Snails are known for not being particularly picky when munching their way through your garden so we’re going to look at what kinds of things garden snails eat and how we can use this knowledge to prevent snails in the first place:
Are Snails Herbivores?
There are many different species of snails and most of them are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter. That being said, many of these species lead a herbivorous lifestyle and will only eat animal matter if it is necessary.
There are even a small number of carnivorous species of snails. The species you are most likely to find on your plants, the common garden snail, primarily acts as a herbivore.
What Plant Parts do Garden Snails Eat?
Snails will eat almost any part of the plant. They tend to ignore the flowers and will usually consume the leaves, the stalks and the fruit, if any is grown on the plant.
Snails prefer to eat plant matter that is alive, in contrast to another common pest, the slug, that prefers to eat plant matter that is decaying or already dead.
What Crops do Garden Snails Eat?
Growing fruits and vegetables can be a difficult task if snails are abundant in your garden. They will eat most types of crops but below is a short list of their favourite crops. You should avoid growing these if you already have a snail problem in your garden:
This leafy green vegetable is a favourite of both snails and slugs. There are many varieties of cabbage and snails are quite happy to feast themselves on any of them.
You need to make sure that your cabbages can be adequately protected from snails, otherwise, you will have a lot of trouble getting any yield from your crop.
Snails love strawberries. They are much more concerned with eating the fruit off of a strawberry plant rather than the rest of it. However, they will eat the stalks, leaves, and flowers off of a strawberry plant if there is nothing else for them to munch on.
When growing strawberries, try to keep them in raised beds or off of the ground altogether. If not, you might just be swarmed by snails as well as slugs.
Growing cucumbers is especially difficult as snails prefer this crop when it is not fully grown as it is easier for them to eat. This is another example of a crop where snails would rather eat the fruit than the plant.
Whilst this is a list of their favourite foods, you should be aware that most crops are susceptible to slug infestation and you should keep your eye on them, no matter what it is you’re growing.
What Flowers do Garden Snails Eat?
Whilst snails seem to prefer crops to flowers, this does not mean that any flowers you plant will be safe. In fact, snails have a few favourite flowers that they will quite happily inhabit and feed on.
Below is a short list of some of their favourite flowers:
Hollyhock is a lovely plant that can be quite easy to grow in bedding areas or in pots. However, these pretty flowers also have an unwanted effect of attracting snails. You can protect these plants by surrounding the area with gravel or repellent plants as a barrier.
Because marigolds do a good job at attracting snails, many gardeners use marigold as a snail trap plant. This means that the marigolds will attract the snails and then other flowers in the garden will be left alone.
Many people like to get rid of dandelions in their garden as they are classified as a weed. That being said, keeping some around may actually be good for your garden.
Like with the marigolds, you can use dandelions to lure the snails away from other plants so that they can grow freely without being bothered by snails.
Why Do Snails Not Eat Every Plant?
Thankfully for gardeners, there are actually a decent variety of flowers that snails will in fact, not eat. Whilst the list is not as extensive as the list of plants they will eat, they can still help gardeners choose which plants would be good in their garden.
But why is it that snails will not actually eat every plant that they come across? There are actually two main reasons as to why a snail may find a plant unappetising and they are listed below:
Whilst many humans appreciate the smell of many flowers, you need to remember that flowers have evolved their smell to help them thrive. Many of them have evolved particular smells that deter pests that will eat them, lavender is an example.
Because of the way snails travel, many plants have evolved to have hairy or furry textures on their stems. This means that it is both uncomfortable for the snail and it prevents them from being able to climb the stalks to the leaves. An example of a plant that has evolved in this way is geraniums.
To summarise, many snails are omnivores but most stick to a herbivorous lifestyle. They prefer to eat living plant matter rather than decaying plant matter. Some of a snail’s favourite crops include cabbage and strawberries.
Snails also like to consume a number of flowers; these include hollyhocks and marigolds. There are some flowers which snails will not eat. This is either because of their smell, an example being lavender, or because of their texture, an example being geraniums.
Ryan is a keen gardener from the UK who’s spent years dealing with countless, common pests over the years so knows the ins and outs of how to deal with pests in the garden