Squirrels stealing your bulbs? Don’t get mad — get creative! These bulb-digging bandits are easily outwitted. You simply have to learn how to think like…a squirrel.
My name is Kevin, and I am…The Squirrel Whisperer.
Please don’t confuse me with Robert Redford.
Squirrels Stealing Your Bulbs? Here’s Help.
Did you know that squirrels are not fond of bulbs? They forage for nuts, seeds, gin martinis (straight up; no olives) and berries. (The squirrel pictured above is eating the red berries that grow on my yew-hedge.)
But Kevin, if squirrels don’t like bulbs, why do they dig them up?
I’m glad you asked! Here’s my theory:
When a squirrel stumbles upon freshly-dug earth (the result of your bulb-planting adventure), he or she assumes that another critter has buried a stash of nuts there. So the squirrel retrieves the loot, tastes the loot, and then tosses the loot. This explains why we sometimes find bulbs dropped here and there in our yards. Usually the bulbs will show a single bite mark.
Consequently, to keep squirrels from messing with your bulbs, it pays to…
1) Cover Your Tracks.
One autumn, after squirrels dug up some newly-planted crocus bulbs (or “corms”) in my Woodland Garden, I decided to perform an experiment: I planted more crocus bulbs in the same location as before, but this time…
I covered my work with shredded leaves.
The result? Because they sensed no soil-disturbance there, the squirrels left the bulbs alone. The crocus were gorgeous when they bloomed in spring.
The shredded-leaf trick also worked for some tulips I’d foolishly planted in the Woodland.
I say “foolishly” because…
When the bulbs bloomed the following spring, the flowers were promptly devoured by deer.
Sometimes you just can’t win.
2) Plant Bulbs Beneath a Low-Growing Groundcover.
The tulip bulbs I plant every few years beneath a bed of Vinca minor in my Serpentine Garden (pictured above) are never disturbed by squirrels. Why? Because squirrels are lazy. They won’t dig in a bed that’s encumbered with lots of stems and roots (or a piece of chicken wire, which we will discuss in a moment).
3) Plant Large Bulbs Deeply.
Because squirrels won’t dig more than a few inches beneath the soil surface, it makes sense to plant your large bulbs deeply. Tulips can — and should — be planted 8 inches deep.
4) Use Chicken Wire.
Large public gardens (including Dumbarton Oaks) use chicken wire to protect large swaths of bulbs. There are two ways to employ the wire: Lay it directly atop the bulbs, and then cover bulbs and wire with soil; OR, cover the bulbs first with soil, and then add the wire, pegging it down with rocks or bricks. With the latter method, the wire can be removed when the bulbs sprout in spring.
5) Sprinkle Deer-Repellant Granules Over the Bulb Bed
According to some gardeners, the same smelly granules that keep deer at bay will also thwart squirrels. I have not tested this method, and thus can not vouch for its effectiveness.
And What About Red Pepper Flakes? For me, these are an absolute no-no. Red pepper won’t stop squirrels from digging. But it will burn their eyes if they come in contact with the stuff. And that’s just cruel.
6) Plant Squirrel-Proof Bulbs!
If the above 5 recommendations prove too much work for you, then consider planting bulbs which emit an odor that no squirrel can endure. These include:
Alliums of all kinds…
Daffodils and other members of the Narcissus family…
And Muscari (“grape hyacinth”).
In the comments field below, let me know how your autumn bulb-planting is coming along, and if squirrels are an issue in your neck of the woods. As always, I cherish your thoughts.
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Thank you so much Kevin for some wonderful and humane solutions to a frustrating problem! Your theory makes sense and I do believe you have proved it to be correct!
I agree with all your points, especially about the cruelty of red pepper flakes. However, my very best squirrel prevention is the addition of a Jack Russell Terrier. As you probably know, these fierce little guys (or girls) take the encroachment of squirrels at ground level most seriously. In the twelve years my 11 pound JRT was on patrol, I almost never saw a squirrel on the ground, although they lived fat and happy lives up in my oak trees!
We always got a good laugh out of tulips randomly showing up in the middle of our yard when my mom would plant them! More of a “natural” arrangement!
I have found a very effective deer and rabbit repellant called Deer Scram. I have a large area in my front yard that was decimated prior to the application of Deer Scram. Although the directions state that it should be reapplied every so often, I have become lazy and have failed to do so for at least two years. In that time I have seen my neighbors roses eaten down to stumps while mine have not been touched. So I’d say the product works great!
paula K says
to protect crocuses from “relocation” by squirrels, we make little wire boxes, using the wire that has smaller holes than typical chicken wire, we cut a square and then shape it into a box putting 5-8 crocus bulbs inside, then we plant the box. Before covering with soil we spread out the bulbs by prodding them with a little stick . then put fine soil over so it falls into the “box”. Its a real pain the neck but seems to work, These crocuses are still in place while others are missing or pop up all over the yard, especially next to the trash bin!
Kevin, you came to the same conclusion and the same solution I did some years ago about this– disguise the smell of freshly turned earth. For people who are short on fall leaves, a bag of the smelly commercial cocoa shells mulch works like a charm, too. The mulch (or leaves) can be removed if you don’t want it a week or so later when that fresh earth smell has disappeared.
