Need Deer-Proof Color in Your Garden? Daffodils
Tulips are my favorite bulbs, but the deer will feast on them in any non-fenced area of my yard. I made that mistake the first year I moved into my house, planting dozens of lovely tulips. Perhaps 4 of them survived the deer buffet.
Daffodil bulbs, on the other hand, are just as cold-tolerant and the deer won't touch them. Not a single patch that I've planted in recent years (to make up for the missing tulips) has failed to bloom in gorgeous shades of yellow, pink, and orange.
Daffodil, narcissus, and jonquil...no matter what you call them, the daffodil is the best low-maintenance burst of color that looks nice in any yard. They're just pretty.
They're also incredibly easy to plant. In the fall, dig a hole, place the bulb, cover it up, you're good to go. Little kids can do it. The most important things to pay attention to are how deep you plant the bulbs and WHEN you plant the bulbs.
WHEN TO PLANT DAFFODILS: In my experience in the Bozeman area, I try to plant them as late as possible in the fall. That's a tricky time of year because the weather can be nasty yet the ground is not yet too frozen to work. We can have day-time temps in the 30s or day-time temps in the 70s. Or both. I aim for as late as possible in October, but sometimes that means early October. Use your gut...you just need to be able to dig the holes or trenches.
TIPS AND TRICKS FROM THE AMERICAN DAFFODIL SOCIETY
HOW DEEP TO PLANT THE DAFFODIL BULBS: This trick is easy and it's not about judging the weather. Daffodil bulbs can vary quite a bit in size. (The ones I just bought might be the biggest daffodil bulbs I've ever purchased.) The rule of thumb is: 2 inches deeper than the bulb is tall. So if you have a 2 inch bulb, the hole should be 4 inches deep. Or if you have very large 3 inch bulbs, the hold should be 5 inches deep.
MONTANA PRO TIP: Rules are rules, but any gardener will tell you that each garden might be a little different. I choose to plant daffodil bulbs a healthy 3 inches deeper than the bulb is tall. Much deeper than that, and you risk the bulb not blooming—or worse yet...not coming up at all. But giving that extra inch of depth protects from the very harsh weather and cold temps we can get.
WHERE TO GET THE BEST DAFFODIL BULBS: There are tons of online retailers who sell perfectly acceptable varieties of daffodils that I have grown personally with success. However, I much prefer to purchase them locally at Cashman Nursery. They have an extensive collection of varieties, availability late in the season, AND you can hand-pick your bulbs. (Expect to pay about $15 per dozen for good daffodil bulbs. Otherwise, you're gettin' what ya pay for.)