Deer. We love catching a glimpse of them out in the wilderness, and they look perfectly picturesque on a postcard. Though, if you’ve ever planted lilies or tulips, you’ll agree that they’re also giant, scavenging rodents looking to dig up all our hard work! Luckily, keeping them away can be as simple as planting even more bulb beauties into our landscape. Here are some of our favorites for keeping the deer away.
Known for their colorful clusters of star-shaped flowers, hyacinths may be beautiful to behold, but they have a secret weapon lurking behind their good looks: poison. That’s right; despite their sweet, honeysuckle fragrance, hyacinths are loaded with sap that is toxic to deer, which makes them a plant these pesky pests want to avoid. Plant them in full sun to part shade to enjoy their best performance all season. Don’t forget to wear your gardening gloves when working with them—the sap can be quite irritating to human skin, too.
One of the classic spring bulbs of the gardening world, daffodils are famous for their cup-shaped centers surrounded by pointed petals bursting outward in bright shades of yellow, white, and different shades of orange. They’re that perfect, sunny reminder that spring has arrived—instantly putting us in a good mood to welcome the warmer weather. But they’re not so beloved by deer. In fact, like hyacinths, they’re also poisonous, which keeps deer steering clear. Plant them in full sun spots with well-draining soil, feed them every fall with compost, and enjoy their reliable, low-maintenance, and deer-free performance year after year.
As their name implies, snowdrops (Galanthus) are not shy to the cold, making them one of the first blooms you’ll see in spring just as winter breaks. Hardy and tough, the cold isn’t the only thing these plants will weather through—they’re known for standing their ground against deer, too. Another toxic treat, these bell-shaped blooms may look like a tasty find, but deer won’t risk it. Plant them in a sheltered, shady spot to enjoy their delightfully draping white blooms even earlier in spring.
They may be members of the onion family, but the only tears you’ll get from alliums will be tears of joy from a gorgeous, deer-free garden! The strong flavor and fragrance these blooms carry come from the onion in them, and neither are particularly enjoyed by deer. Luckily, pollinators love them! Plant them in full sun and enjoy their round tufts of colorful flowers beginning in late spring, and the bountiful bees that come with them.
Convallaria, also known as lily-of-the-valley, is another classic bulb plant that offers stunning, bell-shaped flowers with a powerful aroma you wouldn't expect from their smaller, ‘socks and shoes’ stature. This fresh, floral fragrance may be refreshing for us, but it acts as a deer repellent, warning them of yet another toxic plant. Plant them in full shade and give them time to get cozy. They sometimes need one year to get established in their new home.
Fritillaria imperialis, or crown imperials, are certainly one unique flower that any garden would be happy to have. They look almost like a pineapple, with yellow (or sometimes red), bell-shaped blooms topped with tufts of foliage on top. However, their fragrance is anything but tropical. In fact, their pungent aroma is often described as “skunky”, and with a smell like that, deer are sure to avoid them whenever possible. Plant them in full sun and be sure to feed them regularly throughout the season to keep them lively.
Siberian squills (Scilla siberica) are one versatile variety, offering both blue and white star-shaped flowers that can stick it out almost anywhere, from full sun to full shade. Their thick, fleshy foliage gives them great durability in dry conditions, making them the ultimate low-maintenance choice for any gardener with a busy schedule or a forgetful mind. While they seem to check all the boxes for us, they just don’t seem to do it for deer (which only gives us more reason to love them!).
If deer are giving you and your garden a whole lot of grief, these bulbs may just be exactly what you need! Of course, we’re not saying you have to entirely avoid other bulbs that deer like to snack on. By simply interspersing these deer-repellent florals into your landscape, you can create all-natural protection for those treasured treats and keep your garden blooming beautifully all season!
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