What is Eating My Succulents at Night – Troubleshooting Guide
Many common garden pests, big and small, love to feed on succulents for nutritional and hydration purposes. Learn which one is eating your succulents & how to stop them.
- learn how to identify the animal or insects eating your succulent leaves
- narrow down the suspects by looking at the evidence
- implement preventative measures to prevent further damage
The garden pests that eat your succulents are generally animals or insects looking to satiate their thirst from the fleshy leaves. These include cats, rats, squirrels, birds, and smaller creatures like aphids and caterpillars.
We’ll investigate the common succulent pests and teach you how to identify them through the evidence they leave behind.
More importantly, we’ll show you how to deter or prevent them from striking again.
What is Eating My Succulent Plants?
Okay, it’s time to grab your magnifying glass and channel your inner Sherlock Holmes because we have a case to solve!
Do Rats Eat Succulents?
Yes – rats will most definitely eat your succulents, leaves, stems, and all.
We had the unfortunate experience of battling a family of rats feasting on our Crassula Ovata (Jade) plants. You can see the evidence and the remains of our Jade in this article about propagating jade leaves (SPOILER: it turns out there were some silver linings to rats eating your succulents).
In our case, it was tricky working out that rats were the culprits for our half-eaten succulents. We suspected it was either rats or possums. They attacked at night, under cover of darkness. And to catch them in the act, we had to set up a surveillance system using our home security cameras.
They gnawed down leaves, often knocking them to the ground, and broke off stems as they clambered over our succulents. Suffice it to say; they were not neat eaters.
Rats are opportunistic garden pests and eat anything that is an easy meal. This includes tender new growth on many plants, fruits, and vegetables. They will even dig down to snack on plump bulbs.
How to Keep Rats from Eating Succulents
Rats have been one of our adversaries in our inner suburban garden.
We almost gave up on keeping them away from our succulents. We tried all the commercial solutions, such as rat traps (only humane options) and deterrents. However, they didn’t seem to work.
We began planting plants that weren’t on the rat’s list of favorite foods, such as basil, mint, garlic, and thyme. We can’t be 100% certain, although we are sure it helped. But as it turns out, our rats weren’t big fans of herbs. Our Jade tree survived the onslaught, and we are happy to say we have several new ones growing now!
We’ve also made it a point to maintain a tidy garden. We regularly clean the garden floor and pick up any fallen debris and seeds to prevent the rats from getting easy meals. The goal is to keep our yard to a minimum so rats will source their meals elsewhere.
Do Cats Eat Succulent Leaves?
While succulents do not form part of the usual diet of cats, they are still known to chew on the leaves.
They may find the texture satisfying and chew on the leaves of indoor succulents out of boredom. But, it isn’t for nutritional purposes since they are primarily omnivores. Why they do, it is a mystery.
Knowing if your cat is the primary suspect in your eaten succulents is relatively easy. Since it is not for food, only the outer edges of your succulent plants will be gnawed away. They won’t strip entire sections of your succulent, and the stems will be left intact. Unless, of course, your cat decides to play Humpty dumpty with your succulent pots.
How to Stop Cats from Eating Succulents
Keeping cats away from succulents (indoor plants or outdoors) is challenging. Because cats are dextrous and can jump onto high ledges, they also have tenacious curiosities and almost take it upon themselves to go out of their way to find the plants you are hiding from them.
One of the most effective methods for keeping cats away from your succulents is spraying undesirable odors on and around your succulents.
You can use a commercial brand of cat-repellent sprays found at your local nursery, pet store, or online.
However, if you prefer the DIY route, try mixing the following in a spray bottle:
- 1 part vinegar
- Three parts distilled water
- 1/2 part lemon juice
It is a well-known fact that cats don’t like citrus and acidic smells. And the upside is it won’t harm your succulents.
Other gardeners have also experienced success with placing cut-up banana peel on your succulent’s soil.
Do Birds Eat Succulents?
Birds are also on the list of suspects for your eaten succulents. They will use the water stored in the leaves as a source of hydration.
Since birds are most active during the day, it is pretty easy to tell if they are the ones decimating your succulents. You will observe them hanging about your garden, perched in branches above your succulents.
