Groundhogs are the bane of many gardeners. These mammals have a reputation for eating garden plants which can be frustrating for gardeners.
Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are rodents native to North America and Eastern America. Famous for their destructive nature, they can destroy a garden overnight. They eat various kinds of fruits, vegetables, and flowering plants. But do they eat hydrangeas?
Before answering this question, let’s make sure it’s hydrangeas the groundhogs are after.
What Are Hydrangeas?
Hydrangea is a flowering plant found in Asia and America. The plant “hydrangea” derives its name from a Greek word meaning water vessel, referring to the shape of its seed capsules.
Hydrangeas are unrivaled in the shrub world due to their stunning and blooming flowers. The popular ornamental plants are colorful with lavender, clear blue, pink, and red foliage.
Do Groundhogs Eat Hydrangeas?
Yes, they do. Hydrangeas possess a strong, aromatic smell that attracts these animals.
Although groundhogs feed on these plants, hydrangeas aren’t their favorite. They prefer fruits and vegetables compared to flowering plants. Groundhogs will only eat hydrangeas if they are hungry and can gain easy access to them.
Why Do Groundhogs Eat Hydrangeas?
Though groundhogs eat various plants, some appeal to them more than others. The aromatic smell of hydrangeas attracts these animals. Once groundhogs perceive the sweet-smelling flowers, they begin burrowing to reach the plant—most gardeners who want to eliminate groundhogs from their gardens plant hydrangeas as bait or traps.
The groundhogs follow the scent and get trapped. Once caught, the gardener removes them from the garden and releases them elsewhere.
Besides using hydrangeas as bait, many people plant them to add to the beauty and aesthetics of their garden or space, thanks to their strong fragrance. The smell can dominate a garden depending on the species of hydrangeas planted.
How to Protect Hydrangeas From Groundhogs
Hydrangeas’ colorful blooms beautify any landscape, and it’s not surprising that it’s a gardener’s favorite. Unfortunately, while hydrangeas are beautiful to behold, pesky creatures like groundhogs deter them from blooming. It’s a considerable challenge protecting hydrangeas from these garden marauders.
To keep groundhogs at bay, make the plant less appealing. For example, planting vegetation like yarrow, columbine, and blanket flower in your garden makes hydrangeas repulsive to groundhogs.
Other control measures for groundhogs include fencing, spraying repellants, and trapping. Let’s consider each of these measures.
Fencing serves as a permanent solution to pest infestation. However, it would help if you did proper fencing as groundhogs can jump tunnels and short fences.
Use tight mesh wire-like chicken wire to fence your garden. Ensure the fencing is about 3 feet tall and 12 inches buried into the ground to prevent tunneling. Keep the top part of the fence unattached to the posts to prevent groundhogs from climbing over.
Electrified fences, standing at least 4 inches above the ground, maybe a better option if many groundhogs are in the area. Electrified fences facilitate easy access to the garden and don’t disrupt the garden aesthetics.
Besides repelling groundhogs, the fences prevent other animals like deers and raccoons from entering the garden.
You can consider spraying repellants on hydrangeas if you don’t want to grow pest-repelling plants or fence your garden.
Common deterrents include cayenne pepper solution, crushed garlic, and predator urines. Spray cayenne pepper solution or spread crushed garlic around the plant to keep groundhogs away. While these are effective, you may need to reapply them when it rains.
Odor repellents are another alternative to prevent pest invasions and are effective but produce a foul, offensive smell. You can use predator urines such as bobcat and fox urine.
Spraying urine on plants gives groundhogs the impression that predators are in sight. Thus, they seek protection far away from the predator’s grasp. Furthermore, you can discourage groundhogs from entering your garden by placing colorful beach balls within reach. Putting ammonia-soaked rags into burrows or entryways compel them to leave hiding holes.
If spraying repellants makes you irritable, trapping is another effective control measure. You can set traps or baits around their paths or holes. Some states prohibit trapping, so you might want to check your state laws and regulations. Trapping aims to relocate groundhogs at least 5 miles away from your garden.
Trapping may be the best option for getting rid of groundhogs, especially in late winter or early spring. It’s easier to discover tunnels during this period. Also, groundhogs often hunt for food at this time of the year—set traps at least 5 to 10 feet away from burrows. Install guide logs to trap groundhogs within the burrows, so they don’t escape.
You can use apple slices and succulent fruits as baits. Since these are wild animals, you might want to be extra careful when handling them. Wear sturdy gloves when picking the trap so you don’t get hurt.
