Animals that eat flowers

I gave up trying to grow sedums in a pot because blackbirds kept pulling them up. Now they’ve turned their attentions to my new bedding plants (impatiens and viola), pulling them up and pecking them to bits. As fast as I replant the ones that are not too damaged, they are pulled up again. How do I deter the birds?
The trick may be to keep the pots away from the birds until the roots have meshed together. If you have a greenhouse, grow the pot on in there until the growth is dense and settled in, so making it harder for the blackbirds to hoick out. If you don’t have a greenhouse, you will need to protect the pot in some way while this growth takes place, and I’d suggest a little cage fashioned from chicken wire placed over the top. Water well to encourage good, strong growth, too. This set-up may look ugly, true, but you should be able to remove the cage after a few weeks and enjoy the plants in all their glory.

Every week I acquire a large bag of used coffee grounds from a local coffee shop. I spread these on my vegetable beds and put them on the compost heap. How should I use them most efficiently, and what are the pros and cons of using them?
It’s all pros. Coffee itself is acidic, but the brewing process renders the grounds neutral. They are a fabulous source of nitrogen, so need to be balanced by plenty of carbon-heavy ingredients such as cardboard, screwed-up newspaper or light, twiggy growth. Adding the grounds directly to the soil also works, because worms love the stuff and soon take it to lower levels, where it improves the soil structure and moisture retention. Most advice recommends digging grounds into the soil rather than leaving them on top to be incorporated naturally, but I don’t see why you shouldn’t.

• Got a gardening question for Lia? Email [email protected]

How to Keep Deer Away From Geraniums

Japanese deer image by vitaly from

Deer are mammals that love to feast on grass, shrubs, leaves from trees, and flowers. One type of flower that deer will eat if they find it is a geranium. If you enjoy growing flowers on your property, and you have some geraniums, you may be at risk of a deer invasion. Rather than wake up one morning to find your prized geraniums gone, get active in keeping deer away from your flowers.

Plant flowers that deer do not like. Planting these flowers around and among your geraniums will hide the geraniums so that deer do not find them. Flowers that deer are not fond of include wild indigo, daffodils, dahlia and rosemary.

Train your dog to scare away deer. If your dog is not much of a hunter, you can also collect its hair. Spread the dog hair around the ground near the geraniums. This will deter the deer because they will smell dog and think there is one in the area.

Beat your eggs in a bowl. Add water to the bowl and beat again. Sprinkle this mixture over your geraniums to repel the deer. You will need to make a new batch each time it rains.

Set up an electric fence around your property to protect your geraniums. These fences have peanut butter feeding stations. When the deer go to lick the peanut butter, they get a shock. The deer then learn to stay away from your property.

Environmental Studies

Geranium maculatum is one of the most common plants found in North America. Humans love planting them because of their ability to survive in many different types of climates and conditions.

Physical characteristics

Leaf: Leaves are palmately divided on long petioles arising from the crowns.

Flower | Seeds: Native wild geranium is light blue, purple, or pink and occur from spring to mid-summer. The seed pods explode in mid-summer sending seeds in various directions leaving the opened seed pod looking like a little brown flower with petals curled back.

Life span: Geraniums are hardy perennial. They will last for a long time.

Ecological characteristics

Wild geranium is a common plant of woodlands that occurs in all counties of Illinois. Habitats include both floodplain and upland woodlands, savannas, meadows in woodlands, semi-shaded seeps, and glades. Sometimes it invades hill prairies from adjacent wooded areas. It is a typical species of mesic deciduous woodlands.

Distribution range

Importance to the ecosystem

The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract bumblebees, mason bees, halictid bees, andrenid bees, nomadine cuckoo bees, miner bees, and others. The flowers also attract syrphid flies, March flies (Empidae), small butterflies, and skippers. The caterpillars of some moth species feed on either the foliage or flower buds, including Lacinipolia lorea (bridled Arches), Heliothis virescens (geranium budworm moth, tobacco budworm moth), and Hemerocampa leucostigma (white-marked tussock moth). Chipmunks eat the seeds, while deer occasionally eat the foliage.

Relationship with other species

Non-human: Its flowers attract all sorts of insects. It also serves as food source for many animals.

