Ask Elaine: Deer-resistant Spring-blooming Bulbs

Dear Elaine,

I would like to plant spring-blooming bulbs in October. What flowers are deer resistant, if there is such a thing?

Thank you.

Dear Lee,

Yes, there is such a thing as deer resistant spring-blooming bulbs.  And to me, nothing gives a greater return for work expended than spring bulbs. That shot of color to break the winter doldrums can’t be beat.

At Laurelwood, we tend to lean on spring bulbs that bloom for a long time, naturalize, are hardy to USDA zone 5 and are deer, squirrel and mole resistant. At the top of the list is daffodils, Narcissus, containing the chemicals lycorine and calcium oxalate. Deer know daffodils to be toxic and pass the avoidance practice to their young. In addition, the bloom time for daffodils is from February to May, depending on the varieties that you select.

Some bulb planting hints:

  • Soil pH should be 6 to 7.
  • Bone meal in the planting hole is an option, not a necessity
  • Bulbs need five to six hours of direct sunlight
  • Bulbs are most attractive planted in large groups or drifts
  • Plant the bulb at a depth two to three times the height of the bulb
  • The point of the bulb goes upward
  • Water the bulbs after planting
  • Cover with two to three inches of mulch

The list below has a few spring-blooming bulbs to consider for your flower garden:

  • Allium, ornamental onion, various species in pink, purple, yellow and white
  • Anemone blanda, magenta
  • Chionodoxa, blue
  • Eranthis, winter aconite, yellow
  • Fritillaria, various colors
  • Galanthus, snowdrops, white
  • Iris species, violet or yellow
  • Leucojum, spring snowflake, white
  • Ornithogalum, star-of-Bethlehem, white
  • Puschkinia, white or pale blue

If you must have tulips, hyacinths and crocus, you may consider putting crushed oyster shells in the bottom of the planting hole to control moles. Above ground animals can be deterred with repellents or netting.

For more information, visit for Rutgers Fact Sheet FS1220 “Spring Flowering Bulbs,” written by yours truly.

Best wishes,
Elaine Fogerty, Executive Director

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