5 types of slug resistant plants – the easy way to beat snails and slugs in the garden

March 11th, 2023
Posted In: Gardening know how

Planting slug resistant plants is the most effective way of stopping slugs and snails from devouring your garden.

You may have read articles promising that you can get rid of slugs and snails permanently.

But you can’t. They will always return, no matter what you use.

Snail and slug resistant plants are the key to a pest-free garden

Garden snails were imported as food into Northern Europe by the Roman Empire and have since spread all over the world. Slugs, too, are similar worldwide because they’ve travelled on plants. Gardeners everywhere have been trying get rid of them permanently for thousands of years. They haven’t succeeded.

However, you can minimise their ability to cause damage. So I talked to Stephen Ryan, of The Horti-Culturalists YouTube channel, who also has a nursery selling rare plants called Dicksonia Rare Plants.

If you’re in the nursery business, you really do need to make sure that slugs and snails don’t eat your profits!

Snail and slug resistant plants

  1. Most woody shrubs and trees (especially conifers!)
  2. Plants with hard, often shiny, leaves (camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas, mahonia)
  3. Plants with resinous, herb-flavoured leaves (lavender, rosemary, salvia, monarda, agastache, teucrium).
  4. Plants with furry/fuzzy leaves (artemisia, helichrysum, phlomis, stachys)
  5. Roses are generally slug/snail resistant. Their leaves are relatively high off the ground when they emerge in the spring.
Most trees are slug and snail resistant

Most trees are slug and snail resistant, but if the leaves or fruits are very tasty, they will climb! However, trees are generally big enough so that you won’t notice a little slug damage.

Mix slug resistant plants with vulnerable ones to minimise damage

Stephen says that mixing up slug resistant plants with vulnerable ones will help reduce slug and snail damage.

If you have a whole row or border full of one kind of tasty plant, it’s much easier for slugs and snails to chomp through them all overnight. Generally plants with soft, nutritious leaves are the ones the slugs and snails will go for. Plants that slugs and snails love include:

How to get rid of slugs and snails naturally

As we reported in Gardening For Biodiversity, scientific tests at the Royal Horticultural Society showed that barrier methods don’t seem to stop slugs and snails eating your plants.

Barrier methods include putting a copper ring around plants or surrounding them with horticultural grit, crushed eggshells or coffee grounds.

The RHS say this is because slugs can burrow underground and therefore bypass the barriers.

Stephen says that he has found copper to work, but in specific ways: ‘If you put a copper ring round a plant, bury several inches of the ring into the earth, so the slugs can’t burrow under it,’ he advises.

He also found a copper spray that worked on the rim of pots but it is no longer commercially available.

Many people swear by barrier methods and there will probably be more research into them at the RHS.

Plants with herby or resinous leaves are slug and snail resistant

Plants with herby or resinous leaves are slug and snail resistant

Make your garden more wildlife friendly….BUT

One way of keeping slugs and snails down is to encourage their predators by making your garden more wildlife friendly. This means leaving some grass long, leaving piles of leaves and twigs, not using chemicals, and having a good range of trees, plants and flowers to provide food and shelter.

However, the habitats you create by leaving grass long and leaving piles of twigs etc also create good habitats for slugs and snails.

Veg growing experts, such as  YouTuber Huw Richards, will advise you to keep slugs and snails to a minimum by keeping the area around the vegetable beds tidy, with short grass.

It’s a dilemma. If you have enough space, maybe keep the wildlife friendly area away from the veg beds?

Put pots on shelves to keep them away from slugs and snails

Stephen has found that putting plants in pots on shelving helps deter the slugs and snails.

The RHS agrees with this. Helen Bostock, their Senior Wildlife Specialist, says that slugs and snails can climb, but they often won’t bother.

Stephen uses galvanised metal framed stands because they can withstand rain and slugs and snails don’t like climbing them. You could also use ornamental metal shelving. (Note that links to Amazon are affiliate and help support this blog. Other links are not affiliate.)

Put pots on shelves to deter slugs and snails.