Here’s a tougher one, though– squirrels eating, or more often just biting off, tulip blooms. Any idea what to do about that? (It’s not deer, this is in deer-less but squirrel-heavy inner suburbs)
Hi Kevin, Can you apply your squirrel whispering abilities to bird feeders? We have a seemingly unsolvable problem with their constant raids. No matter what we do they always win.
I have given up completely trying to grow crocus, which I just love in the early spring. Either the chipmunks devour them as soon as they are planted or the rabbits eat the flowers as soon as they bloom. Gr-r-r-r and sigh!
You can add Eranthis, Fritillarias, Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica), and Scilla to the list of bulbs the critters don’t like – and I think Chionodoxa might be there too but not completely sure yet.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Betsy – I have no great advice for you, because squirrels raid my bird feeder, too!
Donna – Thanks for the heads-up on these other bulbs, all of which grow in my garden.
Susan M. says
This might apply to Jane’s problem of squirrels eating her tulip blooms. In recent years I’ve had very few tulips make it to mature bloom. I asked a perennial garden site about it and the reply I got suggested my garden was supplying rabbit treats, and sure enough, we see more and more of these cute pests every year. The other bulbs Kevin suggests do not appeal to the critters that like the tulips, so sadly, I’ve had to give up tulips in my garden.
Great advice. I also sometime get donations from my cat’s litter box to repel animals. I use compressed sawdust pellets in his box. When they get wet they return to sawdust which I can sprinkle here and there.
The chicken wire is a good solution. My experience with squirrel repellents has been a bust. I live on rental property and do a lot of growing in pots. I spread commercial repellent around my freshly planted geraniums and the next morning geraniums and dirt was all over the ground. It seemed the more repellent I used the more fierce the digging. Since I plan to move in the early spring I hope to find a location with less squirrels and raccoons. Sigh……………. I may have to move south of Boise to the desert. lol
I’m so glad to have read your blog today. It explains so much. Its a nice insight into squirrel psychology. I have been finding my tulip bulbs laying on the surface of the soil. After replanting them, deeper this time, I’ll use your chicken wire tip.
In other years, squirrels have ruined a lot of our tomatoes just when they were ripe for picking. This year we haven’t had the problem, though we’ve done nothing differently – go figure. Instead they are making large holes, in only one section of our newly seeded lawn. Since I can’t use a heavy mulch on it, I’m going to cover the lawn with tulle and hope that will deter them.
Thank you so much for all the information.
Jean Charlton says
I had a beautiful swath of mums blooming in my border garden and this week my gardener found a groundhog eating the flowers from the stems. He covered the plants with a screen box. This will keep the groundhog at bay, but is unsightly. Any suggestions?
suzanne curnutt says
My problem with squirrels is that they are eating my wooden deck. I have tried the spray and it works for about 1 day . Then they seem to like it. We live in a wooded area and have trouble with deer and other animals eating all plants. I now just think I am feeding the wild life. However, my large wooden deck is another matter. Very expensive to replace. Any hints? Thanks
I love the stories about everyone’s trouble with bulbs and squirrels!! Unfortunately where I live now in the NW Rockies I can hardly get a bulb to grow! And my issue is with our sled dogs when they get loose in “my part” of the yards! They will dig them up! lol I celebrate each little, scraggly bloom as it arrives! And here my crocus are usually in May and my daffodils in early June! I miss Tidewater Virginia where the daffodils in abundance bloomed in late Feb or March! AS fro the squirrels and bird feeders back East I made it a game to try to stump the little monsters!! Here we have to watch out for bears…so no feeders from April 1 to December 1. We don’t want them to learn to come around houses for food. Kevin I live vicariously in your house and garden! Thank you!
I’ve pretty much given up trying to grow tulips and crocus. Deer eat my tulips. I’ve watched the gray squirrels trot right up to a just about to open crocus and chew the bloom right off the stem! Does he/she eat the blossom – No! I’ll stick with alliums , daffodils and grape hyacinth, I think.
Denise in NJ says
My tulip blooms, if they make it that far, are devoured by rabbits. So are most of my vegetable seedlings as soon as they are planted in the beds. I’ve tried fencing in the beds and they chewed right through it. Every year I find a nest of babies in one of my raised beds. I’ve seen squirrels eating my big green tomatoes and chipmunks eating my grape tomatoes – and they sit there and laugh at me while they do it. I’ve also had squirrels invade my house up in the attic space and chew through the ceiling. I’ve watched them scurry through the dropped ceiling in my kitchen and heard them wail when they fall down a wall and can’t get back up. As you can guess, I have absolutely no sympathy for squirrels and anyone who does is more than welcome to come to my house and take them home. I make that offer to everyone who has chastised me for calling an exterminator yet none of them have taken me up on the offer to take them out of my house. Taking over my garden is one thing, taking over my house is entirely different. I’m as humane as they come, but when it comes down to critter vs. human, I’ll defend humans any day. I also don’t have a lot of sympathy for bears. I don’t have them here, but my in-laws do in western NY state. The bears climb right up onto the deck and destroy everything. I watched one fling the gas BBQ grill over the deck railing like it was a paper cup and I’ve seen them pull down a six foot fence 4 x 4 posts to get into the garden. I watch from the window, of course because my husband won’t even let me take a stroll up there unless he comes with me, with his rifle strapped on. Those things are scary.
