What's eating the tops of my dahlias?

julianna_il(z6 IL)May 29, 2007

Went out this morning to check on things, and the tops of my dahlias are just gone. The stems are there, but the few leaves....gone.

Any ideas?

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Peter Cotton Tail has stuck again. Rabbits love the tender shoots of dahlias. Liquid Fence will keep them away.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 6:04PM
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jroot(5A Ont. Canada (near Guelph))

I have seen the squirrels eating mine right in front of me ... 6 feet away. Eating the tops of my dinner plate dahlias. I had a great picture of one doing so, but can't find it now.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 9:22PM
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I didn't know that Rabbits and squirrels would eat dahlias! I heard that deer tend to avoid eating dahlias. I live near Vancouver, B.C. Canada and guess what eats our dahlias here....SLUGS & SNAILS. I use a margarine container with the bottom cut out over the dahlia shoots until the dahlia is about 6 inches tall. Then it isn't a problem after that. It sounds like you have a real problem keeping critters away from your dahlia. I also have never heard of liquid fence. What is that?

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 1:03AM
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Poochella(7 WA)

M. Alex, Liquid Fence is a stinky spray one applies at intervals to discourage deer from desirable plants. Works great, smells bad only for a few minutes to the human nose. You start out with weekly sprays around the garden (or edges of your property where they might pass through) to discourage the beasts, then can do touch ups after heavy rain, or at 2-3 week intervals.

We have deer and I've not lost one dahlia to them. They've nibbled my blueberries only inches from dahlias, and never so much as a leaf was lost on the latter. But the phlox...... the phlox took a beating before Liquid Fence.

Do you use slug bait as well as the margarine tubs Alex?

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 10:08AM
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well, my dahlias are on a 3rd floor balcony, so I can rule out deer, rabbits, squirrels, snails & slugs -- but something keeps eating the petals off my dahlias -- just the petals. What could it be? A bird??? A butterfly???

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 11:08AM
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Poochella(7 WA)

Caterpillar? Have you seen anything that might be caterpillar droppings? Beetles?

Is the whole petal gone, or just chewed enough to aggravate you? I don't know if earwigs could have come in in your soil or plants and made it to the 3rd floor, but they are notorious on dahlias.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 1:40PM
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Poochella, that reminded me of that post where you said you loved giving friends beautiful dahlia bouquets only to see a few earwigs hop out of the blossoms and across the table yewww...lol!

Nah, I had an earwig problem for a while but they really didn't do any conspicuous damage---but that's in my zone.

Maybe a bird looking for nesting material???

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 10:45PM
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okay, I'm a newbie -- after reading all the posts about dahlia petals dropping off, AND after posting my question about what could be eating them, I went out and looked at the ground BELOW my dahlia -- sure enough, the petals are dropping off. Doh!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 5:10PM
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I've been growing dahlias for about ten years, and this week, I have discovered that at least 20 of my plants have been reduced to stubs. We just moved to the area (RI) and know there are deer, coyote and fox here. According to neighbours, there are no bunnies around ... what could be chomping on my dahlias? And, is there still a chance they can produce flowers - can they start growing again, on the two inch stubs that are there? I am so disappointed!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 8:24AM
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jroot(5A Ont. Canada (near Guelph))

Do you have squirrels or chipmunks? I thought mine were safe, but alas they frequently fall victim to the attacks from squirrels, and chipmunks. Last year, my neighbour caught more than 20 chipmunks and red squirrels, after which she had many more flowers survive.

Here is a young grey squirrel on my patio, right in front of me.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 9:26AM
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I have never seen anything like that before. I think the bee bee gun is in order.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 12:24PM
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I think the squirrels in our area have too short a life span to be eating the dahlias - the coyotes get a few every evening, so the squirrels spend most of their time in trees here! In any case ... I discovered that the culprit is SLUGS. Last night, we placed cups of beer in the ground near the dahlias ... also spread some coffee grounds out there ... this morning there are slugs in the cups. So, I think we can now move forward with our control measures.

Hysterical photo!!!!

P.S. Does anyone know if dahlias can recover if they have been reduced to stubs?

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 8:22AM
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Poochella(7 WA)

Jroot, I love that squirrel photo. He has such a sleek coat, bright eyes, and well-fed look. Looks to have had plenty of Vitamin A along the way :)

Pianist, if there are nodes on either side of your stubs, they may send out growth, or the eye/s may send out regrowth and you can go from there. I had one that sort of frumped at ground level so I dug it up, broke off the shoot and it's regrowing again now (2 weeks later) from the same eye. Good luck on yours doing the same.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 9:36AM
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Thanks very much - I did the beer and coffee treatment, and it is working! I'm digging up the worst damaged and trying again ....

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 6:55PM
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Well, I've lost a dahlia to a much more easily identified suspect - DH! He feels really badly about it. I had too many tubers for the space I planned, so I popped one in the ground in the yard near a Gardenia that is still small this year, and he didn't know it was there (despite the 4'tall stake right next to it). I was told after this incident that fluorescent tags should now be applied to any new plants not contained in clearly marked and bordered beds. Ha Ha. He reduced it to 4" stalks with no foliage using the weed whacker. I'm hoping that it recovers, but I'm not going to hold my breath...just thought you guys would get a laugh out of this one. He's cuter than the squirrel in the photo, so I'm going to let him live.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 10:08PM
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Every morning I find something has cut off one leaf of my dahlia plant. It is laying beside the plant so whatever it is does not eat it, just cuts it off.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 4:04PM
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Regarding critters, we have had an awful year here in Southern California. Bunnies have stripped many plants in my yard but have spared my dahlias.
I tried liquid fence, it did not work for me and smelled awful, I tried Rabbit Scram, that also did not work. I laid down Fox Urine and that did work. It was expensive but it should keep out all small critters.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 9:51PM
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I love the picture of the squirrel! I have found two of my dahlias this morning with the stems chewed off; leaves are fine but the main stem was chewed about 1 1/2 feet tall. That seems too tall for a rabbit to have chewed up so high so I'm thinking deer since we do have a lot of them around here. I hope mine come back in time to bloom this year because I only have a couple and they were mail order :-(

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 4:02PM
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Well for the first time I saw the squirrel jump up on my dahlia and bent a branch down. Not sure if my idea will work but i will try and keep a dish of bread and sunflowers seed maybe if he eats the food he will leave my dahlia alone. He was eating the mullberries but now they are finished and the birdfeeder have safflower seed and the squirrels don't like that.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 8:55PM
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No dahlias in there but I think the chipmunks or grey squirrels are chewing on the very bottom of the stems? Is that possible and what can be done before they eat them all down!? Also something really likes the taste of petunia leaves and some flowers... what could that be?

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 7:50PM
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