How To Keep Pesky Slugs From Snacking On Your Roses

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How To Keep Pesky Slugs From Snacking On Your Roses

Most gardeners agree that growing roses can be tricky and that slugs can be annoying. One important aspect of successfully growing roses is knowing which pests you need to deter and how to get rid of them. Slugs, although mostly harmless and useful in the garden, can eat rose leaves. The good news is that there are many simple, inexpensive, and non-toxic ways to keep slugs away from your roses.

Slugs are mollusks, not insects, and can cause significant damage to your roses by leaving jagged tears and holes in the leaves and creating sticky, silvery slime trails. They thrive in moist areas and are more prevalent during rainy seasons.

While it is not recommended to use any toxic solutions, some substances can deter slugs from eating your flowers and lead them to areas of your garden where they are more welcome. Dumping salt on slugs is not recommended as it is cruel and does not effectively deter or eradicate them. Instead, try some of these methods.

Methods for deterring slugs from eating your roses

gardener pruning pink roses

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If you notice slugs have been nibbling your rose leaves, there are a few different steps to take. First, lightly prune the stems of your roses to remove the damaged leaves. Hand-picking slugs from plants and areas you don’t want them in is the least toxic and most humane way to get rid of them. Some gardeners use copper to deter slugs; this metal conducts a mild electric shock that slugs, with their moist bodies, will avoid. You can place a copper ring in the soil by your roses or use copper tape ($12 on Amazon) to wrap around the base of your rose shrubs to help keep slugs away.

There are natural ways to kill slugs also. Adding crushed eggshells to your soil adds beneficial nutrients, and a line of crushed eggshells will also hurt or kill slugs if you pour a line around your roses. Diatomaceous earth will also work in the same way; the powder contains tiny ragged edges that pierce the skin of insects, including fleas.

You can also make a simple beer trap. Using a shallow plastic container, like a yogurt cup, pour in an inch or two of beer, then bury it partway with the opening near the ground surface. This will attract slugs (who love beer) to fall in and drown. If you keep an eye on it, you can remove the live slugs as they enter the trap and remove them before they die.

Preventive gardening to discourage slugs

red roses blooming among leaves

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Before slugs get to your roses, you can do a few things to prevent them from proliferating in your garden. Some of these tips involve addressing excess moisture, as slugs rely on moisture to stay alive and tend to be much more plentiful after rain. Try to be more vigilant during rainy periods to control the amount of slugs in your garden. When they appear, pick them up with gloved hands and remove them.

Keeping mulch layers fairly thin in your rose beds can also help deter slugs. Mulch tends to retain moisture, and slugs will lurk beneath the surface. Using pine straw or long conifer needles as mulch around roses deters weeds as well as slugs. Getting more sunlight and air circulation to your flower beds, particularly near your roses, will help create a drier, less slug-friendly environment.

Another way to keep slugs at bay, which will also increase your garden’s biodiversity, is to encourage slug-eating wildlife to visit your garden. Birds that love slugs include finches, robins, starlings, and blackbirds. Other creatures that eat slugs as a regular part of their diet include toads, frogs, small snakes, lizards, salamanders, and ground beetles. Encouraging a balance of wildlife in your garden (predators and prey) can be a good way to naturally keep pests at bay.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.