What Ate My Succulents? The 3 Things to Do When Succulents Start to Disappear

by Lynn KirkMay 25, 2022


As springtime temperatures rise, so do garden succulents. They seem to grow a half inch a day, like miniature beanstalks eager to reach their full potential. But then, just as quickly as they surface, sometimes they start reducing in size as one leaf is munched at a time, or perhaps one stem is decapitated a day. Before you realize it, your succulents are gone.

What ate my succulents? Well, here are some answers as to what ate your succulents --- plus the 3 things to do when succulents start to disappear.

1. INSPECT THE SITE. Look carefully at your succulent garden for telltale signs of the culprit (or culprits!). See any wildlife hanging around? Find any scat on the ground? Perhaps it’s the work of a night visitor, so look for paw or hoof prints. Also check for dig marks at the base of the ‘former’ plant.

2. UNDERSTAND THE REASON. Use these clues to determine the visitor and reason so you’ll know how to response. You see, tender shoots and leaves double as a delectable breakfast for rabbits, deer, rodents, and some insect pests. Leaves with chunks removed are probably the food chain in action. If the clues point to birds, their visits might relate to succulent sap, which is as nutritious as it is delicious. Digging around the plants often point to squirrels and other rodents that bury nuts and seeds for future use. And of course there are those critters that are simply curious. Something new is in ‘their’ garden, and it merits their own personal inspection (and sometimes, subsequent destruction).

3. ACT. These trespassers were not invited, nor are they welcome, for they can quickly harm—even destroy—a succulent garden. So once you’ve figured out who the culprit is and the reason for their treason, don’t delay your response! You can be respectful to the wildlife and eco-savvy to the environment, yet diligent for your garden’s sake if you experiment with these solutions:

INSTALL A CAGE. If a large or persistent animal is nibbling away, try installing a cage with enveloping wire that makes it harder to reach the plant. [Negative: Not very attractive in a garden setting!]

NON-ORGANIC PESTICIDES. If dealing with aphids, mealybugs, or scale, apply some organic pesticides, such as neem oil or soapy water. [Negative: Garden pests tend to be prolific, so you can’t miss applications!]

REMOVE NUTS AND SEEDS. If a rodent is digging around the succulent as it buries its nuts and seeds, remove nearby feeders so wildlife isn’t lured into your garden in the first place. [Negative: That probably means the loss of innocent birds that you wanted to attract!].

TOPDRESS WITH PEBBLES. Adding some resistance in the form of pebbles might aggravate the wildlife and lessen some of their garden digging. [Negative: Rocks might not work well in your garden design!]

ADD OBJECTS WITH MOTION OR SHINE. Movement and shiny objects ward off leery wildlife, as do artificial birds of prey. [Negative: This solution has a tendency for tackiness!]

REMOVE COCONUT FIBERS.  If the garden includes container plants packed with coconut fiber to retain moisture, birds might stop by to pick up twigs for their nests and then steal succulents for their thirst. [Negative: Removing coconut fiber might require a total repotting, plus it makes a mess water!]

SPRINKLE WITH RED PEPPER. Wildlife won’t taste red pepper twice, and it is less harm than chemical sprays. [Negative: The spice easily washes off during rains, so repetitive applications become necessary!]

ADD A BIRD BATH.  If birds just want water, give it to them a dedicated bird bath. [Negative: This feature may not be allowed by your neighborhood association!]

BRING INDOORS A FEW WEEKS. If all else fails, carefully dig up and pot the plants for short-term relocation inside your house, just until the wildlife moves on to other eating grounds. [Negative: Your plants might not survive the sudden changes in temperature and light!]

It might take more than one solution and persistence is key. Remember: Succulents are hardy and typically resistant to disease, drought, pests, and indifference, but they ARE susceptible to garden critters!

If you find the need to replenish your garden collection, check out the nation’s top retailer of domestically grown succulents: Succulent Market.com. Their varieties run the gamut, from cacti and jade and aeonium, and their bags of assorted cuttings are ideal for home propagation. Just as important, Succulent Market’s prices are competitive, and shipping is FREE!  

P.S. Why not order a few extras so that you and your garden visitors can peacefully co-exist? You know: A few for them, a few for you!

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SOURCE: TerrariumPlantingGuide.com, “Why Do Birds or Other Animals Eat Succulents?”