I know it can be a pain watching squirrels dig into pots and destroy plants you are growing with love.

Squirrels dig in potted plants to bury their food such as nuts, seeds, acorns, and berries. They prefer pots because the potting soil is soft and convenient to dig into. Squirrels also dig into the potted plants to eat some of the bulbs and roots.

I’ll show you 7 simple and natural ways to get rid of squirrels from your potted plants and to keep them away for good.

How to keep squirrels out of potted plants?

There are several ways you can keep squirrels out of potted plants, including killing them. But I don’t prefer that method and don’t recommend it either.

I believe the best methods are to scare them, deter them, or sacrifice some food or plants to them. Or you can use a live trap to catch and release them if that is permitted in your area.

1 Scare the squirrels away from the potted plant

The easiest thing to try is to scare the squirrels as they try to come near your plants. Some materials suggest to the squirrel there’s a predator.

You can place human hair or pet fur near the potted plant to scare the squirrels away. You don’t need a lot of it. Just sprinkle a few strands on top of the potting soil. And hang some on a few branches as well.

Every few weeks, you will need to do this because the hair may deteriorate or get blown away from the potting soil.

Another option is to hang some shiny objects on the branches to scare squirrels. This could be any object that reflects sunlight like a CD, mirror, or even tin foil.

You can place a decoy predator such as a plastic owl or eagle model to scare the squirrels away. A scarecrow could do a similar job of scaring the squirrels away.

Placing a motion-activated sprinkler can also work to get the squirrels away from your potted plants.

Having an object that makes noise near the potted plant can also help. As the squirrel touches such an object, it will get scared and run away. You can hang objects like wind chimes, glass bottles, or metal cans that make noise.

The problem with these scare tactics is they lose effectiveness as the squirrels get used to them. So it’s best that you rotate some of these techniques every few weeks instead of using just one of them.

I conducted a survey with several gardeners and found that 44.6% found covering the plants to be a good solution against squirrels. 22.8% felt squirrels did not do harm to their plants. And 17.8% preferred to repel them with some kind of spray.

2 Use material to repel the squirrels away

If you cannot scare the squirrels away, you can try to repel them so they don’t come near the potted plants.

You can do this using materials like sprays, aromatic oils, so they don’t come with the smell. Some of the materials you can use include vinegar, garlic, pepper, coffee grounds, blood meal, and bone meal.

I recommend using organic materials that are safe for you, your pets, and the squirrels as well. You want to drive them away but not harm them.

You can create a spray with these materials and spray them on the plants and potting soil to keep the squirrels away.

The only problem with this method is that the spray will wear off in a few days or after rain. So you need to keep applying it every few days, so it remains effective.

Here are some ways you can use these materials in your potted plants.

Vinegar spray

Mix 1 cup vinegar with 2 cups warm water. Put it in a spray bottle and spray it on the leaves and potting soil.

spray bottle
Spray bottle I use to water or spray neem oil


Crush fresh cloves of garlic and sprinkle crushed clove pieces all over the potting soil.

If you want to use it as a spray, you can boil a few garlic cloves in water and strain the solution. Add it to a spray bottle and spray it on the leaves and potting soil.

Pepper spray

You can use chili peppers or black peppers to repel squirrels as well. You can crush the peppers and boil them in water. Strain the solution and add it to a spray bottle. Spray the solution on the leaves and potting soil to keep squirrels away.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil contains menthol, which smells very strong and unpleasant to most creatures. I don’t like to spray it directly on the plant as it can cause damage.

You can dip some cotton balls in the peppermint oil and place them near the potted plants. Make sure not to place them on the potting soil but near the pot.

Coffee Grounds

Squirrels don’t like the smell of coffee grounds, so you can sprinkle some on the potting soil. The coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen and will help improve the soil as well.

Blood Meal

Blood meal is a fertilizer made up of dried animal blood, but you can use it to repel squirrels because they don’t like the smell.

To keep the squirrels away, you can sprinkle some blood meal on the potting soil every couple of weeks. The blood meal is rich in nitrogen and will improve the soil as well.

