Slugs and snails can wreak havoc in the garden, demolishing seedlings and decimating the leaves of larger plants such as hostas. While slug pellets are an effective deterrent, those containing metaldehyde can harm hedgehogs and other wildlife, while other forms of slug control can be time consuming and aren’t guaranteed to work.
It can be expensive and heartbreaking to keep growing the plants you know will be eaten completely, or at least ravaged beyond recognition. So why not stop? There are plenty of beautiful plants that slugs aren’t attracted to. Grow these, instead, and not only will your garden be easier to manage, but you’ll be happier, too, without the heartache of losing treasured plants to hungry molluscs.
Many plants have developed their own resistance to slugs and other leaf-munchers. Some, such as foxgloves and euphorbias, have toxic leaves, while others, such as stachys and pulmonarias, have developed thick or hairy foliage, which slugs and snails appear not to like. Swollen, succulent foliage such as those of sedums and sempervivums can deter slugs, too. In the vegetable patch it’s the aromatic and bitter-tasting leaves such as endive and Mediterranean herbs, which appear to put slugs off.
Browse our list of the best plants to grow that slugs don’t like to eat, below.
Slug-proof plants – Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata ‘Yellow Star’
Aquilegias come in a variety of different colours and tolerate shade. They self seed readily and are perfect for drifting through the border.
Penstemon ‘Pensham Laura’
Euphorbia characias subsp wulfenii
Spurges have a milky sap that can irritate human skin and appears to be unpalatable to slugs and snails. There are many plants within this genus, including annuals, perennials, shrubs and succulents. Their small flowers are held in cupped, often colourful bracts.
Hardy geraniums, commonly known as cranesbill geraniums or simply cranesbills, are reliable, sometimes invasive, but undeniably stunning, long-flowering plants. Within the genus there are tiny alpine types and substantial border plants. There’s a hardy geranium for nearly every garden situation.
Slug-proof plants – Ajuga reptans
Ajuga reptans is a common plant related to the wild bugle, but selected for leaf colour and flower spikes. The foliage is robust, evergreen and dark green, making a good background to the upright spikes of dark blue flowers, produced throughout late spring to mid summer. Ajuga is a versatile plant, equally at home as ground cover under trees or shrubs as in a sunny flower border, and even in containers. It’s especially useful as background foliage in winter containers of ivies, santolina and pansies.
Slug-proof plants – Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea
Foxglove leaves contain the toxin digoxin, which is used in heart medicine but which can also kill a person if taken in the wrong dose. These toxins appear to be harmful to slugs and snails, too, as they avoid eating the leaves.
Slug-proof plants – Astrantia major
Astrantias are well-suited to growing under trees, preferably in moist soil. Their flowers are attractive to bees and other pollinators, and their leaves are ignored by slugs and snails.
Slug-proof plants – Alchemilla mollis
Alchemilla mollis has apple-green, fan-shaped leaves and lime-green flowers. It makes superb groundcover and can be grown in sun or shade.
Slug-proof plants – Japanese anemones
Japanese anemones have rough leaves and bear pretty, daisy-like flowers from late-summer to autumn. They can be invasive in some soils, so you might consider growing them in a container, if you have a small garden.
Shrubby, Mediterranean herbs tend not to be attacked by slugs and snails. This could be down to their woody habit or their oily, unpalatable leaves. Lavender is a fantastic slug-proof plant, bearing blue-green, fragrant leaves and purple, nectar-rich flowers. Perfect for a sun-baked border or container.
Slug-proof plants – campanula
Campanulas include annuals and perennials – some of them evergreen – with bell-shaped, usually blue flowers. Some are used as ground-cover while others grow to 2m in height.
Slug-proof plants – heuchera
Coral bells are typically used in shady planting schemes. Grown for their foliage colour rather than their flowers, their leaves come in a range of colours from lime green to plum. They bear spikes of white-pink flowers in summer.
Slug-proof plants – Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’Flowering in autumn, crocosmias provide a burst of late pollen and nectar for a number of pollinators. Strap-like leaves act as the perfect foil for orange-red blooms.
Hardy cyclamen flower in early spring and late autumn, when little else is flowering. They’re perfect for naturalising under trees or in a shady border.
Ferns come in a range of shapes and sizes, from tiny ones that can grow in cracks in walls, to large tree ferns grown as a statement piece. Shade loving, they tolerate a range of soil conditions and are easy to grow.
Fuchsias bear attractive, pendent flowers throughout summer. The less hard varieties are used in summer-bedding schemes and containers. Some are hardy enough to be grown into a hedge or specimen shrub.
Nasturtium is an annual climber, bearing large, trumpet-shaped blooms in red, maroon or yellow. Its blooms are popular with bees and other pollinators. Its leaves are extremely water-resistant and, while they’re a popular foodplant of the large and small white butterflies, they won’t be eaten by slugs and snails.
Woody hydrangeas are unpalatable to slugs and snails. They come in a range of different forms, with mophead and lacecap flowers. Try growing climbing variety Hydrangea anomala subs. petiolaris for a slug-proof cover of a wall or fence.