What Animals Eat Marigold Plants? [How to Stop Them!]
Is something raiding your beautiful marigolds at night? We understand your pain! All that time, effort and love to cultivate your marigolds, only for it to be snatched away as they started blooming. Take a deep breath and regain your composure, because we’re here to help. Let’s answer the main question – what animals eat marigold plants?
Unfortunately, marigolds are up there as a favorite food to eat on many animals’ menus. The list of suspects is long. Large common garden pests such as rats, squirrels, rabbits, and possums are known to dig into marigold patches. But we also have to consider smaller pests like insects, snails, slugs and vertebrates, like lizards.
So how do we know who is causing all the damage? This is where we like to embrace our inner Sherlock Holmes and look at the evidence. Only by assessing the clues at the scene of the crime, will we be able to confidently identify our thief. From there, we will then recommend preventative measures to protect your flower beds from being eaten again.
What is Eating My Marigolds at Night?
Okay, so now we have put on our detective hat, let’s take a closer look at each of the suspects and the evidence that will identify what animal is eating your marigolds at night.
Do Squirrels & Chipmunks Eat Marigolds?
First on the suspect lists are the sneaky and agile squirrels and chipmunks. We usually place squirrels and chipmunks together because they have similar feeding habits, as well as very similar skill sets.
Both are able to scale tall structures like trees and fences, jump large distances and are small enough to access places most other larger pests cannot. Their skills and nimble size means they are a formidable garden pest that can cause a lot of frustrations in home gardeners.
But are they the ones responsible for your destroyed marigolds?
Usually squirrels and chipmunks will happily sample most of your delicious garden. However, marigolds are one flower that they will turn their nose up at if there are better options available, like cucumbers or tomatoes. It is likely the strong scent of the marigold flower that deters squirrels and chipmunks, since they have an excellent sense of smell.
When faced with limited options, they will munch on the leaves and petal flowers, but only as a last resort. If you know these critters are present around your garden, it is more likely they have trampled the flowers to get to other food.
How to Deter Squirrels and Chipmunks
Even though they may not be the most likely suspects in the case of your missing marigolds, they will devastate other areas of your garden – especially your vegetable patch.
We mentioned that they have an excellent sense of smell – which is going to be our main weapon in keeping them out of our garden.
Try spraying your flowers with organic smells that will deter squirrels and chipmunks. We like to use a concoction of organic materials like hot cayenne pepper or chili powder. We combine this with crushed up fresh garlic and pepper seeds into water. Then proceed to spray it on the leaves and flowers around the garden.
Another popular option is to hang Irish Spring Deodorant Soap around your garden. They associate the smell of soap with humans, and will be cautious when they catch a whiff of the Irish Spring scent, choosing to feed in safer grounds.
Do Rabbits Eat Marigolds?
Another common problem pest that will eat your marigolds are rabbits.
Even though these pests may look cute and fluffy, they can be a complete nuisance to a home gardener. They will jump over fences and eat almost any leafy green plant within reach. The worst part about rabbits, is they can ruin your garden by burrowing and creating cavities, which can be dangerous and lead to injuries.
A rabbit’s main diet consists of green leaves; however, they are also known to nibble on flowers, including marigolds.
You can tell rabbit damage on your marigolds by the eating patterns they make in the leaves and flowers. You can usually spot where a rabbit has gnawed away at your marigold plant, because you can see defined sharp incisions made at an angle on the leaves and flowers.
You will also be able to tell if rabbits have been in your garden, because you’ll be able to spot their feces. Rabbits like to defecate while they eat, so they can’t help but leave a bit of evidence behind.
How to Prevent Rabbits Eating Your Marigolds
Rabbits are one of the easiest pests to guard against. They are ground dwelling pests that can be limited by creating an impenetrable barrier around your marigolds and garden beds. Make sure to use a material (like chicken wire) to prevent the rabbits from chewing their way through.
Check out this short video by The Millenial Gardender for how he builds rabbit proof fencing.
Rabbits do have good burrowing abilities, so make sure your fence line extends below the surface of the soil. It will be all too easy for a rabbit to burrow a hole underneath a standard fence.
Another effective rabbit deterrent is to spray unpleasant smells onto your marigolds. Spicy scents like chili and hot pepper flakes will keep rabbits well away from your plants. You can also purchase commercial rabbit repellent spray online from Amazon, or your local nursery.
Do Rats Eat Marigolds?
Similarly to squirrels, rats will only eat your marigolds when they have been starved of other options.
Rats are opportunistic garden pests that will vex home gardeners to the point of wanting to give up. Believe it or not, rats nearly put an end to our garden dream.
They will eat anything they can get their grubby little paws on. Not only do they eat all your fruits and vegetables. They will dig up bulbs before they have a chance to shoot up in spring. They will even chew off any new growth on any plants in your garden.
So yes – rats could be the culprits responsible for your devastated marigolds. You can usually tell if rats have visited your garden, because the marigold flowers will be completely chewed off. Any new growth will also be chewed back to the old wood on your plants, since rats only choose the softest and sweetest parts of the plants.
How to Stop Rats From Eating Your Marigolds
Rats are much harder to control when it comes to keeping them away from your plants. Unlike rabbits, they are built to scavenge. They are adaptable creatures that can climb up walls, jump over gaps, and can even chew through things to get to their food. We’ve even had firsthand experience with rats chewing through the lids of our worm farms to get to the scraps inside.
