Critter Crisis: How to Protect Your Tulip Bulbs!

Did you know that starving Dutch soldiers actually ate tulip bulbs during World War II? When they were prepared correctly, the taste was comparable to potatoes or onions! Though we don’t recommend eating them now, it’s no surprise that the bulbs have become a delicacy to squirrels, deer, and other critters alike. As seasoned tulip growersthere have been a few times when animals got to our bulbs before springtime. Though frustrating, it’s just one of the hurdles you may have to prepare for in order to have big beautiful blooms come April. If you’re worried about critters creeping into your backyards or gardens, read below to learn some tried and true tips of the trade!  

Oh Deer! 

deer looking at the camera

If you had a bowl of your favorite candy right in front of you, would you be able to resist taking a piece? If you’re like us, the answer would be absolutely not! Well, that’s how deer react when they get a whiff of tulip bulbs. Once they get a taste, it’s hard for them to stay away. Though they are cute to look at, the last place you want to see them is feasting in your garden! There are a lot of different ways you can try to keep the deer away from your tulip bulbs. We’ve outlined few here that are easy enough to try.  

  • Plant other flowers around your tulip bulbs you know deer dislike: Deer tend to stay away from fragrant flowers and those that have toxicity. (daffodils, foxgloves, poppies, peonies, bearded irises) 

  • Plant the bulbs closer to a front or back door where people are: Deer tend to stay away from humans! 

  • Install a motion light or windchimes: They dislike sudden movement and are skittish which means they will most likely runway.  

  • Hang a smelly bar of hand soap (like Irish Spring) by your tulip bulbs: They dislike strong fragrances and it’s an inexpensive option. 

  • Sprinkle cayenne pepper, or red pepper flakes around the area: A simple sprinkle of something from your cupboard can deter them from taking a taste.   

The Smallest Critters have the Biggest Appetite 

squirrel eating a nut

Did you know some squirrels will watch you as you plant?! They do this so they know exactly where their next meal is coming from. Since they’re sometimes already ahead of the game, it’s important to clean up your planting area once you’re finished. Any leftover debris, husks, or bulbs are a dead giveaway that something tasty is underneath. Since smaller critters can dig and burrow in small places, it’s important to prevent them from getting to your bulbs in any way that you can. You can consider using natural, organic repellants that will deter the critters from getting closer. If you’re planting in a garden bed, you can also purchase sharp gravel for the surrounding soil. Once a squirrel detects a sharper object, they will usually go elsewhere to look for food. In this case, you also want to stay away from smelly fertilizers like bone meal or fish emulsion. This can make things worse and you can attract more animals to your tulip bulbs.   

Make or Purchase your Own Tulip Bulb Cage 

If all else fails, one of the best ways to offer the most protection to your tulip bulbs is to purchase or make your own bulb cage. Building a protective layer around your bulbs is the best way to ensure they are safe from any animals that may try to get to them. We recommend using a welded cage wire that’s either ½ inch or 1 inch. This ensures that the tulips can grow through the openings once they start to sprout. If you’re interested in more detailed instructions for making your own tulip bulb cage, here is a good article that explains how in more detail.  

If you don’t feel like making your own, there are options on the market that are premade and ready to purchase. Just search tulip bulb cage and few are sure to pop up.  

Test it Out With Our Tulip Bulbs!

casey sr holding tulip bulbs

Keep in mind, even though we’ve given tips on how to ward off deer and critters, it doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily have to. There have been many people (including us) who have taken no precautions in the past and have still had beautiful blooms every spring. If your yard is prone to animals, it’s better to be safe than sorry! We recommend trying some of the preventative measures above to ensure you get the most out of your bulbs.  

Are you ready to put some of these tips and tricks to the test? 

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