelling squirrels?

It may take some time before you notice a decrease in squirrel activity. Be patient and persistent, and remember that implementing a squirrel repellent plant strategy is not an immediate solution.

Are these plants easy to grow?

Yes, most of these herbs are relatively easy to grow and require minimal care. They’re a great choice for both novice and experienced gardeners.

Can I use fresh or dried leaves from these plants to deter squirrels?

Yes, scattering fresh or dried leaves from these plants around your garden can also help deter squirrels.

Do I need to reapply or do anything special to keep these plants effective?

Keeping your plants healthy and well-pruned can help produce a stronger scent. If you’re using fresh or dried leaves, you’ll need to replace them periodically, especially after rain or watering.

What if I still see squirrels in my garden after planting these herbs?

Remember, using plants to repel squirrels requires patience and persistence. If squirrels are a persistent problem, consider combining your plant strategy with other squirrel deterrent methods.

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Having retired after teaching Field Biology for many years, I have a wide range of topics to write on. My interests are photographing animals and plants, vacationing with my family, enjoying my grandchildren, dancing, hiking, canoeing and kayaking, gardening, winter activities, leading nature walks, writing notes on nature, and home improvements (we are renovating our retirement home). With all that I am doing now, you may wonder how I ever found the time to work - of course, most of the other things were put on hold all those years.

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