They are clever animals, only flying to ground level when you are noticeably absent from the area.
They will rip the leaves from your succulents, leaving half-torn leaves with jagged tear marks and broken branches. You will also find debris scattered on the ground and bird droppings around your plants.
How to Stop Birds from Eating Your Succulents
The best way to prevent birds from destroying your succulent plants is to net them off with bird netting.
There are plenty of options available in all shapes and sizes. Especially because succulents are not the only garden plants, birds go for.
Alternatively, you could install a bird bath since the birds are using your succulents for hydration purposes. This way, the birds are still getting their fill of water and will be less inclined to satiate their thirst for your succulents.
Do Squirrels and Chipmunks Eat Succulents?
Other troublesome garden pests that enjoy tormenting home gardeners are squirrels and chipmunks.
These cute little critters are generally difficult to keep out of your garden due to their highly proficient acrobatic skills. They can jump over large distances, such as from tree to tree, which allows them to quickly overcome fence lines and boundaries that usually keep other pests out.
Both squirrels and chipmunks can also scale a lot of structures. This, combined with their small size, makes them the perfect garden thief since they can often avoid being seen and quickly run up and down buildings.
Squirrels and chipmunks receive a lot of their daily water intake from their foraging. This is the primary reason why succulents are so appealing. They are filled with juicy, thirst-quenching water.
You will be able to recognize a chipmunk or squirrel’s handiwork because they tend to leave a lot of evidence behind. Succulent leaves will be chewed, and leaves and stems will be sprayed on the ground. They may even uproot the plants to get to the roots and leave them to die, like an act of defiance saying, ‘you can’t stop me!’
How to Stop Squirrels and Chipmunks from Eating Succulents
Squirrels and Chipmunks may be arrogant with how they treat our succulents, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to prevent them from future raids.
Squirrels and chipmunks are sensitive to smells. Therefore, spraying unpleasant odors on and around your succulents should keep them at bay. You can use spices from your kitchen cupboard, like hot cayenne pepper or chili powder. Or you can even try crushing fresh garlic and pepper seeds into water and spraying it on the leaves and fruit of the plant.
Another way to ward off these tenacious critters is to hang Irish Spring Soap bars around your garden. We’ve written a detailed guide on how to set it up HERE.
Do Insects and Caterpillars Eat Succulents?
Succulents are prone to caterpillar and sap-sucking insect infestations, like aphids and mealy bugs.
With their fleshy foliage and stems, it isn’t hard to see why.
The prize is the copious amounts of sap inside that can feed an entire population of insects.
The sap-sucking aphids and mealy bugs have specialized equipment to penetrate the thick waxy skin of the succulents.
The same applies to caterpillars. But instead of sucking the succulent insides, caterpillars will methodically eat the leaves, chewing their way from top to bottom until there is only a stub.
It isn’t hard to see when aphids or mealy bugs are eating your succulents. Ironically it makes them stand out even more. They will be grouped in tight bunches on your plants, congregating in the safety of numbers. They also like to hide on the underside of leaves.
Caterpillars are harder to spot because it is usually only one or two on the plant. But with some regular inspections and experience, you will learn how to spot them. Plus, they are masters of disguise, generally changing the color of their skin to match their surrounding environment.
How to Prevent Insects and Caterpillars from Eating Succulents
Proactive prevention is the easiest way to stop insects from causing issues with your succulents.
Regularly inspecting your succulents to see if there is any noticeable damage or missing leaves will alert you to the problem early.
Manually removing any pests and insects, you see on your succulents will prevent the population from getting out of control. Apply a medium-pressure water spray to your succulents to dislodge insects or caterpillars.
Final Thoughts on What is Eating My Succulents
As you can appreciate, the fleshy parts of a succulent are highly enticing to a thirsty or hungry pest. They represent a leisurely drink or meal. Or even something to satiate an ever-growing curiosity (as is the case for cats).
The first step is to identify which pest is doing the damage. Analyze the evidence and slim down the suspects’ list.
Finally, implement some preventative measures to prevent future damage to your succulents.