Humans: Humans plant wild geraniums for their aesthetic value.

Pests: Caterpillars, flies, and other insects occasionally eat the leaves, but the wild geranium has a small of amount of pests that bother it.

Other interesting facts

  • The geranium variety Pelargonium odorantissimum contains essential oils that provide an array of health benefits. Extracted from the plant’s stem and leaves, the oils are used as an astringent to improve skin and muscles, as a cytophylactic to promote healthy cell growth and as an antibacterial oil to prevent infection in cuts and wounds.

Page drafted by Charlie Marshall

  • Planting fruit trees for birds as well as berry bushes birds can feast on. To tempt the greatest number of species, opt for several different types of fruit-bearing plants and choose varieties that yield ripe fruit at different times so birds have a steady food source.
  • Create flowerbeds filled with seed-bearing flowers and allow the seed heads to ripen and dry on the stems so the seeds will be accessible to different birds. Smaller birds will cling directly to the flowers, while ground-feeding birds will forage underneath the plants.
  • Plant top nectar-producing flowers for hummingbirds, and even consider creating a complete garden of nectar-rich blooms for hummingbirds. Remove flowers that hummingbirds don’t like rather than wasting space with blooms they can’t feed from.
  • Offer different types of birdseed in feeders, choosing different feeder sizes and styles to accommodate different birds. Keep feeders filled and clean them regularly to avoid any problems with insect infestations or diseases in the yard.
  • Use nectar feeders with a simple, classic nectar recipe to feed hummingbirds and orioles when flowers aren’t blooming. Take steps to keep the feeders clean and discourage insects so birds can feed comfortably.
  • Leave leaf litter intact during the fall and winter so birds can forage for seeds, nuts, and bits of plants leftover from earlier seasons. This will also help protect delicate plant roots for better growth the following spring.
  • Minimize chemical use in the yard, particularly herbicides that would eliminate the very plants birds will rely on as natural food sources. Even so-called weeds such as dandelions can feed many different types of birds.

Birds eat plants…

Did you know that birds eat plants? I didn’t realize this until I came to garden in Hong Kong. Maybe they’re different here.

My half devoured mint!

The first year I had my garden the birds devoured my mint, my Primula flowers and mowed down my Dianthus and plucked out my cat grass by the roots. Not only that, they chopped off my baby avocado trees and spat them out on the ground. I blame the birds for that but it could have been the rat. (Well, hey, I garden in the city, in an area where there a lot of restaurants. We have the occasional rat. He’s been taken care of though, by some well-meaning soul. Whoever it is has my blessing.)

Actually, when I look back, I am certain that the rat was responsible for a lot of my troubles that year. I used to find my sweet potato plants completely uprooted and lying beside the pot for me in the morning. I think that was a rat.

We all know that birds like to eat fruit. Like I said before, I never knew that birds eat plants too! I’ve heard how they’re a menace to tomato growers. I don’t remember having a problem with birds like that where I gardened in Nova Scotia. That’s why it was such a shock to me when I caught this sparrow joyfully munching away on my mint!

Time to take action!

I did a lot of research on the internet to find out how to discourage birds from eating my plants. I found that they don’t like bright flashy things. I also began to look around Hong Kong vegetable plots to see what they do to keep the birds from eating their plants. I found seven solutions to be helpful in scaring them off.

1. Silver tinsel: the kind found on Christmas trees. I wrapped it around my Primulas and it was discouraging to them because they had no where to land their feet and they didn’t know what it was.

2. Shiny silver compact discs: I strung them up nice and high where the sun could bounce off them and the wind could swing them around. It has been quite successful.

3. Netting: I used a sheer window curtain I bought at IKEA because it offered more protection, and, well, mainly because it was what I had on hand and I wasn’t and wouldn’t be using it for anything else. I used it for covering my lettuce and greens in my window boxes when they were young. I am sure it helped because any seedlings I had planted before were fair game.

4. Umbrella: Don’t laugh. I used a large, clear umbrella for protecting my tomatoes, over which I threw a sheer curtain like the one I used for protecting my greens and lettuce. It let the light through and created a micro-climate pocket of extra warmth for my tomatoes.

