How to Prevent Plant Theft


As the weather heats up and your garden reaches the height of its beauty, have you considered how to prevent plant theft? Yes indeed, the theft of plants. Believe it or not, there are unscrupulous people out there who will steal your potted flowers, uproot your tomato plants, pluck the fruit from your trees, and run off with valuable perennials from your yard.

My mother-in-law experienced plant theft a few years ago. She was standing at her kitchen window looking out at the lovely flowering bulbs in her front yard when a car pulled up. A man jumped out with a pair of clippers, swiftly clipped her flowers, and drove away. It happened in just seconds, as my mother-in-law gazed speechlessly at her now-bald bulbs. I kid you not. It was an obviously premeditated drive-by flower robbery!

From the stories of people who have had their plants stolen, I’ve garnered a few tips that will help you to prevent plant theft. (See also: Disguise Your Stuff to Prevent Car Break-ins)

1. Use Big Heavy Planters

To prevent people from stealing potted plants, pot and all, go for big, heavy planters that aren’t easy to move. While heavy planters won’t necessarily prevent a determined criminal from taking your plants, they can be a deterrent to the casual thief. Better yet, chain or bolt the planter to the ground. That way, even if thieves dig up your plants, at least you won’t lose that expensive planter!

2. Choose Flowers Wisely

Apartment Therapy had this great tip — don’t plant those rare bulbs in plain view in your front yard. Actually, don’t plant any expensive flowers where thieves might see them and be tempted. In the front yard, stick to low-growing flowers that are pretty but aren’t tall enough for cut flower arrangements.

3. Harvest Your Fruit

A fruit tree loaded with ripe fruit is very tempting to people who pass by. My husband’s grandparents had an entire tree stripped of ripe grapefruit. Somehow the thieves had managed to pick every single grapefruit, several hundred pounds' worth, and cart it off without being noticed. Harvesting ripe fruit in a timely fashion shows potential thieves that you care about your fruit tree and are keeping an eye on it.

4. Chain Plants Down

If you’re in the process of putting in some landscaping, and your neighborhood is known for plant thieves, consider weaving chain or cable through the roots of your trees as you plant them, and then connecting them either to other trees or to something immovable. Determined thieves might bring cutters, but chaining your plants down might discourage them a bit.

5. Get It on Tape

Catch thieves on tape — or at least fake it. Placing a fake security camera near your plants (but high up where thieves can’t reach) can be an effective deterrent. Alternatively, place a nanny-cam in your front window. Some people have also installed motion-sensor lights to good effect. Putting a few deterrents around your home can make your plants less appealing to thieves, who may then choose to look elsewhere for their loot.

6. Keep Ornaments Out of Sight

Flowers and plants are not the only targets for thieves. If you have a pretty dish, unique ornaments, lanterns, or candles sitting around on your front patio, you can be sure that these small items are tempting to unscrupulous pilferers. Keep them inside the house until you are ready to use them.

7. Put a Lock on Your Gate

If your backyard is fenced in, you might want to consider installing a lock on your gate to protect not only your backyard plants, but also your patio set and barbecue. Believe it or not, people have had plants stolen right off their back patios.

Have you ever had plants stolen? What tips would you recommend to prevent plant theft?

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Guest's picture

Good tips. Fruit theft is prevalent in my parents' neighborhood so my father writes "Stolen from (address)" on the pomelo (Chinese grapefruit) with a permanent marker when it's ripening on the tree.

Camilla Cheung's picture

What an effective method! Great idea!

Guest's picture

Last summer, someone came through our then-unlocked side gate and walked off with six large bags of aluminum cans we were readying for recycling. Definitely put a lock on your gate --- buy it at a back-to-school sale and save $.

Camilla Cheung's picture

It astounds me what people choose to steal!

Guest's picture

An older couple with a wheelbarrow make the rounds through my neighborhood each summer cutting everyone's roses. Usually someone sees them and holler's, but they've already cut down all roses within site and have a wheelbarrow full!

Still no idea how to deter that one.

Camilla Cheung's picture

Boy that just makes my blood boil! Even public shame doesn't deter them? Dang.

Guest's picture
Robbie L

Before we officially bought our home (we lived 2 houses over in a rental) some one came in the yard ripped out a very productive rhubarb and cover it to kill the rest, a few peony plants, a very pretty purple tulip, and took off with half a fence. After we moved in, I uncovered a purple rose under a climbing rose, when it finally bloomed I went to smell it and it was gone with the rest of the branch mangled. I don't have the option of putting anything in a back yard since my lot all faces street. Even putting up a fence won't work since all my roses are right by the road.

Guest's picture

Every year people steal pomegranates from our tree in the front yard. What I have done to discourage this is to write "Please do not steal" in a thick Sharpie on all of the almost ripe and ripe fruit within reach. That actually seems to work pretty well. We don't lose nearly as many.

Guest's picture
Birch Design Group

I've yet to try it but I've read that you can cement down heavy flower pots.

Guest's picture

I live in North Cornwall and IMHO the area seems to have a lot of drug addicts who steal in order to feed their habit. Recently I've been hit twice and over fifty pounds worth of plants, mostly Fuschias in pots have been taken. How far does one have to go to stop this scum? GPS trackers and baseball bats perhaps? I blame the council who allegedly have made fortunes from rehousing "problem people". One thing is sure, things are going to get worse until we get Sharia Law or something similar. In Plymouth all the shops have security guards. The problem is drug addicts who need to steal two to three hundred pounds-worth of goods each day to feed their habit. Pity that we don't have the Chinese Remedy over here.

Guest's picture

Really? Nobody thought of a (guard) dog?

Guest's picture
Flower Lover

Some people have been stealing our beautiful big hibiscus blooms of varied colours for the past one month. And this is killing our plants. They come almost daily when we are at work. We suspected these particular thieves because we have seen them stealing fruits, vegetables and mango leaves from other neighbours. And now they are stealing our flowers for use as their daily offering to their gods. The irony of it all. So cheapskate.

Today, our immediate neighbour came by and what she told us confirmed our suspicion. Can't do much. We are still trying to do something about it. Like putting signs in that particular language so as to let them know we know who are the thieves.

And by the way, dogs won't be of help, if these thieves are the neighbours because the dogs would have got used to them already, as in my case.

Guest's picture

My gardener may be stealing my plants. Unless someone walked into our backyard. If I ask I'm sure he will deny it. He's used clearing overgrowth to take my succulents before.
Even if I hire another how do you find a trustworthy one?

Guest's picture

Well, I came to read this blog about how to avoid plant thefts and that's because I just had 6 potted plants of mine stolen yesterday, while I and my husband were off to office as usual. My neighbour who had seen 2 young guys robbing, she shouted to shoo them away. I was informed when I came back from the office. I am so very depressed that I just want to take all my plants to my mom's place and leave it there for her to look after. I love plants so much. But these people who are idiotic and selfish, discourage me so much. I hope I can catch them in act and punch them on their faces for taking away my kids.

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