Ensure you check traps regularly so animals don’t get trapped for days. Don’t forget; the aim is to dislodge them, not kill them.
Also, be extra careful when releasing the animal. Having been trapped for a while, the groundhog may get agitated and can bite you.
What Other Animals Eat Hydrangeas?
Besides groundhogs, other animals like deer, slugs, snails, caterpillars, aphids, beetles, scales, and spider mites, feed on hydrangeas. Like groundhogs, these animals can be destructive, causing damage to vegetation.
Here’s how to keep them from feeding on hydrangeas.
These tiny insects suck sap from soft tissue plants. Aphids attack the stems and leaves of hydrangeas, sucking the juices.
They also cause hydrangeas to curl or dry—spray plants with cold water to dislodge aphids.
You can also dust hydrangeas with flour to eliminate aphids. Organic insecticide like neem oil works against aphids and spider mites. For gardens ridden by aphids, consider strong measures like chemical insecticides.
Japanese beetles and rose chafers are the species of beetle that mostly attack hydrangeas. These insects feed mainly on the leaves, leaving behind irregularly shaped holes.
To reduce beetle infestation, apply pyrethrin or neem oil to the garden. You can also handpick large-sized beetles from the garden.
Finally, introduce nematodes in the garden to reduce the population of beetle larvae.
Different species of scale insects attack hydrangeas. During feeding, they attach themselves to plants, creating scales on the leaves and stems of hydrangeas.
Use insecticidal soap on scale insects, especially in their larval stage. For a better outcome, apply fortnightly. You’ll need to cut off or burn infected plant parts infested by these sap-sucking pests.
Another way to reduce scale infestation is using systemic insecticides. These insecticides penetrate plant parts, dealing with scales from the root. However, systemic insecticides exhibit adverse effects, and you should use them after an expert recommendation.
Slug damage is evident on young hydrangeas. Ragged edges and holes are signs of slug attack on leaves of hydrangeas. Though slugs feed primarily on decaying materials, hydrangea leaves aren’t left out.
Also, slugs thrive in moist environments. Little wonder hydrangeas are susceptible to slug attacks. Home remedies like salting work against slugs. A more practical home remedy is handpicking.
These worm-like creatures are another destructive element of hydrangeas. Caterpillars eat hydrangeas leaves and lay eggs on hydrangeas stems.
Handpick and dispose of caterpillars to reduce infestation. While handpicking is time-consuming and laborious, consider using pesticides or neem oil. Use pesticides when infestation keeps reoccurring.
Like aphids, these garden pests attack anything, including hydrangeas. Spider mites cause the wilting and curling of leaves and suck juices from your hydrangeas. Insecticidal soaps and neem oil proves effective against these eight-legged pests.
Deer and Other Mammals
Besides the bugs mentioned above, mammals sometimes feed on hydrangeas, chewing the branches, leaves, and large parts of the plant. Adopt fencing and use predator urines to chase away deer and other mammals.
Groundhog-Resistant Plants to Grow Instead
Are you tired of seeing groundhogs devour your garden? Have you tried several control measures which prove ineffective and have adverse effects?
Groundhog-resistant plants might be a better alternative for your garden. Below are some groundhog-resistant plants to grow in your garden instead of hydrangeas.
- Bulbs (Ageratum, dahlia, Amsonia, anemone, bleeding heart, daffodil, butterfly weed, evening primrose, oregano)
- Herbs (Chives, rosemary, thyme, wormwood)
- Vegetables (pepper, pumpkin, potato, onion, garlic)
- Trees and shrubs (Juniper, lilac, peony, pine, sweet fern)
Should You Plant Hydrangeas in Your Garden?
We can’t outrightly say you shouldn’t plant hydrangeas in your garden. It’s up to you to decide after weighing the pros and cons.
While hydrangeas are beautiful foliage that adorn your garden, they have downsides. They’re susceptible to groundhog attacks, and bugs like spider mites, aphids, caterpillars, and slugs feed on them.
However, you can use the methods above to prevent or control pest infestation. Then, use this article for proper fertilization to ensure beautiful Hydrangeas blooms.
Back to the question, do groundhogs eat hydrangeas? Yes, they do.
Hydrangeas have aromatic scents which attract these critters. Groundhogs will eat hydrangeas, but you can be proactive and prevent them from ruining your garden. Follow the guide in this article to safely grow hydrangeas.
USDA Wildlife Services – PDF