You’re jolted from your half-awake state, not because of the coffee but because you discovered that your succulents that looked so gorgeous yesterday were munched on as you had your good night’s rest. It’s also far from comforting to see that the flower buds you’ve been patiently and eagerly waiting to blossom are gone.
Unfortunately, there are a number of animals out there that feed on your succulents. It may not be part of their natural diet, but these animals love your water-filled succulent leaves.
So, what’s eating your beloved succulents? The list varies depending on where you live, but the most common animals that succulent growers complain of are squirrels, possums, cats, and birds.
Squirrels can be persistent garden pests. They might look cute, but they climb, dig, and chew their way through anything to get their food. While there is no single product that can miraculously prevent your squirrels from chewing on your succulent leaves, there are plenty of options you can do as a means of a preventive measure.
Squirrels can be classified into three categories: the tree squirrels, the flying squirrels, and the ground squirrels. These animals live in most parts of the world, except Australia and Antarctica, so many succulent growers have the same problem as yours.
Squirrels usually have two litters per year. The first one is in late winter, and another in midsummer. Each litter has about two to four kittens on average, but it can have up to eight. When the babies reach nine months, they are considered adults and can start families of their own.
These rodents live up to 15 years. They are herbivores and can eat up to a pound of food in a week, so they can cause real damage to your succulents.
Signs of Infestation
You’ll easily recognize when you’re facing a squirrel problem. These animals are known for chewing and digging their way through gardens. If you see chewed up leaves, uprooted plants, and holes with a variety of squirrel food, there’s no second-guessing who or what ravaged your garden.
The damage incurred by squirrels on your succulents is relatively easy to recognize. Unlike other insects, squirrels take big chunks out of your succulent leaves. They also leave jagged tear marks and deep wounds on the leaves. They usually don’t eat the whole leaves, so there will be evidence left around.
We recommend that you take measures to keep your squirrels off your garden because it will be easier than shooing them off once they discover your precious succulents.
Squirrels are naturally scared of their predators, so you can exploit this fear to prevent them from scavenging in your garden. Dogs and cats love to chase squirrels, so you can use this simple tactic by adopting furry friends in your home. These domestic pets don’t even need to be actively on patrol to keep squirrels out of the yard because the mere scent of their urine is enough to scare off those tenacious critters.
If you’re not comfortable with sharing your home with furry creatures, there is predator urine you can buy from your local garden center or garden equipment store. It sounds a bit strange but spraying your garden with animal urine is a proven way to make squirrels keep their distance from your yard.
Repellents are also an excellent way to discourage squirrels from scavenging in your garden. Peppermint is an effective natural repellant because squirrels do not like the scent of peppermint. You can place a peppermint plant beside your succulents, or you can sprinkle peppermint oil around your garden.
Mothballs are another repellent used by many gardeners because squirrels detest the odor. Repel these animals by placing mothball beside your succulents. However, use mothballs sparingly and carefully as they can be toxic to squirrels and other wildlife.
Squirrels are not very fond of spicy food, so spraying your garden with pepper spray or sprinkling it with dried spices will cause these animals to lose interest in your succulents.
Make sure to reapply repellents periodically on your plants or garden especially after you water them or after a rainfall.
One of the easiest ways to keep squirrels out of your garden is to build a barricade that they cannot cross. But keep in mind that squirrels are highly intelligent scavengers, so make sure to use chew-proof materials for your net and fence. Squirrels are also excellent differs, so extend your fencing a few more inches below the ground.
Possums are tree-climbing marsupials that are endemic to Australia, and also to North America. Possums are omnivores, and they are intelligent scavengers that feed on a variety of foods to survive. Their usual diet includes insects, worms, slugs, fruits, flowers, and leaves. They can devour several plants overnight, and they love to eat the tender new growth in the middle of your Echeverias, Graptopetalums, and other succulents that take the shape of flowers.
Signs of Infestation
If you have possums in the area and your succulents that are within their reach are missing significant portions from their leaves, these animals are likely the culprit.
To possum-proof your succulents, place them in high tables with smooth and shiny legs that possums can’t grip and climb. You can also plant spiky plants around the perimeter of your succulent garden to act as barriers.
One natural and cheap way to ward off possums from your garden is by using garlic on your plants. Mix two tablespoon of chopped garlic in two litres of boiling water, then let the mixture infuse overnight. Spray the mixture directly on your succulents and reapply every four days, or after heavy watering.
Plants are not part of a cat’s typical die because they are primarily omnivores. But these pets are incredibly unpredictable. They can have a habit of nibbling on plants when they’re bored. Sometimes, cats eat plants simply because they are attracted to it, or because they find it pleasurable to chew the fibrous leaves.
Signs of infestation
Most cats like to nibble on succulents. Sometimes, they also enjoy shredding the leaves using their sharp claws.
The most common remedy to this problem is to put your succulent in a cage or metal crate. Make sure that the cage or crate allow sun and air in so your plants still get the proper nutrients they need while being protected. Place the cage in your windowsill or hang them from the ceiling to ensure that they are safe from your cat’s playful paws, and take them down whenever they need watering.
If possible, place your succulents where your cats cannot reach them. You can put your plants in a room that has sufficient light pouring in.
Fortunately, there are natural cat-repellent sprays sold over-the-counter that you can use on your succulents. These are made from non-toxic ingredients and are specifically designed for houseplants. Alternatively, you can make your own repellant by mixing one part vinegar with three parts of water. Spray the mixture directly on the leaves of your succulents. The mixture won’t hurt your plants, and it will effectively ward off your feline friends.
There will always be animals interested in your succulents, but before you go and transform your garden into a biohazard by using synthetic pesticides, try to approach the problem in an eco-friendlier way. Discourage and ward off these animals instead of killing them.
Have you witnessed other animals eating your succulents? What did you do to keep them off your plants? Please share your experience in the comments below.