What Is Eating My Sunflower Leaves?

Sunflower plants are generally pest-free but they do have certain insects and animals that like to snack on them. If you’re wondering, ‘what is eating my sunflower leaves?’, then take a look below.

What is eating my sunflower leaves: Insects that Like to Eat Sunflowers

what is eating my sunflower leaves

These sunflower insects are probably the culprit behind damaged leaves:


what is eating my sunflower leaves

Grasshoppers love to eat away at sunflower leaves when they chance upon them. Your sunflower will probably live, but if they come en masse then it can become a problem. The same goes for caterpillars.

Sunflower Moths

Gardeners should keep an eye out on these insects- they can decimate a sunflower quickly. The moths lay eggs on the flowers, and once the eggs hatch they get into the flowerheads and consume it from within.


Telltale signs of cutworms are sunflower leaves with holes in them. They’re usually not a major concern unless they infest the plant.

Sunflower Beetles

Like cutworms, sunflower beetles usually do small cuts on young sunflower foliage. Your young plants might be in trouble if it’s not established and there are only a few leaves.

Sunflower Borers

This insect gets in the soil and eats away at the stems. It’s considered a significant pest and kills the plant quickly.

How to Treat Sunflower for Insects

what is eating my sunflower leaves


Sunflowers typically won’t need a specialized insecticide. A general-purpose solution should be able to handle all the pests. Broad spectrum is your best answer, but try to get an organic insecticide so you won’t harm the environment and the surrounding landscape.

Sunflower insecticides may be applied before the plant becomes well-established and while young. You can also treat it when there’s a heavy infestation.

Natural Remedies

Preparing in advance can really help keep away sunflower insects. Before planting, it’s recommended that you clear away debris and weeds to prevent attracting pests. Furthermore, part of sunflower maintenance involves keeping the area neat and tidy.

You can also avoid having to deal with insects and bugs by planting sunflowers in June or early July.

Animals that Like to Eat Sunflowers

what is eating my sunflower leaves

These sunflower eating animals are likely to eat away at the plant and its leaves or flowers:

  • Deer
  • Finches
  • Rabbits


These animals are notorious sunflower eaters who will devour leaves, flowers, and sometimes whole plants. They usually come at night and if in a herd, will cause massive destruction to your yard or garden.


The finch is a small bird that loves sunflower leaves in particular. They can fly in and out, which makes it more difficult to stop them. They usually target the flower seeds but can also eat away at the flower’s yellow leaves.


Rabbits are usually a rare issue but they’re quite destructive especially if you have a vegetable garden. They can dig or create burrows nearby and eat away at your sunflower when the coast is clear.

How to Stop Animals from Eating Sunflowers

Keeping animals away from sunflowers is a bit trickier compared to insects. In a nutshell, the best you can do is to deter them by using a fence, audible devices or scents that they don’t like.

Deer can be usually kept at bay with a strong fence that’s several inches deep. This serves to keep out the rabbits as well.

You can hang shiny moving objects such as shiny windchimes and reflective strips to try and deter finches from landing on and inspecting your garden.

You can use scents that deer and rabbits don’t like, such as chili or fish heads where they’ll be likely to appear and around your sunflowers. However, it’s worth noting that they should be reapplied after a hard rain or after watering your sunflowers the third or fourth time.

Alternatively, you can plant deer- and rabbit-repelling plants such as lavender and marigold near your sunflowers so they will catch the scent and move away. Also, consider planting more sunflowers so that some might survive after a heavy deer or rabbit snacking.

What is eating my sunflower leaves: Final thoughts

Sunflower gardeners can try to purchase repellents at the nearest nursery or home improvement store to stop specific animals from eating sunflower leaves and flowers.

Make sure to read the instructions and follow the directions for the best effect.

Related Articles: When to Transplant Sunflower Seedlings?