What is Eating the Leaves of My Dahlias: Everything that Could Be Eating Your Dahlia Leaves

Dahlias are a welcome addition to any garden, but the insects and animals they attract may not. Here are proven ways to determine ‘what is eating the leaves of my dahlias?’ and the solutions you can use to keep them out.

What is eating the leaves of my dahlias: Insects 

what is eating the leaves of my dahlias

There are quite a lot of insects that feed on dahlia leaves and stems, including the following:

  • Slugs and Snails
  • Grasshoppers
  • Caterpillars
  • Spider Mites
  • Thrips
  • Earwigs

Slugs and Snails

You’ll know it’s a slug or snail when the damage is noticeable and there is slime on the stems or leaves of your dahlia plant. Left unchecked they can raze whole plants and make them weak.


A minor and occasional nuisance, grasshoppers can sometimes eat off dahlia leaves. They usually go away on their own.


Another voracious dahlia leaf eater, caterpillars need to consume large amounts to store energy and enter a dormant state before becoming butterflies. Curled foliage is a definite giveaway that a caterpillar has passed by.

Spider Mites

what is eating the leaves of my dahlias

Nearly impossible to see except with a magnifying glass. You can check for spider mite damage and infestation by inspecting your dahlia and seeing if there are thin webs. They appear more in dry and hot weather.


Thrips are pests that love to drink dahlia sap. When they feast, the leaves become stippled and drop from the plant over time. It’s somewhat difficult to eliminate thrips as they flit away or move temporarily when you apply pesticide.

How to Treat Dahlias for Insects

what is eating the leaves of my dahlias


There are several anti-insect compounds you can use to keep slugs, snails and caterpillars from getting to your dahlias, including Bt and diatomaceous earth.

Bt, or bacillus thuringiensis is a natural bacteria for caterpillars, while DE or diatomaceous earth serve as a deterrent for slugs and snails.

For thrips, aphids and spider mites, a regular application of an insecticidal soap should suffice. Follow instructions for the best results and reapply if the pests are still present after 7 to 10 days.

Natural Remedies

You can treat common dahlia plant pests with prevention and natural methods. It’s said that healthy plants are more resistant against pests, and the same holds true for dahlia.

Mulch shouldn’t be more than 3 inches deep so it won’t attract snails and slugs. Also, make it a point to prune damaged dahlia stems and leaves and remove debris so the earwigs and insects won’t have any place to hide.

Handpick caterpillars and snails using gloves and protective gear, and drop the ones you get in a bucket or pail full of soap and water.

Animals that Like to Eat Dahlias

what is eating the leaves of my dahlias

The list of animals that love to snack on dahlia are the following:

  • Deer
  • Squirrels
  • Mice

What Animals are the most likely to eat Dahlia


Deer will just about munch on every kind of plant that’s edible, and this includes dahlias and its young shoots and leaves. When you see large chewed-up leaves and stems several inches long then it’s likely the work of a grazing deer.


Squirrels eat not just the dahlia leaves but its bulbs as well. They will try to dig it up and cause massive damage in the process.


Mice and its similar cousins gophers, voles and chipmunks will try to get to the dahlia’s flower bulbs and dig it up for consumption. When your plants have been upended and some are missing then it’s most likely mice or chipmunks.

How to Stop Animals from Eating Dahlias

You can try to stop deer from eating your prized dahlias by setting up a fence around it. Alternatively, you can plant deer-repellent plants such as lavender or marigolds or use commercial repellent products around your dahlias as a line of defense.

As for squirrels and mice you’ll need to keep food sources away from your yard or garden. Remove debris and fallen berries, acorns and nuts to discourage them from staying around too long.

What is eating the leaves of my dahlias: Final thoughts

You can try a homemade solution such as garlic pepper and cayenne powder and sprinkle it around your dahlias so they get a spicy surprise when they try to dig up your plants.

Alternatively, you can get a dog to chase the squirrels and chipmunks away from your plants.

Related Article: Dahlia Unwin Care