Potted flowers add a pleasant appeal to backyards, front porches, and lawns. However, animals can dig your flower pots, especially in spring and fall, creating a severe mess or ruining your flowers. Therefore, you might be wondering how to stop these invaders from digging your flower pots.
Here are 11 tips on how to stop animals from digging your flower pots:
- Know which animals commonly dig in flower pots.
- Identify the animals digging in your flower pots.
- Use motion detectors.
- Install physical barriers.
- Hang your flower pots.
- Use natural deterrents.
- Keep your compound clean.
- Keep insects away from your flower pots.
- Scare the animals away.
- Stimulate your pets.
- Provide litter boxes.
This article provides a detailed guide on how to keep animals from digging your flower pots. Read on to learn more!
1. Know Which Animals Commonly Dig in Flower Pots
Animals like to dig flower pots for several reasons, including searching for food, refuge, or storage spaces. If you’ve been finding holes, disturbed soil, or animal tracks in or around your planting containers, chances are that some critters are invading them.
It can be daunting to control them if you’ve no idea what animals they could be. There are several animals that commonly dig in flower pots, and knowing which animals are digging in your pots depends on many factors, including your location.
However, the most common culprits include:
Rodents could be the critters digging in your flower pots. Rodents include:
Squirrels love munching on vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Therefore, if you’ve planted these plants in your garden, these sneaky rodents will be regular visitors.
If your flower pots are accessible, for instance, on the ground near your fruit (or vegetable) garden, squirrels will invade them. Since the soil is easy to dig in, these tenacious rodents dig planting containers to hide their food, including acorns, seeds, and nuts. So, you might find fallen flowers, spilled soil, or knocked-over pots.
Like squirrels, chipmunks will also dig in flower pots. However, these herbivores love eating tender plants and bulbs. Therefore, they might feast on your young flowers, causing immense damage. Moreover, they might dig the soil to create a hiding spot to escape predators.
Apart from squirrels and chipmunks, rats and mice are notorious diggers in flower pots. Although they don’t feed on flowers, these tiny rodents will burrow the containers to create hiding spaces if you don’t water your flowers frequently.
Moreover, if your flower pots are near garbage pits or any other food source, rats and mice will use the flower pots as their refuge or food stores. In addition, these rodents will invade your indoor flower pots during winter seeking shelter or storing their food.
So, even if these critters don’t feed on your flowers, their invasion causes severe problems. And you’ll notice that your plants are withering, wilting, and dying because the rodents weaken the roots.
Furthermore, rats and mice are disease-carrying agents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the agents transmit various illnesses, including:
- Salmonellosis. A bacteria illness that spreads through eating or drinking (food/water) contaminated by rat or mice droppings.
- Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. A viral disease that spreads when one contacts mice (or rat) droppings or consumes contaminated food or water.
- Leptospirosis. A bacterial infection that occurs when you eat food or drink water contaminated with rodents’ urine. It can also spread when your skin comes into contact with soil contaminated with rodents’ urine.
- Rat-bite fever. A bacterial infection occurring when you eat food or drink water contaminated by rat feces.
Hence, it would help if you stopped these rodents from invading your flower pots before they wreak havoc in your home.
As avid and opportunistic feeders, raccoons eat almost anything, including:
- Aquatic creatures
- Birds (and their eggs)
Despite being wild animals, raccoons invade human settlements seeking food and hiding dens.
Therefore, they might invade your backyards if there are easily accessible fruits. And since they love eating grubs, they’ll dig in flower pots to get them. However, detecting raccoons in your compound is challenging since they’re active at night.
Having raccoons invade your home and digging into your flower pots is a severe problem. Apart from destroying your flowers, these animals might be carrying parasites or infectious diseases, such as:
Like raccoons, skunks may dig your flower pots while looking for their next meal. They love munching on earthworms and beetle grubs. Therefore, if your soil (or potting mix) is enriched with fertilizers, there’ll be plenty of grubs.
Additionally, skunks will invade your flower pots and remove the planted flower to access the tasty grubs. They dig the soil using their long claws after pressing it with their noses. Moreover, like their counterparts, the raccoons and skunks are nocturnal feeders, making it challenging to detect them.
Native to North America, opossums are pouched mammals (marsupials) renowned for playing dead. Like skunks and raccoons, they love feeding on insects and worms. Hence, they can dig in flower pots, searching for these protein treats.
