Do Squirrels Eat Hydrangeas? [Are They Toxic?]

do squirrels eat hydrangeas

Squirrels love raiding gardens and eating several plants, flowers, and newly planted seedlings. If something has been eating your hydrangeas, it’s normal to wonder if it’s a squirrel. After all, these opportunistic feeders have diverse eating habits. So, do squirrels eat hydrangeas?

Hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens L) contain a compound called amygdalin, which turns into cyanide, making them poisonous to animals such as; cats, dogs, and horses. That said, squirrels can eat poisonous mushrooms, meaning they likely won’t have a problem eating hydrangeas if that’s their only option. Hydrangeas contain essential nutrients essential for an animal’s survival. 

If something is eating your hydrangeas, it may or may not be a squirrel. Other animals, insects, and pests consume this plant. 

Let’s take a closer look at why squirrels, squirrels, and other animals eat hydrangeas and what you can do to protect your plants. 

To better understand why squirrels eat plants, we need to understand their diet and the foods they prefer.

A Squirrels Diet and Nutritional Requirements

Like humans, squirrels require a balanced diet to stay healthy. Their diet consists mainly of nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. However, squirrels are also omnivores, meaning they eat plant- and animal-based food sources.

Squirrels will consume insects like caterpillars and grasshoppers for additional protein if available.

In terms of plants, they prefer plants such as; sunflowers, dandelions, corn, apples, pears, mushrooms, etc. These opportunistic feeders avoid plants with strong fragrances because they contain chemicals that can be irritating or toxic to squirrels.

Not all hydrangeas contain a scent, so they are vulnerable to wildlife. The Panicle hydrangea has a cone-shaped cluster with a strong scent that may deter these pests. 

So the unscented ones are vulnerable to pests. 

Do Squirrels Eat Hydrangeas?

Hydrangeas are not high on a squirrel’s menu, but if it’s their only option, you may see them feasting on the flowers and leaves. These rodents can also damage your plants by climbing or digging in the soil and damaging the roots.

Their goal may not be to eat the plants, but their movements and behaviors can break the branches (stems), buds, and leaves or damage the root system.

How Can Squirrels Damage Hydrangeas?

As mentioned above, several other animals like eating hydrangeas; I’ll discuss these other animals below. Before you can protect your plants, you must be able to spot the signs of squirrel damage.

Nuisance squirrels will damage hydrangeas and other plants by eating the flowers and leaves. These pests can also damage plants by climbing and breaking the branches.

Another behavior of squirrels in your garden is the constant digging around your plants, trees, etc., to bury food or in search of previously hidden caches. This behavior can disrupt the root system, which can harm or kill the plants.

Why Squirrels Eat Hydrangeas?

The only reason squirrels and other animals eat garden plants is for their nutritional value. Garden plants use chlorophyll to photosynthesize the sun’s energy into plant energy. In turn, animals such as squirrels feed on plants for that energy.

The three primary nutrients plants acquire from the sun and soil are; potassium, phosphorous, and nitrogen.

Potassium is an essential nutrient for wildlife because it is vital for specific muscle activity, metabolism, and metabolism.

Phosphorous is a mineral that helps create strong bones and teeth. It also supports energy transfer in cells, which is necessary for all plant and animal life.

Finally, nitrogen helps with the growth of plants and animals by providing proteins, vitamins, hormones, and enzymes. All these nutrients are present in hydrangeas to some degree.

Squirrels and other animals eat whatever they can find to survive. Unfortunately, humans are developing more and more, taking away the food sources that animals rely on.

Other Animals That Eat Hydrangeas?

Unfortunately, squirrels are not the only ones that kill or eat hydrangeas. Below are some of the other animals that may eat, damage, or kill these plants:

  • Deer
  • Rabbits
  • Voles
  • Chipmunks
  • Birds
  • Caterpillars
  • Aphids
  • Insects

How to Prevent Squirrels From Eating Your Hydrangeas?

Like humans, squirrels have to eat. However, it doesn’t mean that they have to eat your hydrangeas. Below are some tips for keeping squirrels and other animals away from your hydrangeas using humane tactics.

