What Are the Best Deer-Resistant Bulbs?

Choose Your Bulbs Wisely

Fritillaria imperialis with yellow flowers.
Fritillaria imperialis in yellow. Lijuan Guo Photography/Moment/Getty Images

When deer get hungry they tend to forage for flower bulbs. All too often, the bulbs you plant wind up becoming deer food, and your landscape remains bare. Fencing is an option but comes at a price and can detract from the appearance of your landscaping. Fortunately, deer are selective in the bulbs they choose to eat; pick the right ones, and you may be able to protect your flower beds.

  • 01 of 11

    Snowdrops

    Snowdrops (image) look just as good with closed flowers as after opening. That's why they're drops.
    Snowdrops look just as good (maybe better) when the flowers are closed as after they have opened. David Beaulieu

    Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are one of the first plants to pop up in late winter or early spring, sometimes even before the snow has completely retreated (which is why they have "snow" in their name). Snowdrops can spread for you and naturalize over the years, eventually forming white drifts that are pretty impressive visually, considering how small the individual flowers are.

  • 02 of 11

    Glory-of-the-Snow

    Photo shows Chionodoxa, a bulb with pink flowers. Chionodoxa is commonly called "glory-of-the-snow."
    Picture of Chionodoxa. David Beaulieu

    Another plant that won't interest local deer is the early-blooming Glory-of-the-Snow. If you're not a fan of white flowers, such as snowdrops, take note that glory-of-the-snow doesn't come only in white: other options are light pink and blue.

    Glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa; the Greek Chion means "snow") should be planted in fall. As with all plants bearing small flowers, it needs to be grown en masse to produce an appreciable visual effect.

  • 03 of 11

    Crocus

    Crocus picture. Crocus flowers such as the one in this photo provide vibrant spring color.
    Crocus flowers such as this yellow crocus provide vibrant spring color. David Beaulieu

    While deer won't eat crocus bulbs, rabbits and squirrels will. Once a crocus has been thoroughly munched it's gone for the year. Many people, therefore, protect crocus in the spring with netting.

  • 04 of 11

    Scilla Siberica

    Scilla
    Scilla. David Beaulieu

    Blue flowers are greatly sought-after by gardeners, and Siberian squill (Scilla siberica) is a wonderful source of blue for the spring garden. The cultivar, 'Spring Beauty' is more robust in all ways than the species plant. That's apparent immediately as the plant first breaks through the ground in spring, unfolding leaves that are much thicker than those of the species.

    But it's not only with its leaves that 'Spring Beauty' flaunts its superiority over the species. Scilla siberica bears fewer leafless stalks than similar plants, and each blooming stalk produces as many as six blooms.

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  • 05 of 11

    Hyacinth Plants

    Pink Hyacinthus orientalis picture
    Pink Hyacinthus orientalis. Michael Boys/Corbis/VCG/ Corbis Documentary/ Getty Images

    Because hyacinth flowers occur in clusters on a flower spike, hyacinth may be showier than any of the other plants on this list. They are also the most aromatic of the early-bloomers. And that's one reason why deer disdain them: powerful fragrance seems to be one of the best protections that plants have against his incursions. But there's a second reason: hyacinths are poisonous.

    Don't confuse hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis) with grape hyacinths (see below).

  • 06 of 11

    Daffodils

    White daffodils picture.
    White daffodils picture. David Beaulieu

    Like hyacinths, daffodils are toxic. This fact helps explain why deer ​don't eat them, and why even squirrels leave them alone. Daffodils are widely recognized as among the most beautiful flowers hardy in cold regions;  they come in both yellow and white.

  • 07 of 11

    Grape Hyacinth

    Grape hyacinths picture.
    Grape hyacinths picture. David Beaulieu

    Grape hyacinths (Muscari botryoides) are quite distinct from true hyacinths. Grape hyacinths bear smaller flowers that are bell-shaped, whereas true hyacinths have flowers shaped like little starfish. The "grape" in the name derives from the fact that the flower clusters resemble bunches of grapes.

  • 08 of 11

    Allium

    Photo of Schubert's Allium, an ornamental onion. Flower heads are jaw-dropping.
    Ornamental onion picture: Allium schubertii. David Beaulieu

    There are many types of alliums: they come not only in different colors but also in different sizes, and the larger ones will, understandably, come later than the smaller ones. 

    Deer tend to turn their noses up at allium; the most likely reason is that, as a member of the onion family, it produces a strong flavor and smell.  

    There are various white alliums, blue alliums, and purple alliums. The one in the picture is pink. There are even some that bear yellow flowers. While the flowers are beautiful, however, they can be dangerous for pets.

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  • 09 of 11

    Fritillaria

    As photo shows, Fritillaria is a sensational lily. Crown Imperial Fritillaria has orange blooms.
    Crown Imperial Fritillaria. David Beaulieu

    Fritillaria imperialis, commonly known as "crown imperial," is a bold beautiful, deer-resistant option.

  • 10 of 11

    Lily-of-the-Valley

    Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) has white flowers, as photo shows. Convallaria is invasive.
    Convallaria majalis has white, bell-shaped flowers. David Beaulieu

    Lily-of-the-valley is often used at weddings, being fragrant and white, but it's an invasive plant in some regions. Constantly having to defend your perennial bed against an unwanted intruder has a way of souring you on the "romance" of a plant.

    Also unromantic is the fact that lily-of-the-valley is toxic. But if you're more worried about deer eating up your landscaping than you are about invasive or poisonous plants, then you may just fall in love with lily-of-the-valley.

  • 11 of 11

    Netted Iris

    Iris reticulata flowers bear 3 colors. An early bloomer, Iris reticulata flowers in March or April.
    Picture: Iris reticulata flower. David Beaulieu

    Netted iris (Iris reticulata) will catch your eye in the first part of spring with its purple flowers (accented with a bit of yellow and white, to boot). There are good and bad aspects to this iris. If you are looking for something small, you will get it with netted iris, which is classified as a dwarf. On the negative side of the ledger, it lacks the aroma you may have come to associate irises with; nor is it long-lived.