Any suggestions for stopping squirrels (?) from cutting off the flower heads of my tulips and leaving them beside the bulbs.
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.
We have had a number of homeowners writing in with similar problem. The following information is from a few of our earlier posts:
“You are not alone with this concern, and Toronto Master Gardeners has written a very informative Guide titled: Growing Tulips.Therein, under the section on “Diseases and Pests”, you will find several preventative measures which you may choose to deploy alone, or in conjunction with one another.
You may find the following biological controls useful:
1. Planting other bulbs, such as daffodils, allium or fritillarias, or all, to your plot— if this fits in with your garden vision. Daffodil bulbs, and leaves, contain poisonous crystals which only certain insects can eat with impunity, and squirrels avoid. Allium (the Latin word for garlic) has a smell that resembles onions, again, a deterrent, and ‘frits’ contain poisonous alkaloids that produce a pungent, skunk-like odor that repels squirrels — and deer, while you’re at it !
2. And remember to clean up all remnants of discarded bulb skins after planting, as their presence, and smell, will prompt squirrels to dig for buried treasure;
3. Sprinkle blood meal around the plantings: blood meal contains high levels of nitrogen and ammonia. Again, the smell will drive squirrels away;
In addition to these biological controls, there’s always the cheap-and-cheerful option to spread chicken wire over your planted bed, and let the bulbs grow up through the wire, no need to remove.”
“We often field questions regarding rodents eating tulip bulbs or blooms and I am sorry to report that there is not one simple solution, there is no commercially available repellent that has been proved to be effective for chipmunks. Our literature suggests that squirrel repellents may also work for chipmunks, that is not a great help as not all animals behave in the same way so the best answer we can offer is to try a variety of methods until you find one that works for the tulip gourmands in your garden.
Taste: Commercial products containing thiram pr Bitrex, applied to plants alter the taste, and after a few tastes your chipmunk will be put off any further chewing. These products are not to be eaten by humans, and you will have to re apply after every rainfall or watering.
Smell: Methyl nonyl ketone crystals & Mothballs placed around your plants are repellents of many animals including cats, dogs and rabbits, so may also work for chipmunks.
Predator scent: There are products that mimic the smell of coyote urine. The theory is that this will scare your squirrels away – warning though – the smell is strong and awful – this will also scare away any human visitors from garden for at least 48 hours.
Hair: Collect human, dog or cat hair from neighbors and salons – put them in nylon “baggies” and place them around your plants.
Other bulbs: Consider planting a variety of other bulbs with your tulips, Rodents don’t like daffodils, allium and fritillarias. Not only will they leave these bulbs alone, but they will be put off by the offering in your garden and move on to more sweetly smelling pastures. In fact, some people plant garlic in the fall with their tulip bulbs to deter squirrels from digging them up. This year I am planting chives with all my tomatoes to ward off my tomato eating chipmunk.
Plastic toys: I heard on a CBC radio show several years ago that putting a plastic owl, and plastic snakes around the garden will scare off rodents and they will see these as predators. I tried the owl with little success – it worked only for a couple of days until the squirrels and chipmunks realized that it was a fake! And the same I am sure is true for the plastic snakes. BUT if you bring these items out only for the short time it takes for your tulips to bloom – well it might just work.
Good luck – and keep up the good fight!
Below is a link from Penn State with more information about chipmunk control: