Deer and Squirrels a Problem?
Plant Daffodils & Other Bulbs They Don’t Like

When hungry deer, squirrels, voles and other foragers threaten spring flower bulb plantings, don’t despair — simply switch to bulbs that harmful herbivores don’t eat. There are lots of beautiful choices and fall is the time to choose and plant them.

“The easiest solution when animals eat bulbs is to plant spring bloomers that they consider the last choice on the menu,” says Tim Schipper of Colorblends, a Connecticut-based flower bulb company that sells direct to landscape professionals and home gardeners coast-to-coast, offering wholesale prices with a minimum order of $60.

Following are flower bulbs identified by as beautiful but bad-tasting bulbs, least likely to be eaten where munching mammals are an issue.

Deer and Rodent Proof

The only truly deer- and rodent-proof bulbs are members of the Amaryllidaceae family, which includes daffodils, snowflakes and snowdrops. They contain a toxic alkaloid called lycorine that mammals can detect and won’t eat.

  • Daffodil. See Narcissus.
  • Galanthus (snowdrop). Blooming in late winter and very early spring, snowdrops are the earliest blooming spring bulbs. Their pendant white flowers signal that spring is on the way. Dear and rodent proof.
  • Leucojum (snowflake). The white, bell-shaped flowers of Leucojum look like tiny ballerina skirts draped daintily off 18-inch stems. They bloom in midseason. A bulb flower that likes “wet feet,” it’s well suited to planting in soggier sites, even those areas where skunk cabbage thrive. Deer and rodent proof.
  • Narcissus (daffodil). These spring favorites flower in early to late spring, depending upon the variety. All are prolific bloomers, with beautiful flowers of yellow or white with cups of yellow, white, orange, red-orange, apricot or bi-color. Deer and rodent proof.

Deer and Rodent Resistant

The following bulb flowers are considered resistant to foraging rodents and/or deer, being unpleasant to smell or eat. Deer and rodents will generally avoid them but might take a bite if the plants or bulbs are directly in their path or if harsh seasonal conditions leave them with few other food options.

  • Allium (flowering onion, ornamental onion). Alliums bloom in late spring and early summer, and thrive when planted in full sun. Best known are the tall varieties topped by purple or white ball-shaped flowers. Others are lower growing with pink, yellow or white flowers. They may be vulnerable to bulb damage when vole populations are dense. Deer resistant.
  • Camassia (quamash). Blooming in late spring, camassia thrives in damp sunny locations. These American natives have starbursts of periwinkle blue flowers arranged loosely on three-foot spikes. Rodents may eat the bulbs. Deer resistant.
  • Chionodoxa (glory-of-the-snow). Delicate in appearance, but tough, Chionodoxa blooms in early spring. It likes sun or light shade. Mass woodland or lawn plantings create a starry lavender-blue carpet in spring. Deer and rodent resistant.
  • Daffodil, see Narcissus under deer- and rodent-proof bulbs.
  • Eranthis (winter wolf’s bane, winter aconite). Eranthis blooms in very early spring, bringing bright color to woodland settings and sunny areas too. The plant is low growing. A hula skirt of reflexed leaves encircles its buttercup-yellow flowers. Deer and rodent resistant.
  • Fritillaria imperialis (crown imperial). A tuft of leaves that recalls a punk haircut tops this statuesque early- mid-spring bloomer. Its large, pendulous orange-red or yellow flowers ride atop a sturdy three-foot stem. It is not recommended for planting in the South. The big bulbs and towering plants smell rather skunky, turning most animals away. Deer and rodent resistant.
  • Fritillaria meleagris (snake’s head, checkered lily). These early- mid-spring bloomers present an appealing wildflower look. Unlike most bulbs, which like “dry feet” and lots of sun, Fritillaria meleagris will thrive in damp areas and in partial shade. They are a great choice for planting in meadows, around shrubs, in woodland areas or in damp places near brooks and ponds. Their checkered, maroon bell-shaped blooms are pendant and nod daintily on a spring breeze. The occasional white bloom sets off its darker companions. Burrowing rodents may eat the bulbs. Deer resistant.
  • Galanthus (snowdrop). See deer- and rodent-proof bulbs.
  • Ipheion (starflower). Ipheion blooms in mid-spring. It is a low-growing bulb flower with slender grassy leaves and long-lasting, star-shaped white or blue flowers. It performs best when planted where summers are hot and winters are not too cold. Burrowing rodents may eat the bulbs. Deer resistant.
  • Iris reticulata (Iris ‘Harmony’). Small, with brilliant blue flowers, Iris ‘Harmony’ can be counted on for a very good show in very early spring. Plant densely for maximum effect. Deer don’t like them; voles, gophers and other rodents may eat the bulbs.
  • Leucojum (snowflake). See deer- and rodent-proof bulbs.
  • Narcissus (daffodil). See deer- and rodent-proof bulbs.
  • Scilla (blue squill). Blue squill blooms in early spring. Once established, it creates a carpet of electric-blue flowers, a perfect companion to early miniature daffodils. Deer and rodent resistant.