I need to comment to the lady who deck is getting eaten by squirrels. I have never heard this but I do know from personal experience that woodchucks or as some call them ground hogs absolutely love wood and especialy treated wood and MDF. I’d bet ya that if the deck is getting eaten fairly fast that it’s a ground hog problem. My neighbor had a hole the size of car tire in his new barn door in a matter of a few days. Trapping is the only humane way of ridding yourself of these critters.
Me too Suzanne-the squirrels keep chewing on our treated steps! What to do???
Annie B says
Squirrels are always an issue, but I’m so glad you agree with kind-hearted approaches. They are just out trying to earn their living.
Beverly, zone 6 eastern PA says
Placing a sheet of bird netting across the freshly dug area, much like your leaf blanket, usually discourages squirrels from digging. It needs to be weighted all around the perimeter with long branches, or bricks or ground staples. Squirrels dislike the way the material moves unpredictably under their footsteps and/or catches in their toes. Cut the netting to size so you don’t have dangerous wads knotted up at the edges which may catch birds who are not familiar with its nature.
I always got the best bang for the buck with daffodils, being located in a very rodent-prone area. MIce, voles, shrews, chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels, groundhogs, skunks and one oppossum have all been found inside my fenced yard. An alert, fast dog is a blessing.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Beverly – Thanks for the bird-netting tip. And yes to an alert, fast dog!
Dan B says
Thanks, Kevin. Spent a lot of dough on woodland bulbs last Fall only to end up with holes.
Denise in Colorado says
All very good ideas! I have had no problem with bulbs getting dug up… My husband has a soft heart and he has adopted 4 cats so the “tree rats” usually move on after getting chased by the cats. They stay off the deck and bird feeders too. Adopt a kitty! 😉
I have use Dr. Bonner’s peppermint soap for years for many things. Diluted in water, maybe 1 tsp to 1-2 Tb. depending on size of spray bottle, I’ve sprayed roses, around the garden, the tomatoes, etc. The deer in the NW didn’t like this smell and turned up their noses, but as others have posted, they seemed to get used to it. I also sprayed on patio to deter critters from that area, but again hit and miss on sure thing.
When I moved to the SW, very different deer, but worked again, until this very hot dry monsoon season when all bets were off and the deer jumped the fence to get to garden. After reading all the great tips, I may try rotating all the great tips. The fine wire is a big help. My garden was dug down 2-4′ and wire was laid, the compost and soil mixture so happily nothing comes in from under ground. Gophers were big problem in some areas.
My biggest problem with squirrels is my car. They chew on wires, cables, filters, hoses, all very expensive. Now my parking area smells of stinky dryer sheets I won’t even let in the house, and even moth balls, I’m desparate!
Sorry so long, but did want to include this FYI – 2 rattle snakes were intwined (not sure if romantically or what), and blocking a needed exit, so I grabbed Dr. Bonner’s full strength and gave them a squirt. They quickly untwined and departed.
Thank you for this post. This explains why the squirrels are in my planters every time I plant something in them. Recently, I divided some coral bells and planted them in a big pot to get them rooted before transplanting them to other locations in the ground. I noticed the dirt around the roots was disturbed but the plants were still in the pot. I also see the squirrel climbing my tropical hibiscus – he’s probably getting the seedpods from the spent blooms. Something is digging around my Dahlia plants. I know we have chipmunks, too.
I used to do the ckn wire,got beautiful tulips BUT they decided to chew off the flowers instead!! I think they had issues w/ my garden. !! HA. funny w/ th ckn wire, the girls at my local nursery told me about the wire method . I didn’t know they meant a flat piece and cover it up. Well I made a BOX out of the wire and went back to them to show them if that was suffice,
they never laughed so hard that season.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Denise in CO – Yes, cats are definitely squirrel-deterrents!
Maka – Oy, rattlesnakes!
Patty – Hibiscus flowers are edible for humans, so I assume the seed pods are a real treat for squirrels.
Dennis – Don’t feel bad. I learn everything the hard way, too!
A response to Jane who sent in comment #6: It has been found that cocoa shell mulch is potentially lethal to pets because it contains the toxin Theobromine. Many dogs love chocolate, and it is this ingredient that makes dogs sick if they consume enough. They can even die. If a dog is around cocoa shell mulch and is unsupervised, it is likely to eat it as it would a chocolate bar and get very sick. I steer clear of cocoa shell mulch altogether.
Susan In OH says
Interesting that no one has mentioned soaking your tulip bulbs in Bulb Guard which may be a mixture of red hot pepper, garlic, onion, oil, and a soap. Also sprinkle cayenne pepper into bird seed to deter squirrels, but doesn’t hurt the birds. Also I find a box of Irish Spring Soap opened at one end and laid by plants that appeal to ground hogs does the trick. How about the fishing line strung about 4′ off the ground around the perimeter of your property to deter deer?
