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How to Keep Squirrels Out of Potted Plants

By Lucinda Gunnin ; Updated September 21, 2017

The little tree squirrels that can sometimes take up residence in the trees around the garden can be quite cute and adorable. Unfortunately, given their penchant for getting into potted plants and other garden areas, they can also seriously ruin all of a gardener's hard work and effort. There are a few tips, however, that might help in keeping these squirrels from becoming too much of a headache and might save your plants in the process.

Set a loose-fitting plastic mesh over the potted plants that you are trying to preserve. Place bricks along the sides of the mesh to secure it firmly to the ground, otherwise the squirrels will simply lift it up and head on in for a tasty snack. Unfortunately, this option might not meet with the aesthetic qualities that you are looking for.

Place a motion-activated sprinkler system in the vicinity of the potted plants. Squirrels tend to be very skittish creatures and the sudden burst of motion (not to mention getting more that a little wet) will often frighten the squirrel away.

Police the rest of the yard, especially if you have outdoor bird feeders. Squirrels are often drawn to a yard by the smell of food--and they have a particular fondness for birdseed. Raking up the area under and around the bird feeder and keeping it clean can discourage squirrels from coming in the first place.

Mix a gallon of water with 6 tsp. of gentle formula dish washing liquid and 2 tbsp. of hot pepper sauce. Spray liberally onto the potted plants. The dish soap and hot pepper sauce won't hurt the plant, but the squirrels will find the taste not to their liking.

Grind up the hottest dried chili peppers you can find and seed the potting soil of the plant with the resulting concoction. The oils in the peppers make for an unpleasant area for the squirrels to stand, and the smell also acts as a deterrent.

Set out live animal traps. If all else fails, you might have to resort to purchasing a live animal trap at your local home and garden center and capturing the animal for transport and transplant. In many communities there are shelters that will take in live animals. If not, check with the laws of your local municipality to see where it is legal to transplant the squirrels to.


Things You Will Need

  • Plastic mesh
  • Bricks
  • Motion-detection sprinklers
  • Rake
  • Oil-based soap
  • Hot pepper sauce
  • Hot chili peppers
  • Live animal trap

About the Author


Lucinda Gunnin began writing in 1988 for the “Milford Times." Her work has appeared in “Illinois Issues” and dozens more newspapers, magazines and online outlets. Gunnin holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science from Adams State College and a Master of Arts in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.