Do Garden Gnomes Really Keep Animals Away?

If you walk around your neighborhood, you’ll likely see gnomes in some of the gardens. Traditionally, gnomes were a sign of good luck and goodwill. Even now, many still believe gnomes frighten animals from the garden — but do they, really? 

Garden gnomes really keep animals away because they are shiny and have bright colors. Squirrels, birds, and other animals may cautiously approach a single shiny gnome, but they usually shy away from flashy ornaments. However, you will need to move the gnomes around to make them effective.

Besides keeping animals away, garden gnomes also serve as decorative ornaments. I’ll discuss the benefits of having gnomes in your garden, how they keep animals away, and what you can do to make the most of them. 

How Garden Gnomes Keep Animals Away

Gnomes first appeared in gardens in the 1600s, but it wasn’t until the 1840s that they became popular in places like Germany. Since then, garden gnomes have found their way into millions of gardens across the globe. 

Besides being a great conversation starter (for campfire horror stories, especially!), gnomes help keep animals from your garden as follows.

They Startle Animals

When animals go to a garden (especially at night), they usually don’t expect to find anyone. But when they come across gnomes all over the garden, they get scared and run away — at least, for the first few times they come across them. Eventually, animals get used to gnomes, so you have to take extra steps to ensure your gnomes continue to be effective animal repellents.

For example, you can regularly change the position of the gnomes, especially if you don’t have a lot of them. Animals will eventually find safe entry points away from the gnomes, so you need to place the gnomes where animals don’t expect them to be. 

Gnomes Are Shiny

Gnomes were initially made of clay and terracotta. Over time, people began to create more colorful gnomes made from other materials. 

Today, gnomes are often made of:

  • Plastic
  • Metal
  • Stone
  • Ceramic
  • Resin

No matter the material though, gnomes tend to have a shiny, clear UV coat to keep them looking good for a long time. 

In particular, the gnomes’ white beards glow in the dark. If you maintain them with a gloss spray, gnomes can keep their shiny colors and deter animals from getting into your garden.

They Come in Different Sizes and Shapes

Gnomes are available in different shapes and sizes. This makes it possible to place them at various spots in the garden. You can also keep them hidden to catch animals unawares. For example, you can set the tall ones in the open and hide the small ones among the flowers and vegetables. This way, even if the animals enter your garden, they’ll be shocked when they find more miniature gnomes hidden within the plants. 

They Make Animal Movement Difficult

If you have many gnomes in your garden, the animals won’t have sufficient room to explore and feed on your plants. If they cannot access the plants, they may eventually give up and look for a garden that’s easier to access. Some animals would rather stay away than go through the trouble of overcoming obstacles in your garden.

Some Gnomes Are Too Heavy to Knock Over

Some gnomes are too big for small animals (such as squirrels) to knock over. Also, gnomes are made of different materials, which affect their weight. For example, gnomes made of metal, wood, or even resin are too heavy for some animals, so they’d rather stay away from your garden than attempt to knock them over. 

Garden Gnomes Are Human-Like

Animals are scared of garden gnomes because they’re human-like. Animals assume there are little people in the garden, so they stay away, hoping these “humans” will leave at some point. When they realize these little people are going nowhere, some choose to investigate, while others will stay away.

Animals become naturally curious when they notice something stays in the same position over a long period. That’s why you need to move the gnomes around to confuse the animals and make them believe the gnomes are sentient beings capable of movement.

They Are Customizable

You can customize your garden gnomes to scare away animals that get too close. For example, you can add lights with sensors, as well as other sounds that go off when the animal gets too close. Even animals aware of the garden gnomes will run away when the lights suddenly come on or when the gnome starts whistling. 

This YouTube video gives ideas on how you can customize your garden gnomes.

If you’re going to add these features though, make sure you only activate them during times when your garden is unattended. Otherwise, if you happen to have a visitor over, they might get shocked when your gnome suddenly goes off with a sound that’s meant to scare away non-humans.

Where to Place Your Garden Gnomes

When deciding where to place the garden gnomes, you need to consider the gnome’s weight, the space available, and other functions of the gnomes. Although the best location for the gnomes comes down to your preference, some places are more suitable than others. For example:

  • Your garden’s entrance. Most gardens don’t have many plants at the entry point, so they’re the best place for large gnomes. Besides being decorative, the gnome will scare away animals from entering the garden from this spot. 
  • Open spaces. These are ideal spots for gnomes because they don’t interfere with the plants’ growth. They also remain visible to animals that want to get into your garden. 
  • Away from small plants. Avoid surrounding small plants with too many gnomes. The gnomes will block light from the plants, preventing them from growing properly. 
  • Spaces you use often. Place miniature and lightweight gnomes in spaces you use often. You can quickly move them around to confuse the animals and ease your movement.
  • Spaces behind plants. Use the spaces behind plants to add the element of surprise. If some animals get past the gnomes in the open, you can surprise them with hidden gnomes. Hide gnomes behind plants so they’ll scare animals away.
  • Surrounded by stones (for delicate ceramic gnomes). Ceramic gnomes are delicate. Even though they’re heavy, they need stable ground so that they don’t break when they fall. So, you need to place stones around these gnomes to keep them stable.
  • Away from direct sunlight. Avoid leaving plastic and resin gnomes under direct sunlight for a long time. Resin tends to bend when exposed to high temperatures, while plastic will fade and weaken over time. 

How to Maintain Garden Gnomes

Before you get a garden gnome or two, you should know that they’re high maintenance. Some garden gnomes fade over time due to excess sun exposure. Others get dirty, especially after a heavy downpour. If the gnomes are to serve their purpose (i.e., driving animals away from your garden), they need to remain colorful, human-like, and shiny. 

The best way to maintain your garden gnomes depends on what they’re made of. That’s because some garden gnome materials (like stone and resin) are high maintenance. 

That said, here are general tips to take care of garden gnomes.

  • Don’t leave stone garden gnomes outdoors when it rains or snows. If the garden gnome is too heavy for you to take inside, cover it with waterproof material.
  • Avoid leaving garden gnomes made of plastic under direct sunlight. 
  • Use high gloss UV coating on your gnomes to keep them shiny. The UV coating will also keep the gnomes from fading due to prolonged exposure to the sun. 
  • Clean and repaint the gnomes periodically. Outdoor acrylic paint works well.


Garden gnomes are an investment that can last a lifetime. Once you start collecting gnomes, you’re probably going to get hooked. Animals are wary of new additions to your garden. When the gnomes appear to be busy, animals imagine there are people in your garden. 

So, they’ll avoid your garden until they realize the gnomes never move and are therefore not sentient beings. This is why gnome rotation is essential. Once the animals realize how difficult it is to get into your garden, they’ll eventually give up and move on to another garden.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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