What is Eating My Geraniums? A Comprehensive Guide to Plant Pests

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What Is Eating My Geraniums

Finding unusual damage on your beloved geraniums can definitely raise a gardener’s eyebrow. This common issue has left many wondering, “What is eating my geraniums?”

Whether, a novice or seasoned horticulturist, we have all experienced that sinking feeling of discovering desiccated leaves and chewed-up blooms. Are you in a battle with an unseen critter, or are pesky pests to blame? Get ready to uncover unknown threats lurking in your garden.

What Is Eating My Geraniums?

The most common pests that could be eating your geraniums are caterpillars, particularly those of the geranium bronze butterfly and the angle shades moth. Geraniums also attract insects like whiteflies and aphids. These pests feed on the sap of the geranium leaves, causing them to wilt and appear as though they have been eaten.

– Aphids

Description Small, soft-bodied insects with pear-shaped bodies, sucking sap from geraniums and leaving behind sticky honeydew.
Damage Screen damage caused by ants.
Control Use insecticidal soap or neem oil spray, introduce beneficial insects, prune affected parts, and maintain plant health.

Aphids and Geraniums

Aphids are small, sap-sucking insects that can commonly infest geranium plants. They feed on the plant’s nutrients, leading to yellowing leaves, black sooty mold development, and overall weak plant growth. Over time, heavy infestations can lead to leaf drop and even plant death.

Manage Aphids on Geraniums

To manage aphids on your geraniums, a few steps can be taken. Firstly, regularly monitoring your plants for signs of these pests can help catch an infestation early. Next, using a strong spray of water can knock aphids off the plants and discourage them from returning. For heavier infestations, consider using insecticidal soaps or neem oil. These are safe for the environment and effective against the aphids. Lastly, consider introducing beneficial insects, like ladybugs, that are natural predators of aphids.

– Slugs

Description Slimy, nocturnal, shell-less mollusks that devour leaves, flowers, and stems, leaving behind characteristic slime trails.
Damage Holes and irregular damage on leaves and flowers.
Control Use organic slug control methods such as handpicking, applying diatomaceous earth or copper tape, and keeping the garden clean and free of debris.

Effects of Slugs on Geraniums:
Slugs are common garden pests that are specifically detrimental to geraniums. They munch on the foliage, leaving a trail of irregular, ragged holes in leaves and petals. Not only does this spoil the plant’s appearance, but it also impairs its ability to photosynthesize effectively, which can hinder growth and flowering. Furthermore, slugs can leave a slimy trail that makes the plant unattractive.

Controls and Prevention:
Non-chemical Control: Hand-picking is a simple but effective method to control slugs. Do this after dusk as they are nocturnal creatures. Dispose of them far away from your plants. Creating physical barriers like crushed eggshells, copper tape or diatomaceous earth around your geraniums can deter them. Use beer traps by burying a shallow dish level to the soil and partially filling it with beer; slugs get attracted and drown.

Chemical Control:
In severe infestations, using chemical measures may be necessary. Slug pellets containing iron phosphate or metaldehyde spread around the plant can control slug populations. Remember to use these sparingly and reapply after rain. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to prevent overuse and damage to other wildlife. It’s important to combine both non-chemical and chemical methods to keep your geraniums healthy and slug-free.

– Snails

Description Small slimy creatures that leave silvery trails, feed on leaves and flowers, and can decimate geranium plants.
Damage Holes and chewed leaves
Control Implement physical barriers such as copper tape, hand-picking, beer traps, and use organic repellents to deter snails from eating geraniums.

Snails commonly feed on geraniums, causing significant damage to the plant. These pests chew through the leaves, creating large, irregular holes. They primarily feed at night and hide during the day, which can make them difficult to spot unless you look closely.

Control Methods: There are several effective methods to combat snails. One option is to hand pick them, preferably at night when they are most active. You can also use snail traps filled with beer or yeast mixture, which attract and drown them. Another method involves using copper tape around your plants, as snails and slugs are deterred by the tiny electric shock it emits when they touch it. If these methods aren’t effective, commercially available snail bait can be used. These contain iron phosphate, which is safe for pets and wildlife but poisonous to snails. Remember that any infested leaves should be removed from the plant to prevent further spread.

