Tulips are one of the most beautiful things you can see after the long months of winter. We all look forward to these brightly colored jewels and their green leaves as they start to emerge in early spring.
Unfortunately, these flowers are also a favorite delicacy for rabbits, rodents, and deer. And the last thing you want to see is your entire flower garden being destroyed by these creatures in a single night!
If you are baffled about what animal is eating your tulips, read on! Hopefully, you will find the answers and the right solutions in this guide.
What animal eats tulips: Common critters that can ruin your garden
Tulips take months to grow and bloom – not to mention all the hard work before you can finally enjoy a display of these spring-flowering bulbs in your landscape.
Your tulip-growing journey can be a tough road – many animals love the taste of tulips and you will have to face these enemies along the way! But do not lose hope – there are ways to outwit the hungry foragers and keep your tulips safe.
But first, let us learn the most common culprits behind the ruin of your tulip garden. By knowing your enemies, you can more easily devise an effective deterrent to keep them away for good.
If you have tons of bunnies in your area, chances are most of your tulips will be gone before they even flower! Hungry rabbits love nibbling on any part of a tulip, from the leaves and stem to the emerging buds. Keep in mind that rabbits have large front teeth that can make quick work of your crops and flowers. They are excellent burrowers too, just like other rodent pests. If you do not take precautions, these deceptively cute critters will not hesitate to devour your favorite spring flowers and ruin the entire garden.
Deer love to eat every kind of vegetation they can find, including tulips! In fact, the fresh green leaves and newly-emerged bulbs of your tulips are one of their favorites. They can even devour an entire bed of tulip bulbs if you are not careful.
Unfortunately, it can be challenging to catch them in the act, since these animals usually raid your garden at night. Deer eat a huge amount of greens every day, meaning they can quickly ruin a year’s worth of hard work in your garden! So, if you live in an area where deer are regularly spotted, make sure to deer-proof your tulip garden.
Squirrels are another pest that you might find snacking on your tulip flowers. Not only can they cause a great deal of frustration; but they will also hinder the progress of your spring-blooming bulbs. If you have a large population of squirrels living in nearby trees, you might need to implement extensive control measures to keep your tulips safe.
Squirrels are known to have an excellent sense of smell, and they can certainly pick up the scent of tasty crops and flowers nearby. These opportunistic creatures will happily watch you plant your bulbs, anticipating a great feast shortly after you have finished working. Squirrels have sharp front teeth that can dispose of your hard-won tulips in a flash – they might even do it in front of your eyes, adding insult to injury!
Knowing that tulips are a favorite on their menu, you should make sure never to leave your tulip garden vulnerable to squirrels. Otherwise, you will find them digging up your flowers and wreaking havoc all over your garden!
Nobody wants to deal with a rat infestation! Unfortunately, though, these rodents are everywhere. They will consume any kind of vegetation they might find – including your beautiful tulip flowers. If you planted your tulips in autumn and you are not seeing any growth come spring, chances are these critters have dug them up and eaten them in preparation for the coming winter.
Rats and mice find tulips a tasty food source, especially as their natural food supplies start to decline in autumn. Be prepared, or these hungry creatures will overrun your garden before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Chipmunks might seem adorable, but these marauding creatures can actually cause great damage to your flower beds! They are also known as excellent diggers and will probably find your tasty tulip bulbs irresistible.
Just like squirrels, chipmunks also make preparations for the winter, so your vulnerable tulip garden can be an easy source of ready meals if you do not take appropriate action.
Tulips are just too tasty for voles to pass up! These voracious eaters are one of the many culprits behind damaged flower beds. They spend most of their lives under the soil, waiting for an opportunity to harvest your juicy flower bulbs. So, if you notice your garden has been dug up overnight, it is quite possibly the work of voles.
At first, you might confuse voles with mice, but these creatures are actually different. Voles are slightly larger than mice; their tails are shorter, too. Voles are herbivorous, and they find most plant bulbs palatable, including tulips.
Thankfully, there are a few bulbs that these pests tend to avoid. You can use these as an effective deterrent (which we will discuss in the next section) to protect your precious tulip flowers!
How do you keep animals from eating tulips?
Now that you know which animal is responsible for the damage in your garden, it is time to take action! There are a few things you can do to keep unwanted visitors from digging up and munching on your tulips, as summarized below:
1. Plant your tulip bulbs with gravel
Pea gravel can be a hassle to dig through for chipmunks and squirrels. You can use this to your advantage to keep the critters off your flowers.
First, dig a hole for your tulip bulb. Place the bulb and fill the hole with about half an inch of pea gravel. Then cover the remaining part of the hole with mulch and dirt. Surrounding your bulbs with gravel will not only deter these pests but will also help improve the soil’s drainage, thus protecting your tulips from rotting.
2. Use companion plants
Not all plants and flowers are palatable to our common garden invaders. To keep your tulips safe, you can use companion plants to discourage certain animals like deer, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and rats from consuming your hard-won flowers.
Your best defense against burrowing rodents and above-ground foragers is to surround your tulips with fragrant flowers that they strongly dislike, or plants that might be toxic to them. These include:
- Bearded irises
- Ornamental onions
3. Install fences, bulb baskets, and cages
Using fences, bulb baskets, or cages is your ultimate form of defense against unwanted garden visitors. Remember that fences must be at least three feet high and buried about ten inches deep in the ground.
Bulb baskets or cages are excellent deterrents, too. You can purchase a bulb basket from Amazon and grow your tulips through the openings. Although bulb baskets might require extra effort to plant and bury, they are surely the most effective tool to protect your bulbs from burrowing rodents.
4. Plant your tulips closer to your door
Planting your tulips near your entrance door is an excellent way to add beauty to your home. It can discourage animals from getting too close to your tulips, too, since this is where people usually pass by.
5. Sprinkle red pepper flakes
The strong scent and taste of cayenne pepper or pepper flakes should be enough to discourage hungry foragers from feasting on your tulips. Simply sprinkle an adequate amount of pepper flakes around your garden to keep pests off your plants.
6. Install a motion-activated light
Motion-activated lights are quite effective, not only at spooking potential burglars, but also animals like deer. These simple deterrents should help keep your home and garden safe at night since both humans and animals are likely to be scared by the sudden illumination.
Several animals may be responsible for the frustrating damage to your tulip garden. From rabbits, chipmunks, and deer, to underground foragers like voles, your precious tulips can be an easy snack for these invaders. So plan ahead and make sure to implement protective measures before planting your tulips. With the right steps, you should be able to keep these animals off your plants in the most humane way.
Image: istockphoto.com / Iva Vagnerova