The Natural Way To Keep Slugs Off Your Precious Flowers

The Natural Way To Keep Slugs Off Your Precious Flowers

As winter ends, we eagerly anticipate the sight of beautiful spring and summer blooms. However, we are not the only ones eagerly waiting for these flowers to emerge. Slugs can cause damage to every part of a plant above the soil line. These pests tend to eat delicate seedlings down to a nub, causing damage even before you realize there is a problem. Additionally, slugs may arrive later in the season when flowers have already bloomed, causing damage to leaves or consuming petals. Although chemical pesticides can keep slugs away from your garden, eco-friendly options such as careful garden planning, placing the right plants around your favorite flowers, and using a sacrificial crop can also be effective.

Identifying the pest responsible for damaging your plants can be challenging. Slugs leave a slimy trail behind, which is a tell-tale sign that they are your enemy. They tend to target tender new growth, including fresh sprouts, leaving bite marks in stems and large holes in leaves. Their fondness for the delicate petals of flowers can also be frustrating for gardeners.

Trap crops

marigolds planted with zinnias


Placing a trap crop in another area of your garden to draw slugs away from your favorite flowers is one way to deal with slugs without pesticides. The key to growing a successful trap crop is to grow the pest’s favorite plants. Imagine a family of slugs entering your garden and heading for your favorite flowers when suddenly, they hear “Hey! The food’s better over here!” They change direction and proceed to feast on the trap crop and leave your flowers alone.

Marigolds are a favorite meal for slugs and are easy to grow from seed. You can often find six-packs of these garden favorites inexpensively at most garden centers in the spring. Slugs are also attracted to zinnias and calendula, so if these are the flowers you are trying to protect, plant rows of marigolds around them since they are more hardy and bloom prolifically. If you want to protect perennial bushes and other flowers from slug damage, marigolds planted nearby will attract slugs, protecting your permanent landscape plants.

If you have a major problem with slugs, you can also use your trap crop to attract slugs to eliminate them. Organic pesticides that contain iron phosphate, like Sluggo, are considered safe to use around children, pets, and birds, though studies still need to be done about how it affects earthworms and dogs. With the slugs gathered around your trap crop, apply the pesticide. They will consume the pellets, eliminating the slimy pests.


herb garden with stones

Michael1959/Getty Images

Although it seems like slugs will eat almost any plant, there are some they do not like. Placing these plants around your gorgeous flowers will send them searching for a more appealing meal. Most aromatic plants are effective at repelling slugs. Plant strongly scented herbs like rosemary, lavender, and oregano around your garden. The essential oils contained in the leaves that make them appealing to us make them revolting to many types of pests.

Herbs are not the only strongly scented slug repellant you can place in your garden. Consider complimenting your favorite flowers with even more beauty by planting geraniums. Some perennial species are hardy to zone 3 as well as many gorgeous annual options. Slugs do not like the smell or hairy texture of their leaves, which makes them difficult to consume. To protect your precious flowers in shade or partly shaded areas, hydrangeas and ferns are also unappealing to slugs.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.