Lastly, good garden hygiene practices such as clearing debris and keeping your garden tidy can deter snails from residing in your garden. They often take shelter in damp and dark places during the day. By eliminating their ideal hiding spots, you can discourage their population from growing.

– Caterpillars

Description Small, green, segmented insects with voracious appetites that leave holes in geranium leaves, damaging their appearance and health.
Damage Severe defoliation leading to weakened plants and reduced flowering.
Control Implement physical barriers, such as netting, and use organic insecticides to deter and eliminate the caterpillars from devouring geranium plants.

Geranium and Caterpillar Interaction
Caterpillars are pests that feed on geraniums, chewing holes through the leaves, flowers, and stems. This can severely damage your plants and prevent them from thriving or blooming.

Solutions to Caterpillar Damage
To protect your geraniums from caterpillars, here are a few solutions. Start by manually inspecting and removing caterpillars regularly. For larger infestations, consider using a biological control like Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring bacterium that is harmful to caterpillars but safe for plants and other animals. Preventive measures like encouraging natural predators – birds, spiders, and beetles – in your garden can keep caterpillar populations under control.

What Is Eating My Geraniums Identification and Solutions

– Whiteflies

Description Small, flying insects with white wings, sucking sap from geranium leaves, causing yellowing and wilting of foliage.
Damage Causing yellowing leaves and stunted growth, leading to plant decline.
Control Implement natural predators, like ladybugs, use insecticidal soap or oil sprays, and regularly inspect and remove infested leaves.

Whiteflies and Damage:
Whiteflies are common pests that can be disastrous to geraniums. These tiny insects suck the sap out of the plant, weakening it and causing yellowing and wilting. They also secrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which results in sooty mold growth on leaves.

Control Measures:
For whiteflies, it’s necessary to intervene early for effective control. Regular inspection of your geraniums for early signs of whiteflies helps. Non-chemical methods like yellow sticky traps nearby your geraniums can attract and trap adult whiteflies. Beneficial insects like lacewings, ladybugs, and certain species of parasitic wasps can also help control their population. If the infestation is severe, consider using insecticidal soaps or oil sprays that are safe for your plants. These are directly applied to the foliage and especially the undersides of leaves where whiteflies often reside.

– Spider mites️

Description Small insects that feed on plant sap, causing desiccation of leaves and damage to blooms.
Damage Stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and webbing on plants.
Control Prevent and control spider mites by regularly inspecting plants, removing infested leaves, using insecticidal soap, and maintaining proper humidity levels.

Impact of Spider Mites on Geraniums:
Spider mites are tiny, sap-sucking pests that feed on geraniums, causing damage by draining the plant’s essential nutrients. These pests typically start by discoloring the leaves, which may initially appear as light spots. As the infestation progresses, the leaves might turn yellow or brown and eventually fall off. Spider mites work fast, and a large population can cause significant damage or even kill your plants if left untreated.

Solutions for Spider Mite Infestation:
Getting control over spider mites requires consistent efforts. First, isolate the affected geranium to prevent the mites from spreading to other plants. Regularly rinse your plant’s leaves with a powerful water spray to dislodge the mites. For a severe infestation, use a miticide or insecticidal soap, applying it as per the packaging instructions. Introducing natural predators like ladybugs and lacewings can help control the mite population as well. Keeping the plant’s environment humid can also deter spider mites, as they prefer dry conditions. Regular inspection of your plants can catch an infestation early, making treatment simpler and more effective.

– Mealybugs

Description Small, white, soft-bodied insects with waxy secretions, found on stems and leaves, causing stunted growth and honeydew secretion.
Damage Causing stunted growth and yellowing of leaves.
Control Implement regular inspections, use insecticidal soap or neem oil sprays, introduce natural predators, and isolate infected plants.

Mealybugs Impact on Geraniums

Mealybugs are notorious pests known to infest geraniums. They suck out sap from the plant, causing deformities and stunted growth. The formation of honeydew can further lead to the development of sooty mold on the plant’s surface.