5. Wire cage: The first thing my husband and I did before I started my garden this year, was construct a cage made from chicken wire and bamboo rods. It had a lid on it made of the same. I have to say, it saved my beans and my carrots. Birds love carrot tops. They ate what they could reach right through the cage! Little darlings.

6. Empty water bottles on bamboo sticks: I didn’t try this one because in the end I didn’t need to, but the farmers, who know that birds eat plants here in Hong Kong, have their fields covered with them. Apparently, they don’t like the noise of the wind in the bottles.

7. Floating row covers: Also very effective to keep the birds off your young plants. Hong Kong farmers use them a lot here.

I’ve learned a whole different kind of gardening since coming here to live. Birds eat plants! Who knew?!

Let’s be clear. I like to see birds come into my garden and I don’t mind feeding them either, but…

Do birds eat plants in your garden too? Tell me all about it! Add your voice in the comments!


Pigeons, crows, & pheasants

Non-toxic ways to keep birds out of the vegetable garden without hurting them. Includes various netting, decoys, and scarers, and tips on keeping them effective

No matter where you garden, there’s a local bird eyeing up your homegrown vegetables. For many of us it’s pigeons, who are infamous for stripping cabbages down to the bare stem. Others have crows in their corn and for me it’s pheasants in everything. Early in the year they even dig up potato plants to get to the tubers.

There are a lot of ways to keep birds out of the garden and some of them are drastic. Keeping tactics humane and as natural as possible is important for many of us organic gardeners and lovers of wildlife. Birds are part of the eco-system and we need to give them space to live. It just doesn’t have to be in our veggie patch.

Netting, scarecrow, and CD bird scarers

Birds aren’t bird-brains

The most knowledgeable people on keeping birds away aren’t gardeners — they’re airport officials. Birds in airplane engines aren’t a good thing for obvious reasons and airports have made it their business to know how to keep birds out. One airport has even conducted a study on it.

One of the most significant things to take from it is that birds aren’t stupid. They quickly realize that a scarecrow left in the same place for weeks isn’t going to harm them. It’s the same thing with any other ‘scaring’ method: pinwheels, ribbons, decoys, etc.

If you’re trying to scare birds away, it’s important to switch things up. A scarecrow needs moving weekly and clothing and accessories changed or adjusted. Other scaring items like reflective CDs need to be placed in a space for the same duration then removed and reintroduced the next month in a different place.

Garden Netting

Creating barriers using garden netting is probably the most effective way to keep birds out. I use a variety of hoops in my garden and then pull butterfly netting over them. Butterfly netting protects crops from hungry wildlife but beneficial insects like honeybees can still get through to pollinate.

Being careful and aware whilst using netting is very important. I keep mine pulled taunt, since loose netting is just asking for animals to get caught in it. Standard bird netting (with holes over 1cm) can be the most dangerous to wildlife. That’s the type that they can get caught up since they can more easily get a snout, head, beak, or leg through it.

Hoops with small gauge butterfly netting keep birds out but allow bees in

We once had a hedgehog get caught in netting in our allotment but it was fortunately freed. Other animals that get caught in netting include opossums, snakes, lizards and bats. In the worst case they die from netting injuries, in the best, you have to free them yourself.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should invest in high quality UV resistant netting that will last years. The common cheap green netting doesn’t have longevity — it shreds and breaks and causes a hazard to wildlife and the environment.

Cheap netting breaks easily and can pose a threat to wildlife

Using chicken wire on the ground

Chicken wire pinned to the ground can help protect newly sown seeds or planted tubers. It stops birds, including your own chickens, from scratching up the soil. As plants grow, you could lift the wire up on stakes or even bend it around hoops.

Protect crops with garden fleece

Many of us use garden fleece to protect crops from frosts. It can also be used year-round to protect shorter crops from birds. Garden fleece is a fine white material that can be draped over pak choi, lettuces, chard, and other greens. Weigh the sides down with rocks or pegs and either reach under or roll it back temporarily to harvest.

Alien-like ‘Terror Eyes’ balloons will freak out your local birds and neighbours

Terror Eyes Balloon

The most popular bird scaring product available is probably the terror eyes balloon. It’s a large, usually yellow inflatable ball with ‘eyes’ printed on it. You hang it in the garden and it moves slightly with the breeze. Both the movement and the eyes can startle birds into thinking a predator is watching them. If they don’t freak you out too, you can purchase one already made and for a DIY version, copy the eye patterns on a yellow beach ball.