But, they also feed on:
- Food leftovers
- Fruit debris
Moreover, they can also feast on your crops, flowers, and fruits.
Although they’ll clean up garbage or debris in your compound, these marsupials can be a real menace when they choose your compound as their new den. So, they’ll live in your attic, decks, or crawl spaces. And this attracts predators, including foxes, coyotes, and wolves.
We all know foxes as cunning animals, and they use their “wits” to invade our gardens. Although they prefer meat-based meals, foxes are omnivorous. Hence, these nocturnal feeders will eat various foods, including:
- Worms and grubs
- Natural fertilizers, such as bone meal
- Birds and eggs
- Pet food leftovers
- Seeds and berries
Since foxes love easy-to-find treats, including grubs and worms, they’ll dig your flower pots to access them. Furthermore, their cubs enjoy exploring for fun and practice.
You might be wondering what toads would be doing in flower pots. But these amphibians might invade your garden if there’s a natural water source nearby. Toads reproduce in water but live on land.
In their last developmental stage, the tadpoles move out of the water in search of moist soil to hide before they become mature toads. Hence, if your flower pots are near a pond, the tadpoles might dig the dirt in the containers awaiting maturity.
So, you might find a large hole in your flower pots a few days after the tadpoles have matured into toads and left their makeshift shelter.
Insects, including beetles and wasps, love burrowing in the loose, moist soils in flower pots to bury their eggs. However, some wasp species dig to find grubs (beetle larvae) to eat.
Furthermore, the cicada killer wasps dig in pots to bury their egg-laden prey. So, they kill cicadas and bury them together with their eggs. Hence, when the eggs hatch, the larvae will feed on the buried prey.
If you thought that only wildlife is responsible for digging your flower pots, you might be overlooking other probable culprits. Your beloved pets – your dog(s) and cat(s) could be responsible for the menace.
Cats are avid diggers who will dig your flower pots to poop if a litter box or garden isn’t available.
On the other hand, dogs will dig your flower pots for no reason but to just play around. So, they might remove some soil to hide their toys or if they smell anything exciting that they want to catch.
2. Identify the Animals Digging in Your Flower Pots
Now that you have an idea of the most likely animals to dig in flower pots, let’s look at practical ways of identifying the animals digging in your flower pots:
Study the Holes’ Characteristics
Animals make different holes since they have unique digging methods and physical characteristics. So, studying the holes in your flower pots might help identify what critters have been digging around.
Small critters, including beetles and worms, make tiny, thin holes in the soil. And the holes increase in size if the animals are larger (rodents and mammals).
Here are some hole features and the animals that make them:
- Cone or funnel-shaped holes with openings measuring 3 to 4 in (8-10cm): skunks, raccoons, and opossums.
- Tunnel-like holes with 3-inch (8cm) diameters: rats and mice.
- Holes with hidden nuts or seeds, measuring 3 to 6 in (8 – 16cm) deep: squirrels or chipmunks.
- Shallow holes with soil appearing tilled: foxes and opossums.
- Large holes that are abandoned after a few days: toads using motion-light.
Install Wildlife Cameras or Camera Traps
Many animals invade your garden to search your flower pots. Since it’s challenging to keep watch every night, you can install a wildlife camera near your pots. And you might be lucky to get images or videos of uninvited visitors.
These cameras have been in use by wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists to study animal behavior, but they’re currently available to the general public. So, you can take that advantage and have one or two in your backyard or front porch to monitor invasive animals.
They also produce images and video recordings without disturbing the animals, allowing you to identify the best strategy to control them.
However, these cameras might cost you a fortune, as they’re relatively expensive. Plus, you might need more than one since placing them at different positions would create a wider detection angle.
Some people opt for camera traps that can detect and capture animals. But, they face challenges catching smaller animals or standardizing the cameras’ field of view. Additionally, some bright light flashes scare animals away before the camera takes their images.
If installed correctly, these cameras offer great potential in monitoring and detecting invasive animals roaming in your backyard.
Detect Animal Scents
Some animals leave a characteristic scent behind after invading a garden. Hence, this can help you identify the culprit digging your flower pots.
For instance, skunks produce a foul-smelling odor when frightened to defend themselves from predators. On the other hand, foxes leave a pungent, musky smell to distinguish themselves or mark their territories.
Additionally, both animals’ urine is also foul-smelling and helps mark territories.
