I have had it with deer eating my
tulips! Can you recommend any other
bulbs that I could enjoy in spring without having to fence them off
or spray repellants?
A. Tulips are
so intertwined with spring for some that it just wouldnt be spring
without them, but the fact that Bambi loves tulips as much as we do
has some gardeners considering other options. Fortunately, there
are many lovely species of bulbs that resist animal damage without
repellants, chicken wire cages or fencing. While not as well known
to the casual gardener, these bulbs that shine without much effort
on your part will make you forget all about tulips.
Guarding against deer damage...
Elaborate tulip protection system using
chicken wire with a removable top
Animal-resistant flower bulbs
animal-resistant of all are those in the Amaryllis family
daffodils, snowdrops and snowflakes. They contain a substance called lycorine that is bitter as well as poisonous. Other bulbs described
below are unpleasant to animals and are generally avoided unless
they are starving. A curious youngster may take a bite or two, but
generally they escape unscathed. All bulbs are hardy at least to
Zone 5, many even hardier.
Blue Globe Onion (Allium caeruleum)
spring to early summer with small, star-shaped flowers clustered
into one-inch diameter spheres. Flowers are light or electric
blue, depending on the cultivar, and each flower spike produces
multiple flowers. Grows to 20 inches tall with delicate,
grass-like foliage. Best in full sun to part shade and
well-drained soil. Attractive to butterflies.
Stars of Persia (Allium christophii) - Blooms
late spring to early summer with star-like, silvery
amethyst-colored flowers clustered in softball-sized spheres.
Grows one to two feet tall with strap-like gray-green leaves
that begin to die back when the plant starts to bloom. Best in
full sun to part shade and well-drained soil. Will self-sow and
colonize an area. Deadheading before seeds ripen and fall
prevents unwanted seeding. Attractive to butterflies.
Giant Ornamental Onion (Allium giganteum)
Blooms late spring to early summer with star-shaped purple
flowers clustered in softball-sized spheres. Grows three to five
feet tall with gray-green, strap-like foliage that dies back as
the plant starts to bloom. Best in full sun to part shade and
well-drained soil. Attractive to butterflies.
Golden Garlic (Allium moly)
Blooms late spring
to early summer with bright yellow, star-shaped flowers in open
clusters. Grows nine to fifteen inches tall with blue-green
basal leaves. Best in full sun to part shade and well-drained
soil. Will self-sow and colonize an area. Deadheading before
seeds ripen and fall prevents unwanted seeding. Attractive to
Camass (Camassia spp.)
The only bulb we
commonly grow that is native to the United States, albeit the
western part of the country. Camass blooms in mid-spring with
light to deep blue flowers, depending on the cultivar. Grows one
to three feet tall with grassy foliage similar to that of
daffodils. The leafless flower stalk pushes up in the center of
the foliage, with individual flowers opening from the bottom up
to the top of the stalk. Best in full sun to part shade and
well-drained soil that is slightly acidic and amended with
organic matter. Prefers adequate water when actively growing,
but should be kept on the dry side when dormant through the
Autumn Crocus (Colchicum spp.)
summer to early fall with tubular flowers in shades of pink,
purple, and white. Colchicums are unusual in that the foliage
comes up in early spring, and then dies back through the summer
months. The flowers show up long after the foliage is gone,
giving rise to another common name: naked ladies. Colchicums
only grow three to five inches tall, so they make the best show
when planted in groups. Best in full sun and well-drained soil.
The corms and foliage contain colchicine and are poisonous.
Deer also enjoy your flowers... for dinner!
Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)
winter to very early spring with bright yellow flowers framed by
a frilly collar of green foliage. The flower shape clearly shows
their relationship to buttercups. Since winter aconite only
grows six to eight inches tall, planting in drifts creates much
more impact than individual plants. Best in humus-rich, evenly
moist, but well-drained soil.
Crown Imperial (Fritillaria imperialis)
mid- to late spring with pendulous bells of yellow, orange or
red flowers topping sturdy stems that grow two to three feet
tall. Crown Imperial adds a tropical flare to the spring garden.
Bulbs and foliage have a skunk-like fragrance up close that
increases their resistance to animal damage. Best in full sun
and humus-rich, well-drained soil.
Guinea Hen Flower (Fritillaria meleagris)
Blooms mid-spring with solitary, bell-shaped flowers in shades
of reddish purple to black purple to pure white. Flowers often
have a checkerboard pattern so another common name is checkered
lily. Grows 12-15 inches tall with fine, grass-like foliage.
Best in full sun to part shade and humus-rich, well drained
Persian Fritillary (Fritillaria persica)
mid-spring with dramatic spikes of dusky plum-purple flowers.
Grows two to three feet tall with attractive grey-green
foliage. Best in full sun and humus-rich, well-drained soil.
Snowdrops (Galanthus spp.)
One of the earliest
bulbs to bloom in late winter or very early spring, often
blooming in the snow. Snowdrops grow six to eight inches tall
and naturalize quite readily if they are happy where they are
growing. They are at their best in well-drained soil and are
quite at home planted under deciduous trees where they have full
sun when in bloom, then have some shade once the trees leaf out.
Hyacinth (Hyacinthus spp.)
Blooms early to
mid-spring with dense spikes of bell-shaped, exquisitely
fragrant flowers in shades of white, yellow, blue, pink and red.
Flowers may be double or single, depending on the cultivar.
Hyacinths grow to about 12 inches tall. Best in full sun and
well drained soil.
Hyacinths smell so good!
But not to a deer.
Summer Snowflake (Leucojum spp.)
Blooms mid- to
late spring with nodding, bell-shaped white flowers with
distinctive green markings. Strap-like foliage grows 12-15
inches tall. Summer snowflake naturalizes easily. Best in full
sun to part shade and well-drained soil.
Daffodil (Narcissus spp.)
If the stereotypical
yellow daffodil comes to mind when you think of daffodils, think
again. Daffodils come in many different shapes, sizes and
colors, from delicate bulbocodiums that look like miniature hoop
skirts to those with white petals and orange or pink trumpets.
Still others have double flowers, and many produce more than one
flower per stem. Miniature species grow four-to-eight inches
tall, with standard daffodils ranging from 12-20 inches tall.
Many are deliciously fragrant, including poeticus types. Best in
full sun to part shade and well-drained soil.
Deer don't like Daffodils