Many home gardeners have had success repelling rats and mice using natural solutions such as planting mint and herbs, like basil, garlic and thyme.
Keeping a tidy garden also helps to deter rats and mice. They require hiding places to move about and breed. By maintaining a tidy garden, without much clutter and debris on the ground, it will make it harder for them to move about. Picking up any fallen food and seeds also helps to reduce the food sources for the rats, and they will soon move on to more lucrative places to feed.
Do Birds Eat Marigolds?
Birds are also on our list of suspects for destroying your marigold patch.
Even though some gardeners actively invite birds to frequent their garden, with things like bird feeders and planting bird friendly trees. Sometimes, the birds can become too active in their garden and actually begin to have a detrimental impact.
Birds are not likely to be eating your marigolds, as they generally are not on their preferred foods to eat list. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t responsible for ruining your marigold garden. They are known to tear the flowers apart, by ripping the petals off and completely removing the flower heads.
Whilst we can’t be certain that the birds don’t have a personal vendetta against you, and take pleasure in ruining your marigolds. The more likely scenario is they are searching for insects and slugs to eat.
How to Keep Birds Out of Your Marigolds?
The most logical way to prevent birds from destroying your marigolds is covering them with bird netting to prevent aerial assaults.
We understand this can defeat the purpose of growing beautiful marigolds. What’s the point, if all you are going to do is cover them and ruin the aesthetics of your garden?
The alternative is to possibly get a pet like a dog or cat that will put the birds on guard and deter them from messing around in your garden.
Do Slugs and snails Eat Marigolds?
One of the main culprits for your eaten marigolds will be slugs and snails.
They are nocturnal pests that love to feed on marigold under the cover of darkness, and will devour all parts of your marigold plant. They particularly love to eat the petals of marigolds, but will also chew through leaves, new growth and even the surfaces of the stems.
Even though these critters attack at night, it is easy to spot when they have been feasting on your marigolds. They will leave their signature trails of slime trail all over the plant. Their eating habits are also unique. They will eat random holes all over the leaves of marigolds, and chew the petals off the flowers.
How to Stop Slugs and Snails Eating Your Marigolds
Manual removal will be the most effective form of getting rid of your snail and slug problem. Whenever you see a snail or slug in your travels around the garden, pick them up and get rid of them. It helps to monitor their population, and means there is one less gastropod roaming around your garden waiting to strike at your marigolds.
You can also try adding freshly used coffee grounds to the surface of the soil around your marigolds. Snails and slugs can’t stand crossing over the grounds, and will have no access to the flowers of marigolds.
Can Insects Damage My Marigolds?
Insects, like aphids, thrips and spider mites, are another problem pest that can have devastating consequences for your marigolds. They are all sap sucking insects that will infest and weaken your infected plant to the point of no return.
Do Spider mites Eat Marigolds?
Spider mites are a common garden pest that love to infest your garden plants. They will colonize a plant and spin fine webs on your plant, under leaves, in between stems, just everywhere!
They are hard to see with the naked eye given their small size. But if you catch one under your magnifying glass, they will look like tiny red spiders.
They feed on the marigold leaves of your marigold plant, by stabbing the leaves and feeding on their juices. This damage can lead to tiny spots and holes developing in your marigolds leaves.
The damage and holes are quite noticeable, because it will look like your leaves have been attacked by hundreds of little hole punchers.
Do Aphids Eat Marigolds?
Aphids are another common indoor plant pest that belongs to the leaf attacking group of insects. Like spider mites, aphids love to penetrate the leaf’s surface to suck the sap from the cells. As the aphids constantly feed, the damage leads to rot and holes in your marigold’s leaves. Without intervention, your plant will eventually become weakened and fall ill with a disease, and ultimately die.
Aphids are easy to see, because they huddle around each other along the leaves and new growth of the plant. They do so, because the new growth is much easier to pierce than older, more mature growth.
Do Thrips Eat Marigolds?
Thrips look like long, thin insects with short antennae. Their color can vary from black to cream to translucent brown depending on the stage of their lifecycle. Thrips are hard to see from a distance. However, they are visible to the naked eye if you look hard enough. In fact, most home gardeners notice damage to their plants’ leaves first, before spotting the colonies of thrips.
They love to crawl and hang out on or under the leaves of your plant. The leaves are their primary feeding ground, where they will dig holes into your leaves to suck out the nutrients and sap of your plant. You will be able to identify thrips by the damage to your plants’ leaves. They will become lifeless and dull looking, with a silvery sheen beginning to show on your leaves when thrips have caused extensive damage to your plants.
How to Get Rid of Insects from Your Marigolds?
Given your marigolds, a good squirt with a pressurized hose will dislodge the majority of the insects from your plant. Make sure you spray underneath the leaves, and get into all the small crevices and nooks on your plants.
Once you have dislodged as many unwanted pests as possible, the next step is to treat your plants with an organic insecticide, like Neem Oil or an insecticidal soap, for outdoor plants.
This will kill off any pests that remain on your plants – because as much as you would like to think you got all of them, there is always one or two left. And, if you leave them to their own devices, you will soon be back to square one with an insect infestation!
Final Thoughts on What Animals Eat Marigold Plants
Protecting your marigolds is easy once you have identified the culprit for your ravaged flowers. But that is the problem – determining what animals have been eating your marigolds.
There are many pests that would love to indulge in your marigolds. By using our detective skills, we can use the guide above to analyze the evidence left behind, and confidently protect your beautiful flowers.