Animal-Proof Fall Bulbs
Photo By: Image courtesy of White Flower Farm
©2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited
©2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited
Photo By: Image provided by Felder Rushing
Crown Imperial (Fritillaria imperialis)
The same deer and rodents that gobble up tulips and crocuses usually leave crown imperials alone. These majestic plants can grow 3 to 4 feet tall, with stems topped by yellow or orange-red flowers. Plant the bulbs sideways, so the stem holes won't catch water that can cause rotting. They're hardy in zones 5 to 8.
'Globemaster' alliums, also known as flowering onions, bear giant balls of lilac-purple flowers. Allium means "garlic" in Latin, and the plants belong to the same family as chives and onions. The smelly sulfides in alliums apparently repel deer and rodents.
Snowdrops often pop through a crust of snow in late winter or very early spring, and they're lovely in woodland gardens or planted around deciduous trees and shrubs. The leaves and bulbs contain poisonous alkaloids, which deter many hungry pests--but beware: Galanthus can also be toxic to your pets, so be careful where you grow them.
Plants lots of 'Pimpernel' daffodils, or narcissus, for sweeps of yellow and tangerine-orange in your landscape. Daffodils contain a bitter, toxic alkaloid known as lycorine, so deer and rodents won't bother the many varieties of these spring-flowering bulbs.
Native to the Pacific Northwest, camassias are poisonous, so deer and rodents typically avoid them. Their periwinkle-blue flowers open in late spring. Also known as wild hyacinths or quamash, they naturalize easily; plant them in the fall and give them soil with a little more moisture than most bulbs.
Hungry deer will eat almost anything, but like rodents, they usually give starflowers (Ipheion) a wide berth. Voles, however, are a different story, and will eat them when other foods are in short supply. Hardy in zones 5 to 9, easy-to-grow starflowers are great for naturalizing and should be planted 2 to 3 inches deep in the fall.
You might know this bulb as winter aconite or winter wolf's bane; its botanical name is Eranthis. While the buttercup-yellow blooms are a welcome sight in spring woodlands or under trees, hungry critters tend to leave the bulbs alone. Winter aconite needs moist, humus-rich soil and takes part to part shade.
Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa)
One of the earliest spring-bloomers, Glory of the Snow bulbs resist rodents, deer and other foraging animals. Plant them in the fall in well-drained soil that gets part sun to sun, and they'll spread quickly. The flowers come in white, pink or blue; use Chionodoxa to help control erosion, as a groundcover or in a woodland garden.
Scilla siberica holds little appeal for browsing deer or burrowing rodents, but gardeners love its hard-to-find cobalt-blue color. You can also find the flowers in white, pink, or pale blue with stripes. Plant the bulbs, also known as squill, in fall for early spring flowers. They're great for edging a border, growing in a woodland garden or planting under trees.
Snake's Head (Fritillaria meleagris)
Don't let this bulb's common name deter you from planting it; snake's head fritillary usually resists deer and squirrels, thanks to its terrible taste. It's not immune to attack by hungry voles and gophers, though. Because of their "wildflowery" look, the flowers are best grown in a meadow, under deciduous trees or shrubs, or in a naturalistic setting.
These snowflakes (Leucojum 'Gravetye Giant') won't attract rodents, deer or foraging animals. Like daffodils and snowdrops, the bulbs contain lycorine, a bitter-tasting toxic substance. Snowflakes open their white, bell-shaped blooms in mid- to late-spring; plant them in rich soil that gets full sun to light shade.
While no bulb is entirely deer-proof, hyacinths aren't their favorite foods. And there are a few things gardeners can do to make their bulbs even less desirable to animals; for example, you can place a layer of chicken wire over your bulbs and top it with mulch. If you're worried about rodents tunneling in from the side, rather than the top of your garden bed, encase the bulbs in a wire cage. Digging some sharp-edged gravel or grit into the soil can also help. Adding bone meal to your bulb bed isn't recommended anymore, as it can attract pests and dogs.
Lily of the Valley
Lilies of the valley (Convallaria majalis) are actually rhizomes with buds (pips), rather than true bulbs. But they bloom in early spring and naturalize easily, like many spring bulbs. Better still, deer dislike them. The flowers have a sweet scent, but all parts of the plants are poisonous.