Decoy owl and an unimpressed pigeon

Plastic predators and toy snakes

Some gardeners swear by having a plastic decoy owl or falcon mounted in their garden. Even unrealistic looking ones seem to have a decent effect on smaller prey birds like pigeons, sparrows, and blackbirds. They can also have little effect if they’re mounted someplace permanently. For best effect, move your decoy around the garden so that it looks like a predator bird taking up different stake-out locations. If you get a decoy that moves or makes sound, all the better.

Another predator decoy that you can use are toy plastic snakes. Lay them in your garden beds and scare birds, animals, and yourself alike.

Move scarecrows every week to keep birds on their toes

Build a Scarecrow

Scarecrows do work if they’re moved around regularly. Keep that in mind whether you’re buying one or making your own. Opt for one built on a stake that can be pulled up and pushed into the ground in another part of the garden.

It also helps to clothe or decorate them with the colours red and yellow. Some say that birds use these colours as flight triggers. Whether or not it’s scientifically proven, it wouldn’t hurt to have a Ronald McDonald in the garden. Unless you personally have a problem with clowns or garish garden decorations.

Sudden movement from garden spinners can scare birds away

Garden spinners

Sudden movement will scare birds into flight as well. That’s why so many people use streamers, plastic bags, and garden spinners to keep birds out of the garden. Anything plastic that can be blown away in the wind can end up as litter so I won’t recommend the first two. Sturdy garden spinners on the other hand can look cute and serve a purpose. Again, make sure to move them around the garden every week or so.

The reflective surfaces and flashes of light from CDs scare birds away

CDs & mirrors

I once saw a DIY birdbath decorated in a broken mirror mosaic. It certainly looked flashy but there certainly wouldn’t be any birds visiting. Aside from not being fans of sudden movement, they’re not fond of flashing light either. I think that lady accidentally found a way to keep birds out of the garden.

Keeping that in mind, tie old CDs by string in your fruit trees, bushes, or elsewhere in your garden. Their reflective surfaces will flash light as they move in the breeze, scaring birds away. It’s more difficult to move these about once tied in, but some people say that leaving them in one place works just fine.


The sudden sound and movement of windchimes can scare birds too. If you’re going to use them, make sure to put them out in the garden rather than just on the porch. If you can find some made out of shiny metal, even better.

Poke sticks into the ground around young plants

Create a Stick Jungle

Push twigs and sticks all around your plants and they work in two ways to keep birds off. First of all, they’ll disguise the plants from above. A flying bird will look down and see a mess of sticks with some green underneath, rather than tasty broccoli seedlings.

On the ground, a barricade of sticks can make it difficult for birds to reach your plants. It can be difficult for you to reach them too, either for harvesting or weeding. I use this method for generally two cases — for young plants that need temporary protection, and for young peas. Head over here for some fun and creative ways to use sticks and twigs in the garden.

Man’s Best Friend

The best way to scare away birds is with a real predator. A supervised dog will delight in chasing any birds off for you. In my experience, unsupervised cats can also do the trick but that’s opening up a whole other can of worms. We’ll save cats in the garden for another piece.

Keep birds out of the garden by relocation

The last tactic is to relocate your troublesome birds. This is something that we plan on doing at our community garden this year after our recent pheasant population explosion. Live traps can catch feral chickens and pheasants but it may be a waste of time with others. Pigeons and magpies will likely fly back home.


Animal eating petunia buds.

Hello, and thanks for using the Ask an Expert System,

It is very likely that your petunias were eaten by deer. Deer tend to like the young tender parts of garden plants. If deer are hungry they will eat the foliage as well as flowers. I used to grow day lilies that never bloomed. I finally saw that deer were eating just the buds when they were small.

If you have additional questions you can contact Master Gardeners in your County

Each Tuesday from 10am to 12pm, starting in April and continuing through the end of September, Master Gardeners will be on stand-by at the Wayne County Extension Office to help you.

