If you have been growing tulips for any length of time, you know that they require a great deal of patience. Most flowers you buy have blooms or soon will at the time of planting. With tulips, you have to prepare the soil and plant tulip bulbs in the fall, and then wait all winter for the payoff! If something has gone wrong in that time, you can be left with an empty flower bed instead of the bright spring blooms you were dreaming of in January.
That’s why it makes sense to minimize the probability of a tulip pest invasion. Instead of worrying if your tulips will bloom this spring, you can spend your time worrying if the red would have looked better next to the yellow.
Here’s a quick run down of five common tulip pests, and what you can do to minimize the damage.
1. Blight. Blight, or tulip fire, is a fungus that infects the bulbs and can cause brown streaks or spots on leaves and flowers. It is highly contagious and can live for years in the soil. Blight can be prevented by discarding any bulbs which have visible signs of damage such as bruising or cuts, dusting bulbs with fungicide before planting, and burning any bulbs and plants that show signs of blight.
2. Squirrels. Tulip bulbs are edible, and squirrels will dig them up for a tasty snack. To protect your bulbs from these bulb mining pests, plant your bulbs as usual, but then top them with a layer of chicken wire to keep them from being dug up.
3. Moles. Unlike deer and squirrels, these pests attack from beneath. To protect against them, build small cages from chicken wire to house your bulbs. You can also try placing dog hair or feces in their runs to encourage them to live elsewhere.
4. Aphids. These tiny little creatures probably won’t kill your tulips, but they can cause unsightly damage such as curling or yellowing of the leaves. For a mild infestation, just a spray of water will probably do the trick. For larger numbers, insecticidal soap provides a temporary cure. Also, controlling ants will help to reduce the aphid population, since many ant species actually protect aphids from their natural predators. Reducing the ant population will result in increased aphid predators.
5. Deer. Deer love tulips, and they will eat them right down to the ground if given the opportunity. The best way to rid yourself of these tulip pests is to apply a repellent specially designed for deer such as Deer Out. There are also home remedies available, but the results can be less than spectacular. Some people claim to have good results with decorative water fountains that make noise, but after a while the deer will become used to the sound and it will no longer frighten them away.
With a little planning and forethought, you can eliminate practically any tulip pests you may run up against. Here’s to a bright and beautiful tulip season.