Geraniums are popular bedding and greenhouse plants. They are grown for their showy flowers, which come in various colors, including white, pink, red, and purple. Geraniums are relatively easy to grow and require little maintenance. However, they can be susceptible to damage from pests and other animals. If something is eating or damaging your plants, it’s essential to know what animals are attracted to them and what to do about it.
Do Squirrels Eat Geraniums?
Geraniums produce a mixture of volatile phytochemicals consisting of; alcohols, phenols, terpenes, ketones, and esters. These chemicals are the plant’s defense mechanisms that prevent squirrels, bugs, and other pests from eating them. The combination of these chemicals makes the plant taste bad and irritates the mouth, skin, and gastrointestinal tract of animals that try to eat them.
A few animals and pests are known to eat geraniums, which we’ll take a closer later. That said, squirrels are opportunistic feeders that can eat poisonous mushrooms without getting sick, so it’s possible that they could eat the odd Geranium here and there without any ill effects.
If something is eating your geranium plants, the best course of action is to try and identify the culprit. We’ll answer all these questions and discuss further why squirrels don’t eat geraniums, but first, let’s take a closer look at the Geranium.
Geranium plants belong to a large genus of flowering plants in the genus Pelargonium, which contains about 200 species of succulents, shrubs, and perennial plants. They are native to South Africa and can be found throughout the world in gardens, greenhouses, and as houseplants. The most common type of Geranium grown is the zonal Geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum), which is a hybrid of two species of Pelargonium.
All parts of the plant are poisonous to some animals, including the stems, flowers, leaves, and roots. However, the toxic chemicals are most concentrated in the leaves, which contain tannins, saponins, and other bitter compounds.
Why Squirrels Don’t Eat Geraniums?
Squirrels don’t eat geraniums because of the Geranium’s plant protective mechanisms., smell, and digestive issues. So let’s take a closer look at why this plant is not on the menu.
The plants produce a mixture of volatile chemicals that are inedible and sometimes even toxic to domesticated house pets such as cats and dogs.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the chemicals to help you understand why they repel squirrels.
- Esters: Are found in modern perfumes and cosmetic products.
- Polyphenolic Compounds such as tannins.
- Alcohols are also known as essential oils.
The Geranium is considered a great for medicinal properties that can help heal eczema, scrapes, and bruises. It’s also good for insomnia, sunburns, and varicose vines.
The chemicals in Geraniums are part of the reason why it’s such a versatile plant with many different uses. However, it’s also why squirrels find it unpalatable.
Squirrels can eat almost anything, and their diet conforms to their environment, which is why you’ll see squirrels raiding trash cans, bird feeders, and gardens. However, their digestive system cannot properly digest cellulose (an organic compound found in plants).
That said, they will still eat plants that don’t contain harmful chemicals or toxins. The chemicals in geraniums can be problematic for their digestive system and cause them to experience gastrointestinal issues.
If they have a choice, they’ll eat other plants and flowers before eating the Geranium.
Squirrels have a very acute sense of smell. They use their nose to help them find food and avoid predators. However, the essential oils in geraniums can be overwhelming for their sensitive noses, so they stay away.
Do Ground Squirrels And Flying Squirrels Eat Geraniums?
With over 65 species of squirrels in the United States, it’s normal to wonder if ground or flying squirrels eat geraniums. The short answer is no. Geraniums repel all squirrels.
A ground squirrel’s diet consists primarily of herbaceous plants (non-woody stemmed plants) and green grasses. In contrast, a flying squirrel’s diet is made up of fruits, fungi, and insects.
The reason they don’t eat geraniums is the same for all squirrels. This is because the plants produce chemicals that are unpalatable and even toxic to them.
How to Keep Squirrels From Eating Geraniums?
Even though the Geranium is a pest-resistant perennial, there are things you can do to protect it from unruly squirrels and other animals. The tips below work great to repel squirrels from disturbing, digging, or eating geranium plants.
Just remember, squirrels are persistent little critters, and it’s going to take some time to get them to stop harassing your flowers. So don’t forget to check out these tips to keep them off your sunflowers.
Cage the Plants
One of the best ways to protect your plants from squirrels and other critters is to create a cylindrical fence out of chicken wire. You’ll want to create a cage around the geranium plants to protect them properly.
