Irises grow easily enough, but you may encounter one problem with them—as pretty as you find them, animals love to eat them. How can you stop animals from eating your irises? First, understand the types of animals that eat irises.
What animals eat irises? Rabbits, moles, insects, voles, deer and ground squirrels all eat irises from time to time. Occasional other animals will sometimes eat irises, depending on the circumstances. Pay attention to what part was eaten to know what animal ate it.
Follow along as we learn more about the creatures that eat irises and how to tell which ones ate it.
Why Do Animals Eat Irises?
The smell of irises, as much as humans like them, animals see them as a source of food. With many animals having stronger noses than humans, the smell of an iris brings the creatures straight to your garden. Also, depending on the animal, different animals will eat different parts of the iris. We will cover what each of the animals tend to eat to spot which animal you’re dealing with.
Culprit #1: Rabbits
Because of the height of a rabbit, they can’t eat the leaves of the iris. However, rabbits will eat almost any part of the iris that they can munch on. Not only do rabbits eat irises, but they eat many of the other things grown in a garden. Especially in the more rural parts of the country, rabbits become a huge problem for gardeners.
Irises, however, are toxic to rabbits. The bulbs, stalks and leaves can all make a rabbit sick. In some cases, this can cause them to vomit what they ate into your garden.
Culprit #2: Moles
In particular, moles will feed off the roots of the iris. They also like to feed off the bulbs of the iris. Moles shouldn’t be thought of as a primary feeder of the irises, however, because they only do this in exceptional circumstances where they’re very hungry. Usually, moles feed off of insects, grubs and earthworms.
Interesting fact: Moles can eat up to 50 pounds of their prey in a year. Meanwhile, they only weigh 5 ounces.
Culprit #3: Insects
Several insects feed off of irises, and they include:
- Spider mites
In particular, the iris borer caterpillar has a fierce reputation as causing more damage to irises than all the other insects combined. It feeds on the rhizomes. You can bait these creatures easily enough or use insecticides to control them.
Culprit #4: Voles
Many times, voles use tunnels that moles already dug, but they can dig their own tunnels as well. You can spot a vole feeding on irises because they tend to leave the flower fan part alone. Voles prefer to feed on the seeds and seedlings of the iris.
Voles like to feed on irises, but they eat other flowers more, such as tulips, crocus, hyacinth, scilla and allium. While voles burrow underground, they travel along pathways above ground, and they eat all foliage in their path along the way, including irises.
You can eliminate voles through putting down hot sauce and other spicy things near their holes and burrows around the irises. Humans are the only creatures on the planet who eat spicy food, which will repel the voles. Voles may eat irises, but they also tend to go for the other flowers more.
Culprit #5: Deer
Deer don’t commonly eat irises, but when other food sources become scarce, they may take to eating your irises instead. In fact, deer will eat most things in the garden when hungry enough. They have a fearsome reputation among well-meaning gardeners. You can spot deer damage because their eating tends to look jagged. They also like to eat the flower part of the iris, so pay special attention to this.
Usually, deer avoid irises because they don’t like the smell, but in starving circumstances, they will eat them. Young deer, especially, will try most anything, including your beloved irises.
Culprit #6: Ground Squirrels
The little devils love to eat almost anything. In fact, I wrote about regular squirrels eating roses here. Ground squirrels don’t commonly go after irises, but it has been known to happen from time to time. In some cases, they may dig up your iris bulbs thinking of it as another plant.
How to Prevent Animals from Going after Your Irises
We have covered the animals that most commonly go after irises pretty well, but now we need to look at how to stop animals from doing this. We gave a few tips and tricks with each of the individual animals, but one of the ways that you can protect your irises is by adding a layer of gravel.
Add a sharp layer of gravel or grit beneath and above the surface of your irises. This deters most animals because they don’t like to dig in sharp debris. They will find an easier target unless starving. In most cases, this will be enough to deter most animals.
With insects, don’t forget to use insecticides. You can either buy insecticide (an environmentally friendly choice here) or make it yourself.
Hopefully, this helps you to identify some of the animals that might target your iris plants. We also gave you specific information on how to spot the type of animal that is targeting your irises.
When in doubt, you can also use trail cameras (such as the Usogood Trail Camera 20MP 1080P) to catch the culprit in the act and figure out the most appropriate course of action.