Mealybugs Treatment

The most effective way to manage a mealybug infestation is early detection and frequent monitoring. The first step must be manually removing visible mealybugs using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to kill them. Another effective solution is using insecticidal soap over the entire plant, paying special attention to the undersides of leaves where pests often hide. Lastly, predatory insects like ladybugs and lacewings may serve as a natural solution, if introduced into the infested environment.

– Japanese beetles

Description This pest is a significant threat to geraniums, known for its voracious feeding habits and metallic green appearance.
Damage Devouring leaves, flowers, and buds, leaving behind skeletonized plants.
Control Implement physical barriers such as netting or row covers and use organic insecticides to deter and eliminate the pest.

Japanese Beetles Damage: Japanese beetles are known to be quite damaging to geraniums. They are heavy feeders that chew on the plant’s leaves and flowers, causing significant injury. Over time, the infestation can lead to discolored, skeletonized leaves and dying flowers, severely affecting the overall health and aesthetics of your geraniums.

Solutions to Japanese Beetles: Deterrence and control of Japanese beetles can involve several strategies. First, regular inspection and hand removal of beetles can help to control minor infestations. Simply handpick them off and drop them into soapy water to kill them. If the infestation is large, consider using a pheromone trap to attract and trap the beetles to prevent them from reaching the plant. For ongoing chemical control, applying a pesticide such as Neem oil or a product containing Pyrethrin could be useful. Rotation of these chemicals can help prevent resistance. Furthermore, beneficial nematodes and Milky Spore can be incorporated into the soil where larvae live and feed, this biological control is very effective against grubs – the beetles’ larval stage.

Remember, always observe good cultural practices to keep your geraniums healthy. Providing optimal growing conditions can significantly increase their resistance to pests and diseases. Implementing a balanced approach, using both cultural and chemical methods will offer the best protection for your geraniums against Japanese beetles.

– Deer

Description Implement physical barriers such as netting or row covers and use organic insecticides to deter and eliminate the pest.
Damage Severe leaf damage, stunted growth, and potential destruction of entire plants.
Control Implement fencing or repellents, such as strong-smelling plants or predator urine, to deter deer from consuming geraniums.

Deer and the Damage They Cause:

Deer are known to feed on geraniums causing significant damage to your plants. Deer feeding typically results in ragged and torn leaves, missing flowers, and broken stems, which can severely impact the growth and development of your plants.


To protect your geraniums from deer, fencing is an effective method. Enclosing your garden with a high fence will deter deer from entering and feeding on your plants. Combining fencing with decoys or scare tactics (like motion-activated sprinklers or lights) is even more effective.

The use of deer repellents can also prove beneficial. These contain scents that deer find unattractive, discouraging them from approaching your plants. Repeat the application of repellents after heavy rain.

For a more eco-friendly solution, include deer-resistant plants in your garden. Planting these around your geraniums can serve as a natural deterrent because deer tend not to feed on these plants.

Lastly, if deer are a persistent problem, you may consider contacting local wildlife authorities who can advise on local regulations and possible solutions.

– Rabbits

Description Small mammals with long ears and fluffy tails, known for nibbling on geranium leaves and causing damage to plants.
Damage Rabbits are causing extensive damage to our geranium plants.
Control Install physical barriers, such as fences or netting, around the geraniums to prevent rabbits from accessing and damaging the plants.

Rabbits and Geraniums

Rabbits are common pests in gardens and they also eat geraniums but not as frequently as other plants. They typically nibble the leaves and stems, leaving a ragged, irregular edge unlike the cleanly cut damage insects often cause.
The best way to safeguard your geraniums from rabbits is by creating a physical barrier. Use chicken wire or mesh fencing around your flower bed or garden area. Another effective method can be applying repellents designed to keep rabbits away, however, these need to be reapplied after rain or watering.
Alternatively, you could incorporate plants that rabbits dislike, such as onions or garlic, among your geraniums. This companion planting can naturally deter them. Also, consider using a motion-activated sprinkler which can scare away rabbits.