You’ll want to place some wood or metal stakes and place them 4-6 inches away from the plant so that they won’t harm the roots. If you put them too close to the plants, the squirrels may be able to stick their paw in the cage and pull out a flower.
Wrap the chicken wire around the posts to form a cage. You may also want to create a screen door that will allow you to enter the cage to care for your geranium plants.
Don’t forget to enclose the top of the cage. Otherwise, the squirrels will climb the fence and access the plants from the top. They are excellent climbers and jumpers.
To protect your plants from squirrels, cover the top of the soil with gravel. This will make it difficult for the squirrels to dig as the sharp edges of the rock will hurt their paws.
Be sure not to use too much gravel, as this can hurt the plant’s roots. Avoid using large gravel, as it can damage the plant’s stems. Instead, consider using smaller types such as pea gravel.
Take the Container Inside
If your geranium plants are in containers, the easiest thing to do is to take them inside. You can bring them out every morning and put them on a deck that squirrels won’t climb because there are always people on it.
Or you can leave them inside and place the plant near a window that gets good sun.
When your plants are in the house, you don’t have anything to worry about unless you have squirrels in your house.
Squirrels have a great sense of smell, which helps keep them safe from predators. For example, blood meal is a waste product of slaughterhouses that is used as a natural fertilizer. The smell has been proven to keep moles, squirrels, and deer away.
These animals can’t stand the strong smells of ammonia and nitrogen.
When choosing bloodmeal, opt for the organic type as it is the least toxic variety for your plants. In addition, it’s a great way to keep squirrels away while fertilizing your plants while providing them with sufficient nitrogen and other nutrients your plants require.
Spread four ounces of bloodmeal per square yard of soil or follow the instructions on the back of the bag.
You can purchase bloodmeal at a nursery or home improvement store with a gardening section.
Plant Among Thorny Plants
You can try plants that have sharp thorns to prevent squirrels from getting to your geranium plants. For instance, roses have sharp thorns and can help protect your geranium plants from critters.
You can consider planting other plants with thorns: firethorns, honey locus, bougainvillea, Barbary fig, etc. Make sure you do your due diligence to ensure those plants won’t attack your geranium plants.
You can also plant some of the plants that naturally repel squirrels.
After you’ve depleted all the options above, you may want to consider creating a squirrel-friendly area in your yard. Choose an area away from your geranium plants and veggies, so the squirrels won’t be tempted to stray.
You can either buy or make a squirrel feeder and fill it with some of the best food for squirrels we rounded up on our recommended products page. It may take a while, but once the squirrels realize they have their own place, there’s a good chance that they will leave your plants alone.
Before you know it, you won’t mind having the squirrels visit your backyard!
Irish Spring Soap
Irish Spring soap is a well-known effect deterrent for keeping squirrels, deer, and other animals away from fruits, vegetables, and plants. The soap has a strong scent that will keep the animals away.
Simply take a soap bar and shave it into smaller pieces using a cheese grater. Then, sprinkle the soap shavings around the plants you want to protect. The scent will last several days, and you’ll need to reapply it after it rains.
You can also place bars of soap around the perimeter of your garden. Pierce a hole through the bar of soap and hang it on a wooden pole or post, using a piece of rope.
This will create a barrier that squirrels and other animals won’t want to cross. You don’t have to worry, as the plant won’t hurt your plants or edibles.
This method is also effective for keeping deer away from your garden.
What Is Eating My Geraniums
Now that you know squirrels are likely not the culprits, you’re wondering, “what is eating my geraniums?” and how can I tell what it is?
Here are some of the biggest culprits attracted to the plants, buds, and leaves.
- Deer (if they have no other option)
- Tobacco Budworm
- Moths (lay eggs in the buds and leaves, when the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the flowers in the buds)
Geraniums are not plants that squirrels will eat or bother if they have other options. If something is eating your geraniums, it’s likely another type of animal or bug. The solutions above will help protect your plants from animals and pests.
The best method may be a combination of the abovementioned methods. The important thing is to be patient and consistent with your efforts. With a little time and patience, you can keep the squirrels away from your geranium plants.
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