Whether your garden is to be full of flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses, or is a fruit orchard, the trained, volunteer Master Gardeners (MGs) of Wayne County can help with your questions and/or gardening problems.

Please stop by on Tuesdays from 10am – 12pm at the Penn State Extension Office, or call 570-253-5970 X 1614 and they will endeavor to help.

Wayne County Penn State Extension:
Address: 648 Park Street, Honesdale, PA 1843
Phone: 570-253-5970
E-mail: [email protected]
Office Hours: Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Squirrels are probably munching petunia petals

My petunias were gorgeous, but now something is eating them. I don’t see slime trails, and I don’t see caterpillars, so what would be doing this?The spicy sweet petunia petals are very appealing and quite edible. Most likely squirrels are eating them.The bad news is that while you can apply a number of things to discourage them from eating them, nothing stops a squirrel for long.I have read about people using hot pepper sauce and pepper spray on flowers to dissuade the squirrels. I know it works for a while on birdseed, as birds do not taste the hot pepper extract, but mammals like squirrels (and humans) do.Blood meal was mentioned as a possible deterrent, as well as some of the animal urine products that are sold for that purpose. Peppermint oil, on cotton balls, may also repel the squirrels. These are all relatively safe for the creatures we coexist with.Several things are sometimes mentioned that are not a good idea, such as putting moth balls out. Yes, they smell awful to us and other animals, but they also will leach toxic substances into the soil and then down to the water table.Also, please don’t consider using rodent poisons, as these could be eaten by any child or animal who wandered by, or, even more likely, the carcass of the animal might be eaten by a pet or a wild bird.I had read that broccoli was an easy plant to grow. Mine looked great, but now the buds have burst into yellow flowers. What did I do wrong?Broccoli is easy to grow, but a little help from the weather and a watchful eye are necessary. Unlike other garden plants, the nutritious flower bud is the part we harvest. There isn’t much competition for it from insects. Caterpillars may eat the leaves, but there are more preferable sources of food around for them.The plants are triggered to bloom by a period of cold weather, followed by a period of warm weather.With our roller-coaster winter weather, the plants were easily fooled into thinking winter was over by a sequence of cool weather in November and early December, followed by warm temperatures in late December. The plant responded by rushing from flower buds right into the individual yellow flowers you saw.While the flowering head is edible, it’s really quite bitter. Best to start over.Watch for the buds, and don’t wait too long to cut them. The plant will still produce smaller edible buds from the sides of the remaining stalk.I grew two avocados from seed, and one of them actually flowered this year, but the fruit did not ripen. What would cause that?We can only grow avocados during our warm years. They are not cold hardy enough for a long term crop.That said, some types of avocados do well here in sheltered locations, while some of the types sold in the grocery stores will grow better in California or Hawaii, but not in our more humid climate.That is the case with the Hass avocados you have grown. Better luck would be had with the Gainesville, Brogden and Mexicola varieties. You would have to buy these as plants, not grow them from the avocado seed. Congratulations on getting them that far. They aren’t easy to grow here, and most people never have one that flowers.Becky Wern is a master gardener with the Duval County Agricultural Extension Service and the University of Florida.

Birds Eating My Flowers: Why Do Birds Eat Flower Buds

Gardeners are constantly worrying about protecting their plants from hungry deer, rabbits and insects. Sometimes our feathered friends can also eat flowers and flower buds from certain plants. Read more to learn why birds eat flower buds and tips on flower bud protection from birds.

Why Do Birds Eat Flower Buds?

Certain flower buds provide birds with nutrition in early spring when their preferred fruit and seeds are not available. The following blossoms provide energy for migrating cedar waxwings in the spring:

  • Pear
  • Apple
  • Peach
  • Plum
  • Cherry
  • Crabapple

Cardinals, finches, mockingbirds, blue jays, gold finches, grosbeaks, quail and grouse have also been known to feed on these fruit tree blossoms. Both finches and cardinals also seem to be quite fond of forsythia flowers. Although birds usually will not eat enough of the buds to damage the plant, but there are a few simple ways to prevent birds from eating flower buds.

What to When Birds are Eating My Flowers

Most garden centers carry netting to protect plants from birds. There are a few problems with this netting. If the netting is placed right on the plant, birds can still poke through and get some buds.

