Bulbs are some of the easiest and most dramatic flowers you can add to your landscape and containers, and you can make them even more spectacular when you create layers of bulbs for lush growth and bursts of brilliant color, month after month. But the number one complaint we hear about bulbs is that squirrels and other critters gobble them up right away. So here are some tips on proper bulb planting, and ways to deter garden pests.
How to Plant Bulbs
Bulbs often look best when planted en masse, versus several smaller clusters scattered across your yard. Layering a “bulb lasagna” creates thicker foliage that can serve as great ground cover, and incorporating different types of flowers adds more color variety and textural diversity to the landscape. Layers ensure there are no gaps in your flowerbeds, and can fill in difficult spaces such as tight corners, small pots or narrow areas. This maximizes the use of space in your yard, and when you choose bulbs with overlapping bloom periods, you prolong the flowering season to enjoy beautiful bulbs for many weeks.
Best Bulbs for Layering
Any bulbs can be incorporated into layers, but you will have the best results when you choose bulbs with similar preferences for moisture levels, sunlight exposure, and soil type. Depending on the planting depth or size of container you may be using, you can create 2-4 layers, positioning the largest, latest blooming bulbs on the bottom layer and the smaller, earlier bloomers on the top layer closest to the soil’s surface. Popular bulbs for layering include…
- Bottom (Deepest) Layer: Larger tulips, later daffodils
- Mid-Season (Middle) Layers: Daffodils, tulips, allium, grape hyacinths
- Earliest (Top) Layer: Crocus, snowdrops, scilla
- Mix and Match with Annuals: Bulbs are enhanced when they are interspersed with flowering annuals such as pansies, petunias, and marigolds.
When choosing bulbs for your pots or landscape layering, consider the flower colors and opt for coordinating hues, bearing in mind that the earliest bloomers and latest bloomers are not likely to be seen at the same time. This is a good opportunity to create a color-changing arrangement that will offer continual thrills as the seasons change. At the same time, opt for flowers of different heights for even more textural interest. Learn more about best practices of bulb planting.
If you’re a rodent working hard to fill up your food cache, bulbs are a perfect to-go meal. They’re tasty, nutritious and easy to transport. But there are ways you can deter vermin from gobbling up your bulbs.
Plant bulbs they tend to avoid, including daffodils, alliums, scilla (Siberian squill), hyacinths, muscari (grape hyacinths), fritillaria, camassia, chionodoxa, and galanthus (snowdrops)
Deter them with a repellant: We carry and espouse the organic repellents Everguard (which can be sprayed right onto the bulbs), Repels All, and Plantskydd, proven to deter critters when used as instructed. Another way to protect your bulbs is to plant them with Soil Perfector, a shale mineral product that improves soil structure and creates a gritty texture that is, if you’re a rodent, unpleasant to dig through or chew. Adding granulated garlic or crushed red pepper flakes may also help deter nibbling.
Hide the evidence. Tamp down the dirt, and clean up the planting area when you’re done, so you don’t leave clues that there might be something tasty underground. Chipmunks and squirrels are curious, and freshly dug soil is a clue that something has been recently buried. Spreading a thin layer of bark mulch or shredded leaves over newly planted areas will help to hide the disturbance.
Use barriers to protect your bulbs. The most effective way to keep your bulbs from being eaten is to plant them inside a wire cage. It’s fussy and time consuming, but it works and is something to consider, especially if you plant your bulbs in the same place each year. Many public gardens use this technique so they can always get a crowd-pleasing display.
Wait them out: As summer turns to fall, squirrels and chipmunks shift into high gear. In addition to gathering food for winter, they may also be feeding a second litter. By mid-October, their activity levels begin to slow. Planting your bulbs a bit later than usual (before the ground freezes) will help you avoid that frantic foraging period.
Give it a try this year in your garden, and then sit back and enjoy the show!