The short answer to this question is that deer do not eat daffodils, nor do many other types of animals.
Daffodil bulbs, leaves, stems, and flowers are toxic. Also, they don’t taste good.
They contain a toxic alkaloid (lycorine) that tastes bad, causes gastrointestinal distress, and successfully repels most mammals and insects.
Daffodils Are Not the Only Bulbs Deer Dislike!
There are actually quite a few bulbs that deer do not like. Not all of them are poisonous. Some just don’t smell good or taste good to deer.
Luckily, plants that don’t attract deer are also unattractive to many other garden visitors.
Here are some top choices in spring-blooming bulbs that resist deer.
1. Daffodils are eye-catching show stoppers that make your garden a thriving showplace. With more than 32,000 types of daffodils to choose from, you can create a beautiful yard, garden, or woodland setting offering a great deal of beauty and variety.
2. Irises are the classic companion to daffodils. Available in a dazzling variety of colors, sizes, and bloom types, these sweet-smelling beauties return yearly and are unattractive to deer.
(To be completely accurate, irises grow from rhizomes, not bulbs!)
3. Ground covers are deer resistant, such as grape hyacinth, starflower, windflower, snowdrops, and crocus. These pretty choices appear early in the spring, providing a splash of color for you and an early meal offering for pollinators.
A good mixture offers long-lasting color and a nice understory for taller daffodils.
4. Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum) comes in a ground cover variety (O. umbellatum), but it can be invasive. Instead, opt for taller varieties such as Ornithogalum spp., O. nutans, and O. ponticum, which grow tall and stately and provide lovely, deer-resistant blooms.
5. Leucojum is a good, deer-resistant choice for shady settings with damp soil. It is easy to naturalize this pretty plant with its tall, green, and white blooms in a shaded woodland setting where deer might be frequent visitors.
6. Camas or wild hyacinth is a native North American bulb that does well in damp settings, such as alongside ponds and streams and damp meadows. This is another good choice for naturalizing in a wet environment.
7. Colchicum is a low-growing bulb good for naturalizing in a meadow. It appears as foliage only in the springtime, dies back in the summer heat, and then sends forth dainty pink flowers in the fall.
Like daffodils, colchicum contains an alkaloid toxin that is repellent to deer.
8. Hyacinths and their relatives (e.g., English and Spanish Bluebells) contain calcium oxalate, which is quite toxic.
Deer will not attempt to eat them because of their intense fragrance, which deer and other wild grazers do not like.
9. Fritillaria is an early spring bloomer in various sizes, from short to towering three feet high. This plant is quite well known for being repellant to moles and deer.
Even so, it is attractive to birds and insect pollinators.
10. Allium is a dazzling member of the onion family. Its large, bell-shaped blooms come in shades of purple and pink. Their deep lilac scent is repellent to deer.
These hardy bulbs love the bright sun and do well in all sorts of soil.
A Beautiful, Deer Resistant, and Resilient Garden
The best way to plant a successful, deer-resistant bulb garden is to evaluate your soil, light, and water situation.
Make soil amendments as needed to provide well-draining, loose, rich soil.
Select a wide variety of bulbs and give them plenty of space to spread and grow. You’ll get a great return on your investment of effort year after year.