Bone Meal

Bone meal is also known as calcium phosphate. You can use bone meal similar to blood meal and sprinkle it on your potting soil every couple of weeks to keep the squirrels away. The bone meal is rich in calcium and will add it to your soil as well.

Fish emulsion

Fish emulsion is liquid fertilizer made from fermenting fish waste. It’s also useful to repel squirrels, but you should avoid it if you can’t stand the smell.

Fish emulsion is a rich source of nitrogen similar to blood meal, and you can add it to the potting soil every couple of weeks.

Ultrasonic repellent

Ultrasounds are sounds having frequencies above 20 kHz that humans cannot hear. You can get an ultrasound repellent that is supposed to keep squirrels away from your plants. 

I’m skeptical whether this device actually works, but some people have reported success with it. You should also be careful if you have pets such as cats and dogs around. They can hear ultrasound as well, so make sure to get a tested brand that is not harmful to them.

3 Protect the potted plant from squirrels

If scaring or repelling the squirrels is not working for you, the next option is to enclose the potted plants to protect them.

You can use materials such as a cage, fence, bird netting, wire mesh, or hardware cloth to protect the potted plant or potting soil from the squirrels.

You need to ensure that whatever material you use for the cage has tiny gaps. Otherwise, the squirrels will pass through them. I use bird netting. It’s cheaper than chicken wire. – Stacey

You can surround the potted plant with chicken wire, bird netting, or wire mesh so that the squirrels can’t get through.

You can cover the potting soil with chicken wire or hardware cloth so the squirrels can’t dig into the soil. You could also use tin foil to cover up the potting soil. Just make sure that you keep space near the base of the plant. And poke holes in the foil so you can water the plant.

4 Grow plants that squirrels don’t like

Some plants can repel the squirrels. You can grow these plants together with your potted plants, so squirrels stay away from them.

Some of these plants include hyacinth, daffodils, marigolds, lilies, and alliums. Some others include columbine, geraniums, and impatiens.

Plants and herbs with a strong flavor and odor are also useful to repel squirrels from your garden.

Some such plants include garlic and onion. Herbs you can use to repel squirrels are peppermint, rosemary, sage, and thyme.

5 Provide sacrificial plants to the squirrels

You have the option to make peace with the squirrels and provide them with some sacrificial plants.

You can keep these plants in a separate area from the potted plants you want to protect. You could even keep pots filled with soil so the squirrels can dig into those and stash their food in them.

We have tons of squirrels and they’ve only ever eaten my sunflowers. Otherwise they leave it all alone – Julie

You can also create a feeding station full of nuts, seeds, and berries to attract the squirrels.

You can try this method and see if it works for you. Some gardeners have reported success with this, while others say it did not help, and the squirrels still attacked their potted plants.

6 Trap the squirrels and release them far away

I would suggest this method of trap and release only as a last resort. This may not be allowed in the area you live, so check with the authorities before using it.

This may seem like a humane method to trap the squirrels and release them to another location. But it’s been shown that most squirrels are unable to adjust to their new surroundings and die.

So please try the above methods, which are much more suitable for your plants and the squirrels.

Trapping and releasing is not humane for Squirrels. About 80% of squirrels relocated far enough away that they cannot return, do not survive, even in similar environments. – Alvin

7 Avoid attracting squirrels to the potted plants

You can keep the surroundings of your potted plants clean to avoid attracting the squirrels.

Make sure there is no food lying near the potted plants that squirrels could smell. Don’t leave pet food bowls outside overnight.

I have found nothing that actually works well, I just feed them. I put their food away from the garden. I have two areas that are completely enclosed, one using sun shade and netting, one a screened green house. I plan on constructing a third area with chicken wire, sunshade and netting this fall for next year. – Alvin

Avoid keeping any type of debris near your garden that squirrels could use as their nesting ground. Clean up fallen fruits and plant matter near your potted plants.

Ensure that you put all garbage inside the trash can and cover them up when left unattended.

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