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How to Get Rid of Snails & Slugs in Outdoor Potted Plants

By Melissa King ; Updated September 21, 2017
Snails especially love to eat seedlings and young plants.
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Potted plants sometimes look fine at night but are full of holes in the morning. Such plants are likely victims of slugs and snails, soft-bodied pests that can destroy an entire plant in a single evening. These nuisances sneak into your container garden at night, so catching them eating your plants is often tricky. If slugs and snails brutalize your plants, try a combination of traps, tricks and methods to eliminate these pests.

Step 1

Sprinkle sharp objects, such as eggshells, wood chips or diatomaceous earth, on the ground around your potted plants. Snails and slugs dislike crawling across sharp objects.

Step 2

Put a copper barrier ring around each container. Copper shocks snails and slugs when they crawl across it, keeping them away from your plants.

Step 3

Pour any type of beer in a bowl and bury it in the ground near your potted plants so that its lip is at ground level. Beer's scent attracts slugs and snails. The creatures crawl into the bowl for a drink and then fall in and drown. A mixture of boiled yeast and honey also works if you do not have beer on hand.

Step 4

Lay a flat piece of cardboard or wood on the ground near the potted plants. Cover the board with a layer of inverted citrus rinds or flipped-over flower pots. The slugs and snails will crawl under these items for protection when the sun rises. Pick up the board and throw the slugs in the trash.

Step 5

Apply a specially designed slug or snail pesticide. Such pesticides contain iron phosphate. When slugs and snails eat it, the chemical destroys their metabolism, killing them within days. Metaldehyde pesticides also work, but they are toxic to pets and people.

Step 6

Place containers filled with sage or mint around other potted plants. Slugs and snails dislike the strong scent, so they stay away.


Things You Will Need

  • Egg shells
  • Wood chips
  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Copper ring barrier
  • Beer
  • Bowl
  • Board
  • Slug and snail pesticide


  • Check on your potted plants at night to see slugs and snails in action. If you find the pests, pick them off your plants by hand. Throw them in a bowl of salt water to kill them.

About the Author


Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.