Peonies are popular perennials because they come back every year without you having to do anything. Gardners love the sweet-smelling scent and beautiful colors of pink, red, orange, yellow, and white. However, some animals, including squirrels, love playing, eating, and damaging these plants. Let’s take a close look at whether or not squirrels eat peonies.
Squirrels are attracted to a peony plant’s petals, buds, and flowers. You may even find the occasional squirrel removing the seed pods when building a drey. That said, a peony isn’t their flower of choice. They prefer sunflowers, hostas, etc. However, when food is limited, especially in the spring and winter, they may be tempted to eat fresh peony flowers, buds, and seeds.
Gardening is hard work; the last thing you want is someone to damage your peonies. Squirrels and other wildlife will eat from your garden. While this may seem harmless, prolonged damage, munching, and digging can cause significant damage to the plants, eventually leading to nutrient deficiencies or even death.
So let’s look at why squirrels love peonies and what you can do to protect them.
Why Do Squirrels Eat Peonies?
Another reason squirrels might eat peonies is because of their bright colors. When foraging for food, squirrels might be inclined to go after colored objects out of curiosity.
They will nibble on the flowers, stems, or leaves to determine whether it is a toxic or safe plant. Like other plants, peonies provide squirrels with various nutrients such as; proteins, fats, fiber, carbohydrates, etc.
Vitamins and minerals are essential for bone health, metabolism, and the overall immune system.
Peonies are not toxic to squirrels unless you spray them with a pesticide.
Signs of Squirrels Eating Your Peonies?
Before implementing preventative measures, you must know whether or not squirrels are eating your peonies.
Here are some signs that squirrels are the pests damaging your peony flowers, buds, and stems.
- Stems or leaves are chewed off at the base
- Petals are torn and missing
- Buds and seeds have been dug up
- Half-eaten flowers on the ground
If you see any of these signs, then chances are squirrels have been snacking on your peonies, and here’s what to do to protect them.
How To Prevent Squirrels From Eating Peonies?
Even though a squirrel’s taste buds prefer other plants such as sunflowers, hostas, etc., they may find your peonies tasty.
Below are some tips to repel squirrels and other wildlife from eating, damaging, or digging up your peonies.
Just remember, squirrels are persistent little critters, and it will take some time to get them to stop harassing your flowers.
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 peony 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 peonies.
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 peonies 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 slaughterhouse waste product 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 Your Peonies With Thorny Plants
You can try plants that have sharp thorns to prevent squirrels from getting to your peony plants. For instance, roses have sharp thorns and can help protect your peony plants from critters.
You can consider planting other plants with thorns: firethorns, honey locus, bougainvillea, Barbary fig, etc.
Do your due diligence to ensure those plants won’t attack your peony 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 peonies 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!
Get A Dog or Cat
Dogs and cats keep squirrels from entering your yard or garden just by being outside. The rodents are naturally wary of predators, given the reason they run when they see you approaching the garden.
When a squirrel sees or smells the scent of a dog or cat, it will bother someone else’s garden instead of entering yours.
In addition, cats and dogs have a natural instinct to chase and kill them. This technique keeps squirrels, rats, and mice at bay.
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.
Other Animals That Eat Peonies
Like other plants, peonies are susceptible to damage from other animals, insects, and pests.
Below are some other animals and insects known to damage peonies and how they can damage your plants.
- Rats and mice: are among the most common animal culprits. These rodents have large incisors known for their nibbling and chewing habits. They can cause significant damage by gnawing the leaves, stems, and flowers.
- Rabbits: also pose a threat to your peonies, especially younger plants. With their preference for tender leaves and shoots, rabbits may find your budding peonies an irresistible snack. They can cause significant damage to your garden by munching on the new growth of your plants.
- Birds: Some species of birds, particularly sparrows, crows, grackles, and starlings, feed on plant material, ornamental grasses, and sunflowers. Their diet primarily consists of seeds and insects. They can damage the leaves and petals of peonies.
- Insects: Mites, aphids, and mealybugs are infamous for damaging peony plants. These pests can cause considerable damage to your plants by feeding on the leaves or burrowing into the stems and flowers.
Squirrels do eat peonies and other plants in your garden. They are opportunistic feeders who eat almost anything, especially when food is scarce. The easiest way to tell if a squirrel is eating your peonies is to look for digging at the base of the plant, half-eaten flowers, chew marks on the stem, etc.
If something is damaging your peonies, you must take action. Failure to do so will damage your plants and even death. Use the tips above to deter squirrels and other animals from damaging or killing your peonies.
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