I have found that using chopped garlic deter squirrels from digging in your flower beds. I buy chopped garlic from the dollar store and sprinkle it in my flower beds. The squirrels can’t stand the smell of garlic, and I have no problem with them digging up my bulbs I found this article in a book I was reading and decided to give it a try after trying everything else. This is the only thing that I have found that keeps them out of my flowers. Before I started using the chopped garlic I would plant garlic bulbs which also works. Hope this is helpful.
I agree about the laziness of squirrels..I find that gently stomping on the ground after planting and before covering with fallen leaves, mulch, whatever has helped with my squirrel issues.
I am a lazy woman who lives in the woods. Too lazy for chicken wire. The critters have eaten my crocuses and my tulips, but mostly avoided the daffodils which came up last spring. Now I know, research before I plant. And I enjoy other people’s crocuses and tulips.
Peggy Herron says
I have left beautiful blooming formal tulip beds at 4 o’clock and returned a few of days later with 800 tulip flowers snapped off at the base of the flower. I have tried mothballs, pounds of Indian hot pepper, coyote urine. Bobbex deer replant sprayed on and under the stems of each tulip as they grow ,about every three weeks. The park smells like fish for a couple of days but it works.
It is also a fertilzer and not toxic to animals or the gardener .
Somtimes planting late blooming tulips will be left alone to bloom.
I use metal lawn staples or cut and bent wire hangers in the shape of a upside down U in pots or planters. The bent metal is stuck in the soil about 1 inch down ( just enough to hold the staple up all winter ) and 1 to 5 inches apart covering the whole planters surface . This prevent the little bastards from digging . The staples are hopefully removed before the bulbs start to come up.
I feed and love squirrels . It is a love hate relationship.
Joni D says
We don’t have problems with squirrels, however we do have a cat problem!! The little critters have decided to use one of my gardens for a litter box! NOTHING grows in that area! I have removed the soil and replaced it – worked in wood stove ash – and still nothing! The cats have taken care of the squirrels, but what takes care of the cats? These are feral cats, Our dog chases them, but isn’t outside 24/7!!! Always problems with something or another!
I am very thankful for all your teachings Kevin, I will look for the plants that you suggested. Can you please tell me if I should dig up the gladiolus before the snow come? Thank you in advance!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Maria – Wait until the foliage dies back, and then dig up your gladiolus bulbs or “corms.” Store the corms someplace dark, cool, and definitely dry. I store mine in a paper sack that I fill with vermiculite, sawdust, or bone-dry peat moss.
Bless you for your thoughtfulness towards the squirrel’s eyes!!! It is true what you say about red pepper and I wished more people were sensitive to that as well. Thank you Kevin!
Kathryn Phillips says
Kevin – I just read your article on bulbs and squirrels and not only did I get my usual chuckle and some words of wisdom, but it also made me think back to when I worked part time at Home Depot. I was ringing up the bulbs a customer was purchasing and we were discussing how to deter squirrels. Another customer that was next in line asked, “Why would a squirrel dig up a light bulb?” Trust me, she was serious.
hollie bamford says
Great advice for bulbs unearthed by squirrels. However, my problems are voles and moles.
How can I protect my bulbs that I am getting ready to plant.
Thank you Hollie Bamford
@Kevin you spread some valuable information which is really useful for me because i feel this issue in my back space garden. I definitely recommend to other individual to read your tips.
A Student Gardener says
Great post. I am trying to focus mostly on plant selection to coexist with my deer and squirrel but you raise a good point with soil disturbance, I had my Allium dug up but uneaten. I’ll be sure to cover them next time.
Just found your web page – thanks for the squirrel advice. It’s nice to know there are people who really pay attention to all aspects of their natural environment….I agree about the no pepper flakes – too mean. And I love the squirrel whisperer analogy! Thanks again.
ceal whalen says
Thanks for the squirrel advise but what do you do to keep the deer from eating your tulips as they did to mine this year (I don’t have a squirrel issure)— they didn’t touch my next door neighbors!!!
I have read all your comments but none seems to solve my problem. Every year I plant Hyacinths and tulips and cover them with mulch (about 3″ of mulch) and every year they do not come up as the have squirrels eaten them. The ones that do come up the squirrels eat the flowers. Just today I went into my front garden and more bulbs have been eaten (I see the bits of bulbs and stems lying around). I have a cat who is always out but that does not seem to deter my unwelcome visitors. In the past couple of years I have literally planted hundreds of bulbs and get maybe 20% to come up.
Can anyone help me here?
Sorry, but you’re wrong. I know personally that squirrels eat my crocus and tulip bulbs. I’ve seen the result…discarded crocus sprouts and missing bulbs, the remains of consumed tulip bulbs. The little vermin even eat bulbs through fine mesh plastic netting without cutting it, though how they manage it is a mystery. Squirrel repellents, stinky milorganite and bone meal don’t deter them. The little bas***ds.
Hi Kevin, I planted some little Sparaxis corms in a pot on Tuesday only to find today
that the soil had been dug up. It certainly looks like a squirrel is the little culprit as I have seen one near the bird feeder on several occasions.
I think your theory is correct and that once it discovered there were no nice nuts etc, it just abandoned its search and left a messy looking pot behind! I plan to see If I can get some chicken wire tomorrow or place leaves on top. Good advice, thanks!
