Do Deer Eat Daffodils?


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Daffodils always make for a nice surprise to see springing out of the ground – but they look lovely in a flowerbed or vase as they can prove highly toxic to many animals. That doesn’t stop some animals from having a taste or two – for example, do deer eat daffodils? 

Deer dislike daffodils – they will steer clear of these flowers at all costs. Daffodils can prove highly toxic to these garden visitors, meaning they’ve evolved to eat other, safer blooms in gardens and forest clearings. Many people grow daffodils in their gardens to deter deer for this reason.

Why don’t deer like eating daffodils?

Daffodils simply provide no benefit to deer – they dislike the taste, texture, and smell – and above all, these plants contain a toxic element known as lycorine. This alkaloid can cause severe gastrointestinal issues in ruminants such as deer and may kill them when consumed in large amounts. 

Daffodils may work well as an effective deer deterrent if you wish to prevent these animals from visiting your yard. For example, if you grow azaleas and hibiscus in your garden and frequently find deer munching at your prized blooms, it may be worthwhile growing daffodils towards the far end of your yard. Growing these flowers among plants that deer genuinely enjoy may be considered cruel as a result of the poisoning risk they pose.

It’s a good idea to avoid growing daffodils near your vegetable and deer-friendly flower crops if you welcome these animals regularly. For all they look delightful and add a touch of spring to your garden, these harmful blooms propagate wildly – they’re some of the easiest plants you’ll ever grow in your own wild yard.

Are daffodils regarded as deer-resistant plants?

Yes, you can consider daffodils as some of the most ‘deer-resistant’ plants available to grow – though the term ‘deer-resistant’ is something of a misnomer.

Most plants aren’t truly deer-resistant because these ruminant creatures are opportunistic eaters. That is to say, they will eat what they have to, when they have to. Even if a daffodil is likely to prove painful to digest, a starving deer will take whichever options it may have available.

Deer have very complex diets and, as herbivores, rely entirely on the food that they can find from the ground. Sadly, in colder months, when the diversity of plant-based foods is severely limited, they have to make do with what they can get their hooves on! 

Plants such as rhubarb, similarly, offer no nutritional value to deer, and can even prove toxic to their diets. Deer are curious because they’ve evolved to avoid strongly-smelling and oddly-textured plants purely because they often cause harm after eating them. The same applies to daffodils.

If you’re noticing daffodils disappearing from your yard, it may be that other animals are taking their chances on your bulbs – even if doing so may prove fatal.

What animals like eating daffodils?

A variety of small mammals such as rats, squirrels, mice, skunks, and moles show interest in digging up daffodil bulbs, but not necessarily eating them. Rodents, cats, and dogs, too, are highly susceptible to daffodil poisoning. Very few animals will try eating daffodils or their bulbs as they’ve evolved to avoid them.

If you have planted daffodils and are wondering why they aren’t sprouting, check the soil. It may be that smaller animals have dug up your bulbs out of habit – they do this, naturally, to harvest and store bulbs and vegetables they’d typically eat safely across the colder months.

While deer and smaller mammals will avoid daffodils wherever possible, various insects and minibeasts have free rein to feast on them – as they’re not susceptible to the plant’s poisons. Slugs and snails are particularly attracted to daffodils and will happily munch through them when they can. 

These garden pests are more inclined to eat the flowers and less the stems and bulbs. Although that isn’t disastrous for your plant, it means your garden stands to look a little less pretty if you give your slugs a free lunch!

Is it worth protecting daffodils against deer (and other animals)?

Daffodils won’t need much protection thanks to their fantastic built-in defenses – meaning it’s extremely unlikely you’ll need to safeguard them once they are growing to maturity. Deer, certainly, won’t eat your daffodils unless there is negligible food elsewhere. To this end, it’s undoubtedly a good idea to leave food and plants out for deer they can safely enjoy – such as pumpkins, acorns, bananas, and alfalfa.

Before you feed your deer anything from your garden, be sure that you can do so within your local and state laws. It’s illegal to feed deer – even by accident – in many territories, as doing so can upset their diets, and even encourage them to grow dependent on private land.

Deer aside, it’s a good idea to try and protect your daffodils from small, digging animals, and from insects, slugs and snails.

Consider covering your daffodil bulbs and plant bases with a plastic tarp or chicken wire – this can be highly effective at preventing digging.

Deterring garden pests from daffodils is a little more sensitive. You’ll need to avoid chemicals such as those you’ll find in pesticides, as they can cause harm to both plants and animals in your garden – insects included.

Consider mixing a spray mixed with baking soda, vegetable oil, dish soap and water, for example, to deter insects from eating away at your daffodils.

Simply clearing space around the bases of your plants, too, may deter slug activity – as they enjoy hiding under stones and greenery. Even watering your plants early in the day could repel slugs, as they’re more likely to visit and eat during evening moisture. Otherwise, it’s simply a case of picking slugs and snails off as and when you find them.

Can I still attract deer to a garden full of daffodils?

Yes – providing you grow other plants that deer like – such as hydrangeas and impatiens – you can still safely welcome these animals to a yard filled with daffodils. Attracting deer, otherwise, may be as simple as providing them with ample cover and access to your yard.

Conversely, growing daffodils towards the far edge of your lawn or yard is great for deterring deer from taking their pick of your other crops. Daffodils are some of the best-defended plants you can grow – fantastic news for lovers of colorful gardens!

About The Author
Robert has been an avid birdwatcher pretty much his entire life. Living in the suburbs he does his best to bring wild birds into his backyard. He currently has 13+ bird feeders in his yard and also raises and races homing pigeons. Robert writes part-time for Wild Yards, mostly about the subject he cares most about - birds.

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