There are many good things about growing succulents outdoors. In general, if you live in a warm climate area, your succulents may grow much better outside because they enjoy plenty of sunlight and a high level of humidity. They can also become sun-stressed and create brilliant colors to brighten up your garden and patio. However, there are challenges you must tackle to protect your outdoor succulents, for example, the quality of the soil on the ground, the unpredictable changing of the weather and temperature, and the scariest thing: pests!
Pests are not solely a problem for outdoor plants. Indoor succulents are also prone to several types of pests like mealy bugs, scales, and spider mites. The nightmare for outdoor gardeners is something different: slugs and snails. These slimy creatures belong to the mollusk family (like oysters). Snails have shells while slugs don’t, but they both produce a slime trail when they crawl along and feed on your succulents’ stems and foliage. The sticky trails they left after a night feasting on your plants are very easy to detect. Fortunately, treatments for snails and slugs are plentiful. However, as they belong to a biodiverse ecosystem, it is recommended that you use only natural methods to get rid of them in order to protect a biodiverse harmony in your garden.
Photo by Jessica Pichardo
Controlling snails and slugs requires patience and effort, and it is best to combine several techniques that we are listing below.
Natural Slug and Snail Deterrents
Other than making all kinds of natural slug and snail deterrents, you should also try to remove all slugs and snails from your plants by hand. Don’t forget to use rubber gloves and tongs. The best time to hand-pick slugs and snails is at night, they usually come out in the dark, especially after the rain.
Crushed Eggshells, Pine Bark, and Horticultural Grit
You can line upturned eggshells around your plants to create a natural barrier. The sharp edges will prevent slugs and snails from getting close to your succulents. Eggshells are entirely biodegradable and can improve soil quality. They are poison-free and safe even for pets and humans. You can also use pine bark mulch or horticultural grits to create a rough surface that those succulent munchers cannot get through.
Using eggshells like a barrier to protect plants from slugs and snails
Photo by RHJ
Sprinkling a layer of coffee grounds around your plants also works wonders. Coffee is a good slug deterrent, as the bitter taste keeps slug away. However, do not let your pets get close to your plants as eating coffee grounds might be harmful to your furry family members.
Copper Tape or Screen
Many swear on copper tape or screen as an eco-friendly option. It is believed that copper reacts with the slime that snails and slugs secrete and cause a disruption in their nervous system. This disruption may be similar to an electric shock and is very effective in keeping slugs and snails away. Cooper tape is usually used to wrap around the edges of pots or planters, and cooper screens are erected as a barrier with several inches buried below the surface of the soil to prevent slugs and snails from digging their way into your succulents.
Wool pellets are sold in many gardening stores as a natural slug and snail deterrent. Wool absorbs the slime from slugs and snails and thus repels them. Normal wool would lose its effects once it is submerged in the rain, but wool pellets are made to withstand moisture and water, so they have a lasting effect in keeping slugs and snails away. When you create a barrier from wool pellets, remember to make it at least 4 inches in both width and thickness.
Wool Pellets can be seen as a natural slug and snail deterrent.
Photo via cafeyn.co
Slug and Snail Repellent Plants
Some plants can keep slugs and snails out of your garden. You can try to grow these plants around your succulents to deter those slimy pests from the whole area. Common plants that slugs and snails hate include foxgloves, the Allium family (Allium giganteum), garlic, fennel, mint (strong-smelling types), chives, and Geraniums.
Natural Slug and Snail Predators
The best way to control snails and slugs while encouraging a healthy ecosystem in your garden is to introduce their predators to your yard. We recommend frogs and toads. You can attract toads and keep them in your garden by creating a water source, like a small pond or pool. If you have enough space, ducks are your best bet because they can find and consume a large number of snails and slugs. Another useful and super cute animal that can help you to manage your slug and snail problem is hedgehogs. They just love eating slugs! You can invite hedgehogs to your garden by creating a pathway for them to get in (by making a gap in your fences), and leaving them a hedgehog log with water and food (dry cat food is their favorite).
Slug and Snail Baits and Traps
Beer trap is one home remedy that many gardeners recommend. This method is super simple yet very effective. Slugs are attracted to the yeasty odors in beer, they crawl into the beer containers and drown. Beer traps, however, only attract slugs within a short range, so you need to place many traps around your plants. Beer also evaporates quickly and needs to be replenished every couple of days. After a rainy day, beer is also diluted and loses its effectiveness. To make a beer trap, follow these simple steps:
- Collect several plastic containers with lids. You can use yogurt or margarine tubs. Cut a few holes near the top of the containers for the slugs to crawl in.
- Bury the containers in the ground, leaving about 1 inch above the soil line.
- Pour beer into the containers to cover about 2-3 inches. Place the lids on the containers.
- Check the traps every 2-3 days and add more beer as needed.
- Remove dead slugs regularly.
You can also use a beer alternative by mixing 1 tablespoon of yeast, 1 tablespoon of flour, and 1 tablespoon of sugar with 1 cup of water.
Beer trap is an easy and effective way to remove slugs and snails.
Photo via sublimesucculents.com
Slug and Snail Bait
There are many slug and snail baits readily available in gardening stores. They are usually in a pellet form. Try other natural methods before using these pellets. If you still decide to use slug pellets, make sure you choose a brand that is non-toxic to humans, pets, and other wildlife. Avoid slug pellets made with metaldehyde, as it is harmful to other wildlife. Other pellets are usually based on iron phosphate, which affects the calcium metabolism in the gut of slugs and snails, causing them to stop eating and die within 3-6 days. These pellets can break down and become nutrients for plants, so they are not harmful for the soil or other animals, with an exception of earthworms. Earthworms that consume the pellets also feed less and die. Therefore, slug pellets should be used with caution. To use them, sprinkle the pellets sparingly around your plants following instructions from manufacturers. Please ensure you have the area enclosed to keep other wildlife such as hedgehogs away from the pellets.
Note: Slugs and snails are persistent, and you might have to combine several methods to keep them away from your succulents. For whatever method you try, please take into consideration the effect it has on the wildlife and ecosystem. You should also never use salt to sprinkle directly on snails and slugs. Salt makes them explode and kills them in an incredibly painful way. Salt also harms your plants and creates an imbalance in your soil’s pH.