Protect your flower bulbs from squirrels in Western New York

squirrel holding tulip bulb
Photo illustration by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

“I’ve planted bulbs, gone into the house, and the squirrels come back ten minutes later to steal my bulbs,” said Patti Jablonski-Dopkin, general manager at Urban Roots Cooperative Garden Market. “They’re viscous little things!”

Jablonski-Dopkin offers tips for keeping squirrels away from your newly planted bulbs.

You still have plenty of time to buy and plant bulbs. In Western New York, plant bulbs in October or November. The soil should be cool, about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, it’s best to plant bulbs after a killing freeze, she said.

Urban Roots, at 428 Rhode Island St., Buffalo, has some bulbs in stock now. More should arrive later this week.

In our next issue, we’ll tell how to plant your bulbs.

Choose bulbs squirrels don’t like

If you already know squirrels are a problem, make it easy on yourself and choose bulbs that squirrels don’t go after.

Jablonski-Dopkin suggests these as alternatives:

  • Species tulip. These are the true, original tulips, she said, while the tulips we usually see in gardens are hybrids. Species tulips are smaller and come up sooner than the hybrid tulips. Species tulips also come back for many years while hybrid tulips may stop blooming after a few years.
  • Narcissus (daffodils)
  • Allium
  • Scilla
  • Hyacinth
  • Muscari (grape hyacinth)
  • Galanthus (snow drops)
  • Frittilaria Iimperialis. The scent of the bulb deters squirrels, she said.

Deterring squirrels

  • Plant narcissus, allium or fritillaria, which squirrels don’t like, among common, hybrid tulips, which squirrels adore. That seems to discourage the squirrels from digging up the tulips.
  • Remove any bulb casings that might have fallen off as you planted. “The squirrels will pick up on it,” she said.
  • Drench the bulbs with a repellent. Jablonski-Dopkin uses I Must Garden squirrel repellent, an organic product that Urban Roots carries. She pours it into a bowl, puts the bulbs in the liquid, lets the bulbs set in the bowl for 10 minutes, then plants them. She sprinkles any repellent that’s left in the bowl on top of the soil where the bulbs have been planted.
  • Chicken wire can be used in two ways. The first way is to dig the hole for your bulbs, place the bulbs, cover the bulbs with soil, and place the chicken wire on top of the soil. You can add mulch on top of the chicken wire. With this method, extend the chicken wire out past the bulbs, perhaps two feet, to make it more difficult for the squirrels to dig under the chicken wire and get the bulbs. The second way is to dig the hole, place the bulbs, set the chicken wire in place and then add soil.

The chicken wire methods are “more than what I would do,” Jablonski-Dopkin said. “I would pick a different bulb. I would do the drench and cross my fingers. How bad do you want these flowers?”

She paused, then added: “But I get it. There are one or two hybrid tulips I fall in love with. They’re so lovely! After our cold winters, they add a lot of color.”

More tips on bulbs

Enjoy waves of spring color– in a single spot

Get spectacular spring color without sacrificing summer splendor

What perennials to plant around spring bulbs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Name *