Gardeners hate snails as they munch their way through cabbages, hostas and dahlias. But what do snails eat? Do they only eat your favourite perennials or will they eat other crops, flowers and bugs?
Snails will eat a combination of plant and animal matter. Their diet includes plants, soil, worms, fungi and algae but it will differ between snail species and the age of the snail.
What Plants Do Snails Eat?
Regarding plants, snails are not too fussy and usually consume any part of the plant. This includes the leaves, stems, roots, bark and fruit. They are also not too concerned with the state of the plant as they will eat it alive and healthy or when it is dying and decaying.
Unfortunately, the list of plants that they will enjoy eating is lengthy. Here are some of the popular plant varieties that seem to be snail magnets:
- Marigolds and Sunflowers
Marigolds and sunflowers are so attractive to snails that they are often used as trap plants. If you want to keep snails out of your vegetable patch, for example, then planting a row of marigolds nearby can keep them distracted.
- Delphiniums and Lupins
The main issue with delphiniums and lupins is that snails love the early, new growth. Once established, they seem to hold up a little better, so it’s a good idea to protect the new growth with cloches or natural pellets.
Hostas are notoriously loved by pesky snails who will munch away on the hosta until it becomes withered and dies.
Snails won’t limit themselves to leaves and flowers but will also munch through tubers on plants such as dahlias.
What Crops Do Snails Eat?
Unfortunately, snails aren’t content with ruining your flower beds. They’ll also work through various vegetable, fruit and herb crops.
Unfortunately, the list of crops that snails will eat is extensive and if you grow vegetables in the garden, then it is almost guaranteed that you’ll have to deal with snails.
Here is a selection of favoured crops that snails will enjoy devouring:
- Green Leafed Vegetables
This is undoubtedly the biggest snail magnet that you can grow. Snails adore green-leafed veg. This includes almost all types of cabbages and lettuces that you can find.
You won’t find much damage done to this plant’s leaves or flowers, but you will likely find that a snail has been chomping down on the fruit itself. It couldn’t get much worse!
Whilst pumpkins are very attractive to snails, they don’t eat the fruit of the pumpkin. They eat the plant leaves, which can stunt the growth, but the actual fruit will be left untouched.
This Isn’t an Exhaustive List!
What’s worrying is that this list is not complete in any way. Snails aren’t fussy. They will work through pretty much any vegetable and fruit you can grow.
Snails are one of the least fussy pests to find in the garden, and they’re also incredibly common.
Even though they are incredibly persistent and a nuisance, we advise against using chemical slug pellets which can negatively impact beneficial insects and plants.
What Else Do Snails Eat?
We will look at the main components of an omnivorous snail’s diet to cover all bases of what kinds of food they eat. Here is a list of some of their main foods:
This is usually consumed by snails that are growing. Growing snails will consume soil and sand to provide a large amount of calcium. This calcium helps them to build up a strong and healthy shell. Adult snails with a fully grown shell do not need this calcium as much and will be less likely to consume soil or sand
Many snails are happy to consume various fungi and mushrooms amongst species of land snails. However, you are less likely to find snails in your garden eating fungi than you are finding ones that eat your crops.
This is not a food for many snails, but it is the main source of nutrition for species of freshwater snails.
- Vegetable Peelings
Often people have compost piles in their garden where they throw food waste such as vegetable peelings. Usually, you will find snails in these compost piles, and there is a reason for that. One favourite thing which snails like to eat includes vegetable and fruit peelings.
Weeds, such as dandelions, can be quite common in gardens. These can be a problem for gardeners as they constantly have to remove them. However, snails love to feed on weeds. Finally, a positive of snails!
Snails have a varied diet and love munching on seeds too. Snails can eat seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, and hemp seeds. Snails will eat the seeds on the ground or find them in the soil.
For most species of omnivorous or carnivorous snails, worms appear to be the main source of animal matter in their diets. The most popular worms that snails eat are earthworms, although some larger carnivorous snails will eat larger species of worms.
No, snails do not eat spiders nor do spiders eat snails. They seem to coexist without impacting each other’s lives.
Because of how snails have evolved, they can eat almost anything and likely will if they are hungry enough. Snails will eat most of the plants that you may have in your garden, and this can cause a lot of damage to your growing flowers.
Preventing snails from getting to your plants in the first place is the best way to protect them from being eaten.
Are There Plants That Snails Do Not Eat?
If you are thinking of adding to your garden, planting things that snails will not eat is a great way to ensure their safety from pesky molluscs.
There are not many plants that snails will avoid eating, but there are a few that you can use to drive them away:
Snails dislike the smell of lavender and therefore will not eat this plant. Lavender is great to grow as it attracts beneficial creatures such as butterflies, but it works to repel pests. It is also a hardy plant that smells wonderful.
Snails actually don’t like these plants because they have hairy stems and are not appetising, to say the least. Interspersing these flowers throughout your garden is a great idea because not only does their stem texture deter snails, but it is also a texture that snails do not like to cross.
This lovely and fragrant herb is easy to grow and quite hardy. As well as its appealing smell, it is also nice to look at as it grows some beautiful white flowers. A couple of other benefits of this herb are the smell deters snails and slugs.
While snails do not like these plants, they are not always 100% effective at driving snails away. Some snails will ignore the off-putting presence of flowers in favour of food if they are desperate enough.
The best way to keep snails out of your garden is to combine various methods that work to deter them.
Snails will eat just about anything. There are species of both carnivorous and herbivorous snails.
Most snails eat large amounts of plant matter, both live and decaying. Land snails also like to eat fungi and worms. Freshwater snails eat lots of algae. Snails will eat almost any type of crop in your garden.
Some plants that snails won’t eat and will be deterred by include lavender and rosemary.
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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