Slugs Eating Potted Plants: Protecting Container Plants From Slugs

By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Slugs are capable of wreaking havoc in the garden, and even potted plants aren’t safe from these voracious pests. Slugs eating potted plants are easily spotted by the silvery trail they leave behind, and by the round, chewed holes in the foliage.

Getting Rid of Slugs in Container Plants

Before resorting to toxic chemicals, try nontoxic solutions to deter slugs from pot plants.

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Slug Proofing Containers with Copper

Copper discourages slugs because the slime from the pest’s body reacts with the copper, which creates an unpleasant electric shock to slugs in container plants.

Purchase copper rings large enough to fit around single plants or small plant groupings. You can also place thin, self-adhesive copper tape around containers.

Protecting Container Plants from Slugs with Natural Predators

Natural predators, such as frogs and toads, love to feast on slugs, effectively keeping the slimy pests in check. A small, shallow pond or even a consistently muddy patch attracts the helpful amphibians. Be sure to provide shady places such as rocks, plants, or small logs to provide shelter from heat and bright sunlight too.

Certain birds, including blackbirds or thrushes, also help keep slugs under control. A birdfeeder placed near the potted plant encourages birds to visit your garden.

Deter Slugs from Pot Plants with Kitchen Scraps

Scratchy substances, such as eggshells, kill slugs by abrading the slimy coating, causing the pests to dehydrate. Rinse eggshells first and spread them out to dry, then crush the shells and scatter them over the surface of potting soil.

Coffee grounds are also scratchy and caffeine is toxic to slugs. Additionally, the grounds serve as effective and healthy natural mulch.

Protecting Plants with Other Plants

Planting pungent herbs with regular potted plants often helps discourage slugs. For example, try planting rosemary, garlic, chives, or sage next to your ornamental plant.

Additional Tips for Slug Proofing Containers

Limit mulch such as bark chips or shredded bark to a thin layer; otherwise, the moist organic material provides a handy hiding place that attracts slugs.

If you opt to use slug pellets, read the container carefully and use the product strictly as directed. Usually, only a few pellets are required to keep slugs under control. Non-toxic slug pellets are also available.

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