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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - June 24, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Propagation, Shrubs
Title: Squirrels eating seed pods of Rock Rose in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Squirrel(s) have been ripping the branches off my rock rose bushes in order to eat the seed pods. Previously we had problems with squirrel(s) gnawing on our garden ornaments. I sprayed the ornaments w/ tabasco sauce and water and that stopped them. Will it harm the rock roses if I spray them w/ tabasco sauce and water? Or is there a better way to deter them?

ANSWER:

We don't really have any idea if tabasco sauce would hurt the roses, but we have another idea. Try deadheading the flowers off your bushes as soon as the bloom begins to droop and create the seed pods. You won't get any seeds, of course, but you probably are not getting any now. The squirrels, like the other wildlife that we share Central Texas  with, are suffering from the heat and drought and looking for sustenance wherever they can find it. If you are interested in propagating the rock rose, you can't gather seeds until they turn brown, by which time the squirrels (and the seeds) will be long gone. However, Pavonia lasiopetala (Rock rose) can also be propagated by taking stem cuttings. Here are propagation instructions for that method:

"Pavonia can also be propagated from softwood tip cuttings. Take cuttings in spring before plant starts to bloom, or on nursery plants kept cut back. Cuttings with big buds or blooms are at a disadvantage. They root and grow fast in hot weather. Cut a stem three to six inches long, just below the node. Remove all but the top leaves and place in vermiculite."

Since the Rock Rose is not a "true" rose, but a member of the Malvaceae (mallow) family, it is only woody at the base. The softer branches above are no match for the squirrels, but if the seed pods are never allowed to develop, maybe the animals will give up and go away. Or, maybe it will rain, and the normal diet of the squirrels will return, whatever it is. We thought they just ate acorns and nuts, but apparently they have adjusted to our difficult conditions.

 

From the Image Gallery


Rock rose
Pavonia lasiopetala

Rock rose
Pavonia lasiopetala

Rock rose
Pavonia lasiopetala

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