I found perfect remedy by accident….free and completely natural. I have gum tree in front yard..perfect for shade shade but produce golf ball size pods with stickers on them. The pods always cover tulip bulbs and never had prob with my squirrels. This year I decided to remove pods on ground early and next day squirrels dug up several bulbs. I covered area in pods again and no prob after that. Seem squirrels hate crawling on the prickly pods and certainly won’t stick their noses on them. 🙂
bulb wilder says
Something is pulling up the blooming crocus and eating the corm leaving
the flower laying on the ground. What could this be? I have placed the ever
ready chicken wire around the new shoots to spare them this evil fate.
This is a first in all the years of the crocus beds. Deer and tulips – yes.
Crystal Robinson says
How do they feel about garlic bulbs, I am hesitant to plant them and have them eaten since they were a rare russian variety and quite expensive. I have tilled three weeks ago, do you think it is safe to plant now that it has had time to sit? I will still cover with leaves.
so, if squirrels do not like Hyacinth bulbs… what do you suppose ate all of mine? I spent over 6 hours planting Hyacinths, and tulips….. I had bought 200 of these plants, and they were beautiful, I used mulch around them after planting, and the following year… none came back, so I dug up the area and there was not one single bulb left in the ground……
Squirrels are precious critters but…..put some Vaseline on poles that lead to your bird houses-
Cynthia Hill says
The photo of your beautiful pink beheaded tulips made me want to cry –
What I do have for you is our anti-mouse, moles and vole creation ,,,, after a few bad winters and a mess of bark stripped roses, wisteria and dogwood- cambria stripped bare – my husband and I tried a mixture for the tiny bastards – 1) before snow – mothballs around the base of each plant, a handful scattered around each plant. 2) after first couple inches of snow – dried, crushed mint, don’t be frugal, mints’ cheap, even if ordered online – you’ll grow your own next summer!
If you get lots of snow, keep applying mint every 6-8 inches. The thing is, these little monsters hate a minty smell and every time the snow melts, it moistens the mint and drips down.
Face it, it’s a mint and mouse game….as the snow melts, look for their tunnels straight to your
New Dawns, but not a nibble occurs.
Outwit, Outsmart and Outlast – you’re the survivor!
I have found that even Allium bulbs are dug up & eaten by rabbits, deer &/or chipmunks during drought years. The varmints need water & will eat anything. I have put out mothballs, Irish Spring soap, & deer repellents to no avail. I will try the chicken wire this year & more shredded leaves.
Sheri Rice says
Kevin I think you inadvertently started a squirrels-ate-my-garden support group! I have had problems with squirrels digging, more so in a previous house where the property was full of trees. Trees=squirrels. My home now is newer and the trees are younger, so rabbits are an issue. Re tulips, I feel your pain. I’ve invested in heirloom varieties only to watch those little jerks dig them up or eat the head off (and then leave it lie). If you’re going to eat it, please at least just eat it! I had some luck with dunking the bulbs prior to planting in a bowl of the pepper spray I got at the garden center that contained red pepper oil among other things. The master gardener there told me to use a heavy hand with the liquid. In addition, I have tried a number of topical repellents with limited luck. Having a pair of terriers has helped, some. I think the combination has been best? I also plant the tulips closer to the house where the critters are less daring. It’s in the way back where they do the most damage.
Kevin, I must add tomatoes & apples to your list of items a squirrel is looking out for in the garden. We’ve had a little black squirrel on our property this summer & it has munched a small bite into just about every ripe tomato on the vines (and that’s a lot of tomatoes because we have 18 plants). It loves the sungold cherry tomatoes and there is a blanket of skins at the base of the plant because it eats only the tender inside of the cherry tomato. We’ve also found it picked some apples & carried them into the fenced-in tomato area to munch on.
Kathleen Butler says
The squirrel’s eating bird seed problem is fixed by installing a 3 foot metal flange attached directly to the pole that holds the feeder. The squirrels can’t get a toe hold on the metal thus can’t get to the feeder (assuming your feeder is far anough away from trees they can’t jump on it). I feed the squirrels other things and they use the bird bath for water but they went for my bird feeder anyway, the metal cylinder around the pole fixed the problem.
Joyce Bush says
Well, I feed the birds, chipmunks and squirrels 2x daily, so you would think they’d have enough respect to leave my bulb garden alone!!!!!
Thing is, I’ve never seen them out there digging around during the day….I think this is a nighttime marauder. I’m WONDERING; I planted each bulb with a healthy dose of bone meal, and I’m wondering if it could be coyotes, foxes, or a neighbor’s wandering dog. The digging looks like its from a larger animal., and there are no bulbs around–so they must be dining heartily.
I been having this problem for the 1st time ever! I transplanted my bulbs from our old home garden to our new home garden and next morning they were dug up, bitten up (some with big bites in the bulbs.) to the point I just began to get fed up. I will for sure try the leaf cover since we live next to a small woods. The one thing though I can say does not work is hyacinth. If you are talking about the bulbs and leaves, it does not work. That was dug up and destroyed. 🙁
Patricia St. Claire says
Do moles and voles eat bulbs? I’m asking because 2 yrs ago , I planted a small hillside with about 2 bushels of daffodils. The following spring NOTHING came up. After waiting till the summer, curiosity got the best of me, and I started digging into the hill. There was not one bulb on that hill, or in it. I always thought it was the squirrels. After reading this, I have to think it must have been the moles, and voles.
