5 Critter-Proof Bulbs I’m Planting Now
These Bulbs Won't Get Eaten by Spring
It’s November and you know what that means! Turkey, pumpkin pie, and green bean casserole? No. It means it’s time to plant your spring bulbs before Thanksgiving tryptophan turns you comatose or the nonstop screaming of your sister’s feral kids visiting from Ohio leads to sudden psychosis.
And yet, it can be so disheartening after hunching over for hours planting bulbs and slipping a disc in the process to discover all the bulbs you were hoping to enjoy prior to back surgery ruthlessly eaten by chipmunks, mice, voles, squirrels, and deer. (Not moles, though. They eat worms.)
Well, Grumpy has the solution. First, don’t plant tulips. Critters love them. Second, plant the same kinds of bulbs I’m planting right now. Critters loathe them.
The genus Narcissus includes the large-flowered daffodils (usually one big flower per stem) as well as jonquils (multiple stems and smaller fragrant flowers). Colors include yellow, white, pink, and bicolors. Narcissus are absolutely the best spring bulbs for the South, as they love our climate, come back year after year, are great for cutting, rodents and deer don’t eat them, and many spread on their own to form drifts. Plant in well-drained soil and full to part sun. For USDA Zones 3 to 9, depending on species and type.
Blue is a hard color to find in plants, so when I locate a blue-flowering bulb that you can literally plant and forget, I want it. Bluebells come in blue, white, or pink, but I favor a blue selection called ‘Excelsior’ because pink bluebells just don’t seem right. Clusters of bell-shaped blossoms stand 20 inches tall atop multiple stems. Let them go to seed and they’ll spread naturally. Plant in well-drained soil in sun or light shade. For USDA Zones 3 to 9.
Forget the misleading name. Unless you live in northern Russia, this bulb blooms in spring. In the South, it’s a classic passalong plant, surviving for decades with no care. Clusters of nodding, bell-shaped, white flowers with green tips crown stems 15 to 18 inches tall. I like the selection ‘Gravetye Giant’ for its larger, more numerous blooms. Like bluebells, snowflakes multiply if left to go to seed. Plant in well-drained soil in sun or light shade. For USDA Zones 4 to 9.
Another misleading name. Wow, I’m on a run here! OK, even though this bulb is native to northern Europe and Asia, it’ll still bloom here. Standing atop 6-inch stems, the starlike blooms range from medium-blue to intense, violet blue. They’ll take more shade than most bulbs, so I’m planting them in informal drifts in the dappled shade of my woodland garden. Give them fertile, well-drained soil. For USDA Zones 2 to 8.
Full disclosure. Greek windflower isn’t really a bulb – it grows from small tubers to form low, spreading mats perfect for naturalizing in the spaces between tall shade trees and shrubs. Showy, daisy-like blossoms of blue, pink, white, and red appear above the foliage in spring. You can buy single colors, but most vendors sell a color mix. Plant in fertile, well-drained soil and light shade. For USDA Zones 5 to 8.