Identify Animal Tracks
Invasive animals leave different tracks or trails that might help you detect them. For instance, skunks have five-toed claws that resemble a cat’s. However, they can’t retract them as the felines do.
Therefore, you’ll know that a skunk has invaded your potted flowers when you notice tracks with large nail marks (from the front paws). In addition, their rear paws comprise unique heel pads, about 2 inches long. So, they’re bigger than a cat’s.
But you might confuse skunk and raccoon tracks. So, here’s the difference:
Raccoons also have five-toed paws. Nonetheless, their front feet resemble a human hand since the toes are connected to the track and evenly spaced. But the hind ones are less human-like, as the inner toe is shorter.
The hind paw is also larger than the front. Furthermore, raccoons have a unique walking style and gait where the front track is close to the opposite rear. Therefore, this pattern might help you distinguish raccoon tracks.
Squirrel tracks are also distinct. While the front paws have four digits with proximal-distal pads (appearing as tiny dots at the bottom), the rear ones comprise five digits without pads.
On the other hand, fox tracks are almost similar to those of wild and domestic canines. However, the prints of gray foxes are slimmer and oval-shaped. Plus, they can retract their claws. Hence, you might not spot their impressions.
Contrastingly, red foxes have furry paws. Thus, their tracks aren’t well-formed as with gray foxes. Furthermore, they don’t retract their claws, and you might see the impressions (dot-like).
Additionally, their paws have a unique chevron-shaped pad. So, that would be a great way to distinguish them from other fox species.
Set Snap Traps
Catching invasive animals in action is daunting, and using various detection techniques can be expensive and futile, especially with smaller animals. Therefore, you might consider setting snap traps to catch them “red-handed.”
Snap traps are effective with rodents since they’re attractive and target small-sized animals. They also use a simple mechanism that catches and kills the culprits. Therefore, they can help you “strike two birds with one stone.”
2. Use Motion Detectors
Identifying what animals are digging in your flower pots is essential as it enables you to determine the best strategy to stop them. However, it would be best if you also studied their behavior before deciding on the ideal control method.
Using motion detector lights is one way to keep invasive critters off of your compound.
Most nocturnal feeders, including raccoons, skunks, and foxes, hate bright light while feeding. Hence, installing motion sensor (detector) lights near your flower pots will deter these animals from approaching them. These devices work by flashing bright light once when they detect the movement of a person or animal.
Different types of motion sensor lights are available, and they include:
- Microwave motion sensors. Utilize electromagnetic radiation. They emit, reflect, and interpret reflected waves to determine if there’s movement.
- Passive infrared motion sensors. They sense infrared energy that people or animals emit through body heat and movement. So, they can’t detect cold-blooded animals.
- Dual technology motion sensors. These utilize a combination of detecting methods to minimize false alarms.
However, motion-detection lights can be a hit or miss depending on some factors, including:
- The type of motion sensor light you’ve installed.
- Characteristics of the targeted animal.
- Additional features of the motion sensor lights.
Sometimes, these gadgets might not be effective in scaring the uninvited guests, especially if the animal is large-sized, cunning, or has gotten used to the light. So, if it finds out that the light is harmless, the animal will go about its business without fear.
Hence, you can pair motion detector lights with motion-activated sprinklers if the animal in question hates getting wet. And this could be a good strategy if you’re dealing with:
Havahart Critter Ridder Motion Activated (available on Amazon.com) is an ideal example. It combines an infrared motion detector with a sprinkler to repel unwanted animals, including:
The critter ridder is also eco-friendly, easy to install, and offers excellent value for your money.
Alternatively, you can purchase motion detector lights coupled with alarms, as these will frighten invasive animals.
For instance, Broox Solar Animal Repellent (available on Amazon.com) comprises an infrared motion detector, LED flashing light, and an alarm (ultrasonic speaker). Therefore, it scares many uninvited nighttime visitors since it has a 110-degree sensor angle. Moreover, it’s solar-powered and water-resistant, thus, significantly efficient.
3. Install Physical Barriers
Invasive animals get their way when digging flower pots when they have easy access to the containers. Therefore, you can hamper their activities by setting up physical barriers around your garden or compound.
But the type of physical barrier will depend on the characteristics of the animal that you suspect of digging your flower pots. For instance, some obstacles won’t deter larger intruders, such as foxes, because they’ll rip them off.