Hope G tammaro says
Gloria says. After reading all this advice from everyone I do not see an answer to why do squirrels bite off a tulip in full bloom just below the fower base. They leave the tulip on the groud near the stem and don’t appear to eat any petals or stamin. The flower is fully intact What is the solution?
Laura Doherty says
I read everything here but do not understand why Friday night I had a pretty bunch of 8 yellow tulips and Saturday morning I had 0 tulips and the ground looked untouched. No leftover stalks, sort of like they never were there… just a few petals leaving a trail up my city street….?
There is a bird feeder that closes due to weight of squirrels vs birds. We had tried everything. My husbands BP calmed after replacing our two feeders. It became fun to watch the squirrels after they kept dropping to the ground. As to bulbs, just planted 50 spider Lilies two days ago and they are dug up and gone. I am reading all comments and learning. Thank you for info.
J. Collins says
I had voles…. saw the tunnels…. fortunately I have a cat and used kitty litter…. and peppermint oil…. I stuffed used kitty litter in the tunnels and then sprinkled peppermint oil on top…. and kept stomping so the kitty litter mixture (phew) was well packed with mint oil on top …
So far so good and it’s been months…. without voles
If you don’t have a cat ask a neighbor who does and is willing to let loose of their used kitty litter.
Judith – Missouri
Karen High says
You have a very beautiful website! For my squirrel problem, I think I will try the chopped garlic to see if I can keep the remaining bulbs from being eaten until they stop flowering. Then, I will attempt to put the bulbs in chicken wire !?? Will let you know if the garlic works on my squirrels.
bird feeder help, My husband built me a large bird feeder with a metal roof on it and used a very thin steel wire strung from tree to tree to hang the feeder. The squirrels seem like they can not see the wire for they do not try to climb on it. When the feeder was first put up one squirrel tried to jump from tree to feeder but the the steel roof was slippy so the squirrel slipped down on to the snow and I took a movie of this.This was very funny to watch the squirrel as he fell( he was not getting hurt because he landed on his feet) so he got up and ran back up the tree and jumped again and fell again.They have not bothered since. They eat the seeds that the birds have left fall on the ground. Thought you would like to know how we feed birds without the squirrels taking the seeds in Pennsylvania.
love reading all comments on gardening. I have tried all to stop the bulbs from being dug up or eaten. I’m going to cut a plastic jug top and bottom off and put on all my dahlias see if that will help. Oh well try something.thanks ,Monna
Bonnie in BC (zone 4/5) says
Minna, I love the bird feeder strung by wire between two trees idea. Genius husband! Will share your solution with mine. Thanks
Thanks for the tips about protecting bulbs from squirrels. I love watching my squirrels and I feed them along with the birds in my garden which very large. The love fat balls but don’t eat the suet which they scatter underneath the fat ball ring. The smaller birds flock there and hover up. I have known a squirrel, several sparrows and a field mouse all on the feeder together when the weather was really cold. Brilliant sight.
Great advice, however 3 squirrels just ran away from my balcony after stealing and eating 3 hyacinth bulbs in front of my eyes, so suggest some amendments to the guidance…
Dear Kevin, Just discovered your site! We have two huge black walnut trees next to our driveway-lots of squirrels! Tulips are my FAVORITE flowers. I plant 1 or 2 Moly allium bulbs next to each tulip bulb I plant. Tulip 6 inches down, Moly 3 inches down. The Moly allium is a short perennial plant It is hard to find locally, and usually I order it on the internet at a bulb selling source. Not really that expensive, but worth it so I can look forward to the first tiny tulip leaves come up in the spring! Works for me. Have you ever tried this?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Marcia — Thanks for the allium/tulip tip. It’s a trick I’m willing to try!
Midge. In Ohio says
Loved this site the squirrel advice and funny stories. Just had Puschkinna bulbs eaten yesterday . I planted them 3″ down but the squirrel found them and chewed to pieces, but left the mess. I don’t think they were eaten, only distroyed. I patted the ground over other areas so far so good.
In reference to comment #31 – I have at least 55 bars of Irish Spring tied into 4″ plastic pots (inside pantyhose). This to deter the deer from my gardens and eating the Hosta and perennials. I could certainly smell the soap in the weeks after they were put out, 2 years ago. Within a couple weeks, I noticed some of the pots were smashed from deer stepping on them in the night. I know that because I saw their footprints right next to the pot! I’ve left the dissolving soap out though and still scattered around my garden beds, in case they might keep some critters away. I have a neighbor down the street that uses an expensive sprinkler that’s motion sensitive to keep the deer out of his front yard gardens (which are about 1/4 the size of my front yard). He has 2 set up facing each other. I think he called them Water Scarecrows and he bought them from a garden wholesaler @ $60 each. Electric fence is probably the only sure way to keep deer out, but I can’t fence my whole yard.
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Hi Robert Redford!!!!!!!!