The best way to cover your plant with this netting is to use stakes or wood to support the netting up over and around the plant without it actually touching the plant. This may be difficult on the large shrubs and small trees that birds like to treat themselves to. Also, if the netting is not stretched tightly around the plant or supports, birds can get entangled in it. Fine mesh chicken wire can also be used to wrap around plants being eaten by birds.

Hanging pie tins in fruit trees is a traditional method of preventing birds from eating flower buds. The shiny surface, reflective light and movement of the pie tin twirling in the wind scares birds away. A modern twist on this old tradition is hanging old CDs from fruit trees. Anything that spins and sways in the breeze, scattering reflected light around, can protect flower buds from birds.

Birds also don’t like the noise from chimes hanging in the trees. Twinkling outdoor lights may deter birds, too. You can also create a bird friendly flower bed in a different part of the yard. Place bird baths and hang feeders to give the birds a better option than dining on your fruit tree buds.

  • Climate: Choose flowers that can thrive in the local climate, taking into account water and sunlight levels. Also note growing season lengths to be sure the flowers will be able to reach their full potential, including reblooming if possible.
  • Soil Type: Flowers will be healthier and produce more blooms if the soil is nourishing. Choose plants that will thrive in your soil type, and use fertilizer, mulch, compost, and soil amendments as needed to keep the soil rich and nutritious for the plants.
  • Growth Height: Opt for flowers of different mature heights for a multi-layered, thick garden that will attract many birds. Plant taller flowers in the back of a bed, and use tiered designs to give birds easy access to many different blooms.
  • Overall Space: Flowers can grow into wide clumps, and they will produce the best blooms if they have enough space to spread out. Good spacing will also give room for uneaten seeds to bloom into new plants. If there isn’t enough space in your yard, consider growing flowers in containers.
  • Native Plants: Native flowers are often best because they’re well adapted to local conditions and birds will recognize them as a food source more easily. Native plants will be hardier for your climate conditions, are resistant to pests and diseases, and will require less care to stay beautiful.
  • Seeding Time: Choosing flowers that go to seed at different times will ensure an ongoing source of available seeds for birds in any season. You can also achieve this effect by planting flowers in groups at different times to prolong the growing and blooming season.
  • Include Grasses: Ornamental grasses may not be as showy in the flower bed, but they can provide abundant seeds that birds will devour. Consider adding several bunches of grasses as accents with your flowers for even more seed-bearing options.

Watching Backyard Home

Spring gives a promise of increased bird activity and fresh floral blossoms, but what does it mean when your feathered friends are preying on petals? If you maintain a garden in your yard, there’s a reasonable chance that you’ve noticed birds plucking at your blooms at some point. While this behavior can sometimes be attributed to actual flower-eating, also called florivory, it’s possible that those birds tearing at your blossoms are practicing something else entirely.

Incidental Foraging

It could be that a bird is simply sampling the smorgasbord of your backyard as it’s plucking away in your garden. Hungry birds, especially juveniles, will peck at a variety of objects to figure out what items are edible and palatable, and where to find them. These avian browsers may nibble on a wide range of flowers of different colors, sizes, and shapes as they seek out effective sustenance.


If you’re a gardener, you’ve no doubt observed that flowers house several species of insects and arachnids. Birds are also keen to this fact, and will rifle through your planters in search of bugs to eat. Unfortunately, some petals might be lost in the process.


Hummingbirds aren’t the only nectar-eaters out there! Tanagers, orioles, grosbeaks, and finches also have a taste for the sugary fluid, but don’t have the anatomy to gracefully sip as they flutter from bloom to bloom. Instead, these species have to bite flowers off of their stems to access nectar. The voracity with which they process the flowers in their bills may give an appearance of florivory, but they are actually consuming the plant’s nectar.

Displacement Behavior

It has been observed that animals that don’t compete well with others within their social group will make eye-catching inanimate objects the target of their unspent aggression. Socially frustrated birds tend to vent their disgruntlement on brightly colored things, and flowers are easy victims. A male mockingbird with low social status, having put up with rejection by females and harassment by higher-up males, might take its hard feelings out on a forsythia, destructively pulling off the yellow blossoms with no intention of eating them.

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