Put pots on shelves to deter slugs and snails. But check the undersides of the pot first! It’s a good way of protecting young plants until they’re big enough to plant in the ground.

However, pots themselves offer a good habitat for slugs and snails. Stephen says he can pick up any pot in his nursery and find a slug sheltering under it during the day.  So check the bottom of the pot before putting it on the shelf!

And Huw Richards advises you not to keep plants in pots near the veg growing area for the same reason.

The underside of pots can be a good slug and snail habitat

The underside of pots is a good slug and snail habitat. Keep pots away from vulnerable plants such as salads.

Protect young plants from slugs and snails

If you can protect tender plants, such as dahlias, cannas and delphiniums, when they are young, then a few nibbled leaves matters less when they are older.

Stephen advises growing these plants on in pots, on shelves, until they’re big enough to withstand some nibbling. When you plant them out, they may have some holes in the leaves at the bottom, but the flower display at the top should still be good.

If you’re growing tender plants in the ground, you can buy organically approved slug pellets containing ferric phosphate. Use just a few around very young plants as they come up. Many people say that even though these slug pellets won’t harm birds or pets, they are still damaging to soil organisms.

Tolerate some slug damage in plants

You won’t notice a few nibbles around the base once plants are large enough. This is the base of the group of plants seen in the next pic.

Your ultimate slug and snail garden strategy

Know which plants are most vulnerable to slugs and snails and plant them with slug resistant plants. This will slow their progress! Vulnerable plants include lilies, cannas, hostas and all members of the pea family.

Late season plants can be more slug resistant

If you get a hot, dry summer, then slugs and snails retreat into walls and under stones. They become much less active. So plants which do most of their growing and flowering later in the summer may escape the worst of the slug damage. This includes dahlias and cannas.

Snail and slug resistant plants often have fuzzy or furry leaves

Look for fuzzy or furry leaves – they’re snail and slug resistant plants

Snail and slug resistant plants

Plants with woody stems, such as roses and other shrubs are often slug and snail resistant, especially when their foliage is high up off the ground.

Other garden pests and how to deal with them

If you want to make a minimum use of chemicals in your garden, then it’s important to be able to identify the pests and to know when chemicals really do have to be used in order to keep them under control. Read this post on how to deal with box tree moth caterpillar if you have bare or brown patches on your box (boxwood) plants.

And you can find out here how to keep earwigs, slugs and snails off your dahlias without using chemicals.

It’s also worth remembering that household remedies, such as salt or vinegar, have been manufactured – they’re not wholly ‘natural’. If something is effective enough to kill off pests, it is also potentially powerful enough to do other damage. It’s important to find out what that damage could be. Only then can you can decide if the remedy is worth trying or whether it could create more problems than it solves.

For example, sprinkling lots of salt across your soil against snails will also damage your soil. When it rains, the salt will dissolve into the soil and affect the way plants grow. In some countries, it’s illegal to use road salt on gardens for this reason.

Pin to remember slug resistant plants

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5 types of slug resistant plants and how to outwit slugs and snails


6 comments on "5 types of slug resistant plants – the easy way to beat snails and slugs in the garden"

  1. Jennifer Richardson says:

    Wool is very effective. If you live in sheep country collect wool from hedgerows which often comes with manure! I cut up old wool jumpers and put a single layer iover the drainage hole before filling and planting the pot plus a barrier layer on the top. Dark or earth colours work best!

  2. Elaine says:

    My chinese friend rims her vulnerable plant pots with foil – much cheeper and more readily available than copper.

  3. .Lesley Forwood says:

    Superb article and I shall be trying out the strategies- notice that no mention was made of Nematodes which I have used for years and have found that I get less damage year on year, which leads me to wonder if they do breed in the soil…

    1. I understand that nematodes work well, but I haven’t tried them, partly because I’ve found it difficult to get exactly the right weather to put them out. I try only to include things I’ve tried myself or which my interviewee has direct experience of and Stephen doesn’t use nematodes either. However, I think they sound very promising and I want to try them at some point!

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