Hence, it’s essential to identify the invasive animal before installing the barriers.
Here are various physical barriers you can install to protect your flower pots from sneaky diggers:
This barrier is a netting comprising thin galvanized steel with hexagonal gaps. Chicken wire is ideal for keeping rodents from digging your flower pots, including rats, mice, chipmunks, and squirrels. The netting is a turn-off to these animals, and they’ll not bother your flower pots.
Moreover, it prevents your pets, especially cats, from ruining your potted plants because their soft paws can’t tolerate the wire.
Here are ways to use chicken wire to protect your flower pots from diggers:
- Drape it around the pot using a pair of pliers before adding the topsoil and after planting your flowers. If the wire’s gaps are about 1 inch wide (2.5cm), the growing flower will pass through it uninterrupted.
- Build a chicken wire cage. You can make cages by fixing the wire around the rings if metal hoops are available. This method is also effective in protecting your flower pots from larger animals.
Rocks and Gravel
Most small invasive animals will have trouble digging your flower pots when you spread some rocks or gravel over the top soil. Since they’re used to digging loose soil, these substances will put them off.
Moreover, you can find attractive rocks or pebbles to decorate your flower pots while protecting them from intruders.
So you can look for white silicon desert rocks or fine, smooth river stones to lay on the soil around your potted flowers.
Note: Rocks may not be ideal during summer since they retain heat. Thus, you can replace them with a thick mulch layer to keep rodents away while protecting your flowers from excessive water loss.
Broken Clay Pot Shards
Broken clay pot shards might come in handy if you prefer not to use rocks on your flower pots. Since they’re hard and have pointed edges, they’ll keep rodents, cats, and other invasive animals from digging your flower pots.
Moreover, clay doesn’t heat as much as rocks, so you can maintain the shards even during summer.
An alternative to chicken wire, metal mesh is a perfect physical barrier for protecting your flower pots from diggers. It comprises many intertwined metal strands, making it appear as a screen or net. The expanded metal mesh is long-lasting, lightweight, and strong.
Therefore, it’s perfect for creating a fence or cage around (or over) your flower pots.
Like chicken wire and metal mesh, hardware cloth also deters animals from digging your flower pots. It comprises wire strands woven or welded on grids that can be made from:
- Stainless steel
- Bare steel
- Galvanized steel
- Carbon steel
Hardware cloth is a better alternative to chicken wire because it’s stronger and more durable. But this usually depends on what material it’s made from, the gauge, and its finish.
Here’s a video showing how you can protect potted plants from digging squirrels using hardware cloth:
4. Hang Your Flower Pots
Most of the time, animals dig your flower pots because they can access them easily. Therefore, one of the best ways to stop these diggers is by making the containers inaccessible. And an effective strategy would be to hang your flower pots.
Hanging your flower pots will keep many nuisance animals, such as rodents, skunks, raccoons, and even foxes, from accessing them, but still ensure your flowers can receive enough sunshine in the new position.
Here are some ideas on how to hang your flower pots:
- Use hanging pot holder ropes. Using holder ropes is an ideal way to hang your pots outdoors. For example, Mkono Plant Hanger Rope (available on Amazon.com) is a durable cotton rope without tassels. It’s sturdy and easy to install, featuring a modern and vintage style to create visual appeal.
- Hang the flower pots on a rail. If you’ve got a deck rail, it’ll come in handy when hanging small flower pots, and this will protect them from ground-based critters.
- Use hanging planters. These are common and effective for hanging flower pots. These planters come in various sizes and designs, so your choice will depend on your preferences. The La Jolie Muse Hanging Planters (available at Amazon.com) are perfect for the outdoors because they’re durable and weather resistant. They’re also lightweight, adjustable, and have four drainage holes.
5. Use Natural Deterrents
If you’re practicing organic farming, natural repellents are a great way to keep pests away. It’s eco-friendly since it doesn’t harm the environment or the invasive animals. Most natural deterrents are effective against various intruders, but it would help if you identified specific repellents against particular animals.
Here are several examples:
- Cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, and diluted hot sauce. Most invasive animals, such as skunks, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, and skunks, can’t stand them.
- Strong scented essential oils. These include peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, and lemongrass. They repel rodents, cats, raccoons, and skunks. It’s advisable to dilute them first and spray them around the flower pots since some essential oils can alter the soil’s pH.
