I have several varieties of sunflowers growing in my garden because it feels like these plants bring sunshine to my yard (and my life).
Sadly, one morning, I discovered that something had been snacking on my sunflower leaves.
What could be eating my sunflower leaves?
Needing to solve this problem as soon as possible, I rushed to my local garden center for advice – and a solution. Here’s what I learned.
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What Is Eating My Sunflower Leaves?
Sunflower leaves may be eaten by pests and animals. If the leaves of your sunflower are being eaten at night, cutworms are the culprits since they hide in the soil during the day. Other common sunflower leaf-eating pests include beetles, grasshoppers, moths, aphids, caterpillars, slugs and snails, and leafcutter bees. Birds like finches love to eat sunflower leaves, and animals that munch on sunflower leaves include squirrels, deer, rabbits, rats, mice, voles, and chipmunks.
9 Pests That Eat Sunflower Leaves
There are quite a several pests that love eating sunflower leaves:
Pest 1: Cutworms
If something is eating your sunflower leaves during nighttime, then cutworms (the larvae of brown moths) are likely to blame.
During the day, these pests hide in the soil, which is why you don’t find them when you go looking.
Cutworms eat sunflower leaves and stems.
Solution for a Cutworm Problem:
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth (DE) all around the soil of your sunflowers. The DE will dry out the cutworms’ shells and they’ll die.
Pest 2: Beetles
Various types of beetles like the Mexican bean beetle and Colorado beetle love eating the foliage of sunflowers.
These pests prefer to eat young leaves, and if the sunflower plant is small, the leaf-eating beetles can have a major negative effect on the growth of the plant.
Solution for a Beetle Problem:
Get rid of beetles by picking them off the sunflowers by hand, spraying them with a neem oil solution or insecticides,
or attracting predators like toads, robber flies, and other beetles.
Pest 3: Grasshoppers
When I first saw that something was eating my sunflower leaves, the professional working at the garden center did suspect grasshoppers.
They are usually some of the first culprits that feast on sunflower leaves.
In small numbers, grasshoppers don’t do much damage, but I had a whole infestation,
and if I didn’t act quickly, the rest of my sunflower plants would have been in danger.
Solution for a Grasshopper Problem:
Get rid of grasshoppers by introducing natural predators like toads or a couple of praying mantises.
Dust the leaves with flour, spray the plant with a garlic solution, or get rid of weeds.
Pest 4: Moths
You don’t want moths eating your sunflower leaves.
These bugs lay eggs on your sunflowers, and the larvae munch on the leaves and blooms as they hatch.
Eventually, your sunflowers will weaken and die.
Solution for a Moth Problem:
Natural moth predators like bats will take care of your moth issue.
You can also make sure to get rid of the larvae before they grow by spraying insecticides.
Pest 5: Leafcutter Bees
While leafcutter bees are great pollinators, they cut half-moon shapes in your sunflower leaves. So leafcutter bees don’t eat your sunflower leaves.
But if you don’t know the half-moon shapes are caused by the bees to create nest cells for young leafcutter bees, you may think something is eating your sunflower leaves.
Solution for a Leafcutter Bee Problem:
Leafcutter bees don’t cause harm to your sunflowers and they aren’t very aggressive, so to ensure they don’t cut your sunflower leaves, plant mint, citronella, and eucalyptus to repel them.
Or spray your sunflower leaves with a vinegar solution. Don’t use insecticides; let these bees thrive – elsewhere.
Pest 6: Snails and Slugs
Snails and slugs like eating your sunflower leaves at night, and these pests love young foliage.
Solution for a Snail and Slug Problem:
To ensure snails and slugs don’t eat your sunflower leaves, remove them by hand, rear chickens, sprinkle broken eggshells around the plants,
spray the sunflower leaves with a DIY repellent, set a bear trap, or sprinkle coffee grounds on the soil.
Pest 7: Aphids
Also called plant lice or greenflies, aphids are tiny sap-sucking insects that eat your sunflower leaves and sap the nutrients.
Solution for an Aphid Problem:
Insect larvae and some birds will naturally get rid of aphids for you, or you can also spray your sunflowers with a neem oil solution.
Animals That Eat Sunflower Leaves
Some of the animals that love to eat sunflower leaves (and sometimes the other parts of your sunflowers too) are:
Animal 1: Deer
If you want to attract deer, planting sunflowers will do the trick. But if you consider sunflowers as part of your prized possessions in your garden, that’s unlikely.
Solution for a Deer Problem:
Fencing is one way to keep deer away from eating your sunflower leaves.
You can also plant other plants like chili peppers, lavender, and marigold that don’t have an attractive smell.
Or sprinkle bone meal, blood meal, or dead fish heads around your sunflowers.
Animal 2: Rabbits
Rabbits are cute, cuddly animals – until they wreak havoc on your sunflower leaves and stems.
If you have wild rabbits in your area or you keep pet bunnies, you’ll want to keep them away from your sunflowers.
Solution for a Rabbit Problem:
The best way to keep rabbits away from your garden is to sprinkle chili powder around the plants or spray your sunflower leaves with a pepper solution.
You can also sprinkle blood meal or human hair around the sunflowers to deter rabbits.
Animal 3: Finches
Some birds like finches also love eating sunflower leaves.
Solution for a Finch Problem:
Hanging colorful ribbons, wind chimes, and reflective objects like CDs near your sunflower will keep birds away.
You can also plant a sacrifice crop like kale and other plants that appeal to finches more.
Frequently Asked Questions About What Is Eating My Sunflower Leaves
What can I do to prevent pests out of my sunflower leaves?
Keep bugs from eating your sunflower leaves by mixing a homemade remedy of water and dish soap, or spray your plants with a garden-friendly insecticidal soap solution.
Preventative measures like removing plant debris and weeds also help keep pests away from your sunflower plants.
What animals eat sunflower leaves?
Other than pests, various animals enjoy eating sunflower leaves.
The animals that love to snack on your sunflower leaves are chipmunks, rabbits, voles, rats, squirrels, mice, deer, and birds like finches.
My Final Thoughts On What is Eating my Sunflower Leaves
I’ve been carefully checking my sunflower leaves after I got rid of my grasshopper leaf-eating problem. So far, so good.
At least now I know what other pests and animals will enjoy snacking on the leaves of my sunflowers, and I know how to deter and get rid of them.
Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.