Thank you so much for this advise, I will try it out.
Some thoughts please.
We have a lot of squirrels, raccoons and skunk in our neighbourhood.
I planted some tulips and daffodils last fall, and no disturbance at all – until a couple of days ago when the little buggers have chewed and practically destroyed the emerging tulips AND Daffodils!!! The young shoots are all chewed and strewn around the area. Is there anything I can try to stop them destroying the emerging plants??
Leigh Kirsten says
Best advice to stop bulbs from being eaten is to put cut human or dog hair around your bulbs. You can bury some a few inches down and be sure to also put on top of dirt around your dahlias and other flowers that the squirrels and moles seem to quickly eat. Not great to have your money spent on flowers and bulbs that “disappear.” I have two terriers and always keep their clipped hair. You can also go to any hairdresser and they will gladly give you bags of cut hair. So far works for me. Keeping my fingers crossed this year! Have tried “EVERYTHING.” So far this has been the best. I always plant marigolds around these eatable flowers too. The strong smell of marigolds seems to help enormously with the hair cuttings. Good luck!
I know this is a couple years old but I’m desperate. I hadn’t two questions any the advice here.
1. I would like to try the chopped garlic, but do you mean fresh garlic chopped up? dried /minced? or should i try garlic powder?
I just got done trying chili powder, now i just read its bad for the squirrels and i feel terrible. For what it’s worth a wind gust blew a bunch in my eye and i thought “no more of this” that’s how i found myself in this forum in the first place, with one burning eye, a runny nose, seeking a better solution.
2. I’ve built wire cages for tulips and daffodils with great success, im having trouble with the tiny bulbs like crocuses and whatnot, i really don’t want to dig up my whole yard to plant tons of metal mesh, but I love the look in early spring of a yard covered in tiny flowers. I don’t think my neighbors would appreciate me covering my yard in chicken wire or fabric or anything like that. Is this a place to try garlic?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Lisa – I don’t think garlic will help in this case. My advice is to go ahead and lay cheap chicken wire (available in most hardware stores) over the bulb bed, and secure it with bricks, stones, boards, or landscaping pins. Remove the wire after the ground freezes, or when the bulbs begin to sprout. Alternatively, you could spray the area with “rodent deterrent” spray, which I’ll admit is rather a nuisance.
Sue Von Hor says
Hyacinths are NOT safe. I have had over 150 flowers and stems eaten down to the base.
Beatriz Kimball says
Now I know why I lost all but one of my snake head fritillary, but my Spanish bluebells came up. Their presence saved the Virginia bluebells as well. Something nibbled the tops of the foliage like what happened to Sue’s (above), but I sprinkled my Irish Spring around and they seem to be safe for now.
Gail Gray says
Do you think it would be effective to cover newly-planted daffodils — I learned my lesson about tulips! — with a fresh, 2-3 inch layer of landscape bark?
By the way, we invite squirrels into our yard with a feeder, fresh water, etc. So I don’t want to scare them off, simply come to a compromise about them eating the nuts and not the bulbs!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Gail – My guess? Your daffodil bulbs will be safe beneath a 2-3 inch layer of bark. And I’m with you — I cherish the wildlife that visit my property.
Wonder if I plant grape hyacinth on top of the lilies. Will that deter squirrels? I have plenty to transplant!!
Nice concept if it would work!
To Betsy and Kevin: The best (and funniest) way to keep squirrels off bird feeders (if they are mounted on metal poles) is to apply a thick layer of Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline). They leap onto the poles and slide down gracefully. It is endlessly entertaining. Eventually all the Vaseline wears off and then you can just reapply. And the little squirrel feet will be nice and moisturized.
I’ve always had amazing results with Liquid fence. As soon as the tulips emerge I squirt liberally for a week and the deer never come back. It’s worth the extra effort because I can’t have spring without tulips.
Thanks for these tips, Kevin! For several years I had trouble with squirrels digging up my Tulip bulbs. But then I started putting a handful of cedar mulch in on top of the bulbs before I covered them with soil and VOILA! …. no more bulb poaching. I was told by a friend that squirrels are repelled by the scent. Feel free to add this Tulip tip to your arsenal! xx
lorie leo says
I routinely scour Goodwill and other such places for attractive (and cheap!) open metalwork to place over my garden’s emerging Critter Taste Treats. Birdcages and large open “bowls” protect from marauding deer an bunnies but the flowers are still visible. It allows me to have a few tulips here and there and they can be very attractive garden ornaments if not overdone. I also use them early in the season when the local fauna relentlessly nibble all the Coral Bells and bulb lilies. Eventually, the mammals go on to eat tastier things and the protective covers can be put away.
Ceacy Henderson says
My problem has never been squirrels but rather voles. And chipmunks who love to dig lily bulbs out of pots. I have watched them also dig tulip bulbs and sit right there on the deck devouring them. Sigh, rough neighborhood.
Jody Mandel says
I use dried blood meal to deter digging of bulbs, as well. This seems to work. I read about doing this once. I don’t think the squirrels like the smell of blood and maybe it throws them off. I put bone meal under and around the bulb and mix blood meal into the soil that goes over the bulbs. Then some light mulch to cover my tracks, too.
