How to Stop Squirrels Digging Up Bulbs in Pots & Planters

How to stop squirrels digging up bulbs in pots

Living in a house that backs onto the local woods, I get to see our fair share of wildlife. I honestly love it, but there’s a slight drawback: squirrels. They are cute, but not when they are digging up the flowerpots and bulbs that I spent weeks planting.

Rather than let the little critters cause mayhem, I developed a series of methods stop squirrels digging up bulbs in my planters and pots. I successfully stopped them!  

Stopping squirrels digging up bulbs in 7 steps

There are a few different methods for getting squirrels to stop digging up bulbs in pots and planters – all of which I combined. Hopefully, they will help you to protect your tulip bulbs, bed, and future flowers should you have the same issue. 

1. Get a motion sensor water sprinkler 

Squirrels are easily startled, and a sudden spray of water can be all it takes to get them to leave your bulbs alone for good. What’s more, the spray is harmless to squirrels and provides the added benefit of watering your plants, bushes, or lawn.

How to stop squirrels digging up bulbs
Stop squirrels digging up your bulbs and planters with a motion detecting sprayer.

If you want to try this yourself, Amazon sell them.

What’s great about this one that I use is that you can set it to only trigger when it senses a squirrel sized animal near your planters and bulbs. So, if you have a dog and kids like me, it won’t constantly be set off.

2. Cover over the bulbs and planters

If the squirrels can get into the planters, they can’t dig up the bulbs. It’s a simple process, simply use netting or chicken wire over the area. I cut out a piece large enough then use bamboo cane and pegs to put it into position.

Squirrels will soon stop digging up your bulbs as they hate stepping on anything like netting or wire. It’s will wreck their heads!

3. Use a natural repellent against them

I tried this as well as netting and it worked brilliantly. 

Prior to my research, I had no idea that squirrels hated certain smells when I first began figuring out ways to prevent them from digging. But they do and will refuse to go near any areas that have been sprayed with repellents. 

In general, many squirrel repellents are made from natural sources, including garlic, peppermint, and rosemary oils. They also pose little to no danger to local wildlife or pets. 

However, you should refrain from spraying this type of solution on your plants as it may affect them. Another popular alternative to sprays is fox urine granules (view on Amazon), however, these are classed as chemical-based and it’s a good idea to use them in moderation.

4. Make sure outdoor bins are sealed 

I always make sure that any waste bins I have outside my house are completely sealed shut. Much like other rodents, squirrels are attracted to waste so that could be what attracts them onto your property in the first place… before they find the tasty bulbs!

If you regularly leave your bins open, squirrels living in your area will soon find your yard or garden, then realize there are more treats on offer. Unfortunately, the more squirrels in the area, the higher the likelihood they will dig holes in your planters. 

Handy Hint: You might want to consider getting a wheelie bin store to hide and disguise them in your garden.

5. Offer them an alternative food source

Hungry squirrels won’t stop digging up bulbs in pots so one solution is to make sure that you give them something easier to eat. I appreciate that this completely contradicts my last point, but if like me you live near trees with squirrels, you’re going to get them out back whether you like it or not.

So, with that in mind, leave up some nuts in feeders for them. Perhaps even put some alternative bulbs you don’t’ want to pot into the feeders. 

Hopefully the squirrels will be full up on what you give them, and will stop digging up the bulbs in your planters and pots instead. 

6. Allow your pets to chase them 

I’ve not had a lot of success with this method myself, but I know plenty of people who have. If you own a dog who loves chasing squirrels, then you could let them chase the critters away whenever you spot them. Most dogs have a natural prey instinct and will be delighted to keep your garden squirrel free. 

How to stop squirrels digging up my bulbs
My own dog was useless at stopping the squirrels digging the bulbs up from my planters.

Unfortunately, my dog doesn’t which is why this has never worked for me. 

What’s more, squirrels are less likely to enter a property if they know a dog or cat is in the area and will choose a safer place to bury their nuts or berries. However, I should mention that you need be careful if you have a rat-catching breed, as they may end up catching and killing the squirrel if they are fast enough. 

7. Purchase a pretend predator

Like many small animals, squirrels are terrified of predators such as owls, foxes, and weasels. Interestingly, they cannot easily tell the difference between real and fake ones. Thankfully, finding realistic models of owls is relatively straightforward, and they can be purchased in a variety of stores and online websites, such as Amazon and Etsy. 

If you do buy a fake predator (here’s one on Amazon), make sure to move it around weekly, as this will keep the squirrels from becoming comfortable in its presence. I’ve also read that spraying the model with a scent that squirrels dislike can also be beneficial, but more about that below. 

More on squirrels digging up bulbs

Below I have prepared some answers to other related questions you might have about squirrels who like to dig up bulbs from pots – elsewhere on the blog I’ve described how to stop squirrels digging holes in lawns too which contains additional tips. 

Did You Know? Squirrels can get into small holes in roofs that are as small as their skull!

Does pepper keep squirrels from digging up tulip bulbs?

Cayenne pepper can keep squirrels from digging up tulip bulbs, but should be used with caution, and there is no guarantee. The reason it can work is that the pepper contains capsaicin, which is the chemical that makes a chili pepper r spicy.

As you can imagine, squirrels won’t like the taste of pepper when digging up tulip bulbs. But it can also be toxic to bees and other beneficial insects, so you need to make a call on whether you want to use it in your planters.

Most wildlife will avoid capsaicin because it has such a strong odor and taste. However, birds cannot taste capsaicin and will not be repelled by it. Capsaicin is toxic to bees and other beneficial insects. Researchers believe that capsaicin and similar compounds protect the seeds inside the peppers from fungus.

The National Pesticide Information Centre,

Why do squirrels bury nuts?

During the winter, both red and grey squirrels will have a hard time finding enough food to survive particularly if there are no bulbs for them to dig up. To combat this problem, they begin stashing nuts and other food sources in many areas to munch on in the dead of winter. 

Unfortunately, this means they will sometimes venture into our gardens to find a suitable area to dig. Incredibly, squirrels can remember the location of over 10,000 buried nuts. 

Handy Hint: People often mistake squirrel and chipmunk holes for snake holes, here’s how you can tell what you have in your backyard.


If you have ever had trouble with squirrels digging up the bulbs in your pots, you might at first simply to scare them away. It rarely works. Squirrels soon learn to ignore you. 

Thankfully, I soon stumbled on the methods I’ve shared with you today. 

Try the first few, but don’t just stop at one way of how to stop squirrels digging up your bulbs. A combination of methods is the best approach with these critters. 

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