What’s Eating My Succulent Leaves?

Succulents add beauty and color to gardens, patios, homes and offices. They are easy to care for and do not have to be watered often. However, these hardy plants are also tempting snacks for animals and pests. Read on and get to know why!

What’s eating my succulent leaves?

These are the common culprits:

1. Birds

Birds eat succulent leaves out of curiosity, as well as the nutrition and extra water they can get from them, especially if they are nesting nearby. They could also be pecking, biting and eating the leaves to bury nuts and seeds in the soil. 

How to determine if birds are eating your succulents: 

Check if there is small and round excrement near the plants. If you see white excrement or urates, then your suspicion is right. Birds also tend to peck at leaves, so check for small holes instead of bitten-off chunks. 

How to prevent birds from eating your succulents: 

Scare them off by using spikes, scarecrows or bird deterrents. You can also place devices that mimic owl sounds to scare off the birds. Since birds tend to eat succulents because they are thirsty, so you could also opt to place a birdbath or a basin of water near the succulents. To discourage them from digging in the soil, put rocks and pebbles around the plants. 

2. Squirrels and other rodents like rats

Squirrels and other rodents eat succulent leaves and they are notorious for digging through gardens and yards. They chew and eat the leaves, uproot the plants and dig holes that they would fill with their favorite food. 

How to determine if squirrels are eating your succulents:

You will know that squirrels are eating your plants if you see jagged tear marks and deep wounds in the leaves. They also take big chunks out of plants, but they usually do not take more than a few bites. 

How to prevent squirrels and other rodents from eating your succulents:

Cover the soil with topdressing like rocks or pebbles. You can also install a motion-activated sprinkler to  deter them harmlessly. The use of mesh wire to cover the plants may also keep the rodents away. Other deterrents that you can use are cayenne pepper, peppermint oil and garlic cloves. 

3. Other animals like possums, cats and deer

Possums, cats and deer tend to eat succulent leaves, especially if they are hungry or thirsty.  Possums are omnivorous and like to eat succulents like Echeveria and Graptopetalum succulents. Cats do not typically eat succulents, but they tend to nibble on it just as they would nibble on grasses. Meanwhile, deer are also attracted to succulents, especially if they are looking for water sources. 

How to determine if these animals are eating your succulents:

Possums are most likely the culprit if you see portions of your succulents are missing. Cats tend to shred the leaves with their sharp claws while the deer will usually take big bites off the leaves or plants.

How to prevent these animals from eating your succulents:

To deter possums from your garden, plant spiky plants around the area to drive them away. You can also put garlic around the area, as possums do not like the smell. Discourage cats from going near your succulents by using deterrent sprays or vinegar and citrus sprays. 

Keep deer away from succulents by securing your garden with a fence, planting companion plants alongside your succulents, or placing bar soap near the plants as deer hate its scent. 

Electric or ultrasonic devices and motion-activated sprinklers could also work for these animals. Protect your succulents by placing them in a greenhouse or keep them inside the home, especially the potted ones. 

4. Bugs

Bugs also like to eat succulent leaves. These small but terrible pests that feast on your plants are aphids and mealybugs. They may not take big chunks off, but they suck on leaves because of the sap, making the leaves deformed and black spots may also appear. They can colonize plants and reproduce quickly and could cause great damage to your succulents. 

How to determine if aphids and mealybugs are eating your succulents:

Check for honeydew or sugary, sticky fluid on your succulents, as well as for the presence of ants. If you notice their presence, it is most likely that aphids are in your plants. Aphids are easy to spot and they are usually black, brown or orange-colored. Meanwhile, mealybugs also excrete honeydew and they are usually white, bright yellow-green or light pink. They have white egg sacs that look like cotton. 

How to prevent these pests from eating your succulents:

These pests are easily removed by washing them off, but if there is a heavy infestation you need to use insecticides like Pyrethrin or natural pyrethrum to effectively kill the pests.  Some plant owners also use neem oil or spray the occasional pests with rubbing alcohol. 

Conclusion 

Succulents are lovely to look at and colorful accents for your patios, homes or offices. However, because of the thick and fleshy leaves that contain sap or watery juices, these plants are tempting. They attract a variety of pests, such as birds, squirrels, rodents and other animals like cats and deer, as well as aphids and mealybugs.

Image: istockphoto.com / ViniSouza128

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