- Mothballs. Their strong scent deters most pests, including rodents, skunks, raccoons, and opossums.
- Epsom salt. Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) is an effective deterrent against numerous pests. You can use it as bait, in solution, or pour it directly around your flower pots.
- Camphor. This medicinal and fragrant wood repels rodents and insects.
- Onion and garlic. Their strong smells deter most pests, including rodents, skunks, opossums, foxes, and raccoons.
- Molasses. Keeps opossums away.
- Fox urine. Repels fox prey, including opossums, skunks, and small rodents.
- Apple cider vinegar. Keeps rodents away.
- House ammonia. Deters rats, mice, and skunks.
- Vegetable and castor oils. They repel skunks since they don’t like getting oil on their fur.
- Plant alliums, marigolds, and lavender. Chipmunks, squirrels, and most rodents detest these flowers.
6. Keep Your Compound Clean
Many invasive animals (pests) are opportunistic feeders and will feast on fallen fruits, pet food leftovers, birdseed, or anything edible in your garden. Hence, it would help if you ensured that your garden is free from all these, especially near your flower pots.
Some intruders, especially rodents, seek hiding spaces or dens in available areas, such as empty garbage cans. So, it would be best if you decluttered your backyard to minimize any potential shelters for these animals.
Also, ensure that the area around your flower pots is clean and tidy. For instance, they should have ample space to keep sneaky rodents such as rats, mice, and chipmunks away.
7. Keep Insects Away From Your Flower Pots
Skunks, raccoons, opossums, and foxes dig flower pots to find grubs and worms. Therefore, one of the best ways to deter them is by keeping insects away from your pots.
Moreover, you can also protect your flower pots from insects that love digging in the potting soil (or mix).
So, here are some methods that you can use to deter bugs from your flower pots:
- Use physical barriers. You can lay a layer of hardware cloth at the bottom of your flower pots before adding your soil or potting mix. The screen will cover the drainage soils to prevent the entry of insects while leaving enough space for water to drain.
- Apply chemical treatment. You can use insecticides or pesticides to control insects in a non-organic garden. However, this isn’t eco-friendly.
- Add beneficial nematodes. These microscopic roundworms are essential in pest control in organic gardening. They kill several pests, including grubs, weevils, and cutworms, by infecting them with pathogenic bacteria.
8. Scare the Animals Away
Motion detector sprinklers and alarms can be relatively costly. So, a DIY project can come in handy if you don’t want to hurt your pockets. Therefore, find readily available materials in your garage or backyard that you can use to make a scarecrow or other frightening objects.
These will frighten many small animals and prevent them from digging into your flower pots.
Here are some examples:
- Old clothes, hats, and wooden beams are perfect for making scarecrows.
- Shiny objects such as old CDs, colorful pinwheels, spinners, and aluminum pie pans scare squirrels and chipmunks.
- Foil strips: Wrap them around trees and branches, and they’ll make noise when the wind blows.
You can also train your dogs to scare away rodents from your garden, including chipmunks and squirrels.
9. Stimulate Your Pets
Pets (primarily dogs) get bored when they have nothing to stimulate them. Hence, they’re likely to dig your flower pots to feel entertained.
It would help if you kept your dog busy and stimulated by engaging them in fun-filled activities. Furthermore, you can provide toys that your furry friend will love, including:
- Chew toys (best for puppies)
- Interactive treat dispensing toys
- Dog puzzles
- Rope tugs
- Fetch balls
- Buddy dog toys
10. Provide Litter Boxes
Cats are squeaky clean and hate seeing their poop lying around. Therefore, they love having litter boxes to poop and bury their feces. And if they aren’t available, your feline friend will relieve themselves in any dirt they come across, including the soil in your flower pots.
Litter boxes are also safe for pet parents because contact with cat poop can cause serious infections, such as toxoplasmosis. Cat feces can carry a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that causes this infection.
Hence, it would help if you had a litter box to keep yourself and your flower pots safe.
Animals, including rodents, foxes, skunks, and raccoons, love digging flower pots for various reasons. Identifying the culprits and studying their behaviors is the first step to controlling their invasion.
Furthermore, effective methods to stop these animals from digging your flower pots include:
- Using motion detector lights.
- Using physical barriers.
- Hanging flower pots.
- Keeping insects away.
- Scaring the animals.
- Stimulating pets.
- Providing litter boxes.