Create A Barrier

First and foremost, set up a barrier to protect your plants. A barrier such as a 3-4 foot high rabbit fence. Opt for a plastic rabbit-proof fence, as you won’t have to worry about it rusting.

Bury it at least 10 inches deep in the ground, and make sure to extend it out a few inches so the squirrel can’t dig underneath it.

Use A Repellent

There are several commercial repellents available that you can use to keep squirrels away from your plants. Some contain capsaicin, which is an irritant to animals (and humans). You can also make your own DIY repellent by mixing water, hot pepper flakes, and dish soap.

Spray the mixture on the leaves of the plants, as well as around the base. Be sure to reapply after it rains or whenever you notice the squirrels coming back.

Remove Attractants

In order for repellents to work, you also need to remove anything that is attracting the squirrels to your yard in the first place. This means removing any sources of food and water.

Clean up any fallen fruit or nuts, as these will attract rodents. Be sure to empty bird feeders as they will eat the bird seed. If you have a pet, don’t leave their food out, as this will also attract the squirrels.

Lastly, seal up any holes or cracks around your home, as this will give them access to your yard.

Unappealing Plants

Believe it or not, there are plants that squirrels hate. Consider planting some next to your hydrangea plants to keep them away. Some examples include Daffodils, Marigolds, Alliums, Lily of the Valley, etc.

I’ve written an article on plants squirrels hate, so be sure to check it out. I have no doubt you’ll find something that will work for you.

Large Statues

Owl statues have been known to deter squirrels from gardens since owls prey on rodents. That said, you’ll have to move the decoy around every few days, as the squirrels will catch on that it’s not real.

Use Garlic Spray

Squirrels don’t like the smell or taste of garlic. You can make your own garlic spray by mixing water, vinegar, and minced garlic. Let it sit for a few days, no less than 24 hours.

Spray the mixture on your plants and around the perimeter of your yard. Be sure to reapply every few days or after it rains.

Before spraying the ground around the plants, give them a good drink of water to prevent the roots and leaves from burning.

Garlic is not only good for deterring squirrels and other animals, but it also protects the bushes bugs such as snails, ants, and fungal diseases such as blackspot. 

So even if you don’t have a squirrel problem, you may want to consider using garlic spray as an environmentally friendly way to protect your flowers.

Use Ground Cover

If squirrels are digging at the base of the plants, decorative flat rocks as ground cover at the base of the hydrangeas. This will prevent them from digging up the roots.

Ensure the rocks are heavy enough so the squirrels won’t move them. If the stones are too small, the squirrels may carry them away to their nest or may spend time caching them like they do nuts.

The downside to using rocks is the pests may use them to propel them higher, making it easier for them to get to the hydrangeas.

When using rocks to protect your flowers, it’s best to find the right balance. Using too many rocks will prevent the roots from getting the air and water they need to thrive.

Get A Feeder for the Squirrels

If you’ve tried everything you know to do, maybe it’s time to set up a squirrel feeder. This will give the rodents a food source that isn’t your plant.

Set the feeder up away from the bushes and home, as you don’t want to attract more critters to your property.

Essential Oils

Several essential oils, such as; mint, rosemary, etc, will deter deer, squirrels, and other wildlife. Fill a spray bottle with water and add a few drops of the essential oil. Then spray it around the base of your hydrangeas. This will deter the pests.

You will need to reapply the solution every few days or after a rain shower because the fragrances will dissipate over time and stop working.

Final Thoughts

If your hydrangeas are not blooming, it’s likely not because a squirrel is eating them. Instead, it’s likely a slug or other pests such as Japanese beets, aphids, or spider mites. 

However, if something is eating the beautiful flower heads, it could be a squirrel or other animal mentioned above.

The tips above can help you protect your garden plants. If they continue eating and damaging your plants, you can try using a live trap and releasing them into the wild, but this should only be done as a last resort.

Check your state’s regulations before doing so, as there may be laws against trapping squirrels.

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