I also recently used hot pepper successfully for a spot that was repeatedly dug up by I am not sure who.
By the way, I find that the dried blood meal is awesome for flowers! The bag says so, and I was surprised. I thought that nitrogen would cause a large amount of leaves, and less flowers, but I was wrong. (Need to learn more about all this science.)
Peggy Herron says
I plant thousands of bulbs every Fall. I agree with the leaf cover , we also give the soil a good walking over before the leave cover . Last year we got tired and didn’t bury the bulbs deep enough on my last two jobs and even with all the stamping and leaf leaf cover the the little buggers git most of the bulbs. I have used plastic netting which works but I have to get to the gardens before the bulbs pop up or they get strangled.
I have used Bibbex which is for deer but also works for squirrels . It dies t hurt them it just tastes nasty , I know for personal experience. It works on those crucial first days when bulbs are starting g to bloom . My other experience with squirrels is to plant later tulips they come up when the squirrels are not so desperate and they have a better chance of not being chewed up.
One year they dug mine out of a pot to make room for those prickly balls that fall off a tree in our backyard. They open them to get goodies inside of them.
hi Kevin, i have used these following ideas for planting bulbs: my crocuses and tulips and daffodils were always being robbed! So i started planting them in a rich mixture of soil, then applying a screen over top of them , then making sure i had the screening pinned down on each edge with either rocks., or shims…. ;o) worked like a charm, the other idea is planting garlic bulbs around your beautiful bulbs… they don’t come up at the same time so who cares? squirrels don’t like garlic!
that is what i do…
take care and happy planting, i am really really late this year, so i hope they all come up. I’ll use your idea in planting deep! Thank you!!!! lise
frederique jennette says
Thanks for those great squirrel proof tips, will apply them this year! We shall see!
Wonderful advice!! The squirrels are an issue, they have bit almost all of
My new blooms of my tulips and daffodils off! I put in , really alot of new bulbs . Filled new spaces in the garden , some fancy bulbs! Will take the advice of planting garlic and dusting my blooms with Garlic also. This is a great website, thankyou!
Delano Erwin says
Thanks. However, my countless squirrels pay no attention to hot pepper powder! Ive mixed fresh generously in birdseed, placed generous amounts on top of soil, and used hot pepper suet. They seem to like. They also eat safflower and nyger seed, which they aren’t supposed to like. There are many great squirrel resistant feeders. If placed properly, squirrel proof. The best I’ve found is the roller feeder bought online. It’s the only one I’ve ever found that’s waterproof…seeds don’t get wet in it. I’ve made wire cages out of hardware cloth for plants attacked by voles and for bulbs.
My squirrels LOVE grape hyacinths. They dug up all the tulip bulbs, and are now devouring all the grape hyacinth bulbs. This includes some pots that only had and only have ever had grape hyacinths. They don’t like the daffodils, but they “dig” the grape hyacinths.
They’re typically most active for me in the middle of the day, contrary to most guidebooks that tell you they are active during dawn and dusk.
I spray a mixture of garlic powder, egg, and water every few weeks. It keeps the deer and rabbits away. Voles will dig through soft dirt and eat tulip and Siberian iris bulbs, but if those bulbs are planted in very hard, rocky dirt, no. Could mix some diatomaceous earth in, too. I’ve found that nothing deters squirrels from crocus bulbs. Sooner or later, they find them.
Betty Haga says
Plant daffodils in front of the tulips and intersperse them. Place fishing line at several heights attached to garden stakes with twist ties. Put some deer mesh fencing over the stakes Critters don’t like the feel of something detering them. Bury the fencing several inches in the dirt. Anythings worth a try and this worked for me even though we are blessed with deer and smaller critters. GARDEN ON!!
I am first time bulb grower well except last year tried a few bulbs and they were dug up and my few lilies the rabbits ate the flower but i spent 500 dollars on bulbs so my husband but wooden spikes with tin foil pans tied to them all over gardens and daffodils are in bloom and tulips are starting and colorful lilies are coming up squirrels and rabbits hate the noise from the wind banging the tin plates I have no plants dug up or eaten so far our garden looks like an alien landing strip but when all my plants come and are established we will put smaller noise makers in i hope this can help other gardeners
I, too, have had the problem with squirrels digging up my caladium bulbs from large flower pots near my front door. I have tried the repellant and it did nothing. I finally am putting chicken wire over the pot tops (after replanting new bulbs) in hopes of keeping the critters out of there. I have also observed the squirrels pulling up my St. Augustine grass by the roots and eating the roots. I only hope my lawn isn’t bare from their antics. Yes, they are “cute” but they have also done extensive damage to my house over the years. Oh – the “chicken wire” I bought last week at a hardware store is now called POUTLRY NETTING. I guess the chickens were offended!
Steve Earsom says
Squirrels are pretty cute, but they’re pretty naughty. They come to my bird seed tray in search of food, and sometimes they even destroy the food tray. So, how to stop squirrels from eating bird seed?
Linda F. says
Mister, you are awesome. I just moved to an area that has a ton of wildlife, which I love – but I HATE what they do to my plants. I know a little already, but I just learned a whole lot more. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, it will be a great help. Got you bookmarked.