Tulips require patience. After all, gardeners must plant the bulbs in the fall and wait all winter before the plants and blooms emerge. It can be disappointing to wait months only to have a rodent deny you the payoff. Fortunately, gardeners have developed several methods to thwart rodents in their bid to destroy or carry off your tulips.
Mix a repellant into the soil
Ron Smith, horticulturist for the North Dakota State University extension service, identifies squirrels as the primary offender when it comes to tulip bulbs being eaten or carried off. He identifies rabbits and mice as primary offenders once tulips break the surface.
In order to deter squirrels, use a mixture of dried blood and top soil to cover the bulb when planting. Sprinkle more dried blood on the surface of the ground. If you use this treatment, you will have to re-apply the dried blood after any precipitation or irrigation.
Spray a repellant on the tulip
Another way pests can destroy bulbs is by eating the foliage, since the bulb draws its energy from the greenery. If the foliage is destroyed, the bulb will not store enough energy to survive the winter or bloom the following season.
One recommendation for making foliage unattractive to pests is a spray repellent, such as pepper spray. Again, this method forces you to re-apply after rain. The Minnesota University Extension master gardeners program cautions that a repellent is not a poison. It is only used to make the plant taste or smell less desirable to the would-be feeders. Many states have extension programs that offer "Ask a Master Gardener" or other gardening services to the public.
Create a barrier
Sometimes determined pests will continue ravaging your bulbs and tulips despite other deterrents. A physical barrier -- wire mesh, electric fences or wire cones -- around your bulbs and newly sprouted foliage may be the answer. You can purchase small cages in which the bulbs are planted and then placed in the ground and covered. The tender, slender shoots of the bulb will be able to reach through the cage, but rodents can't.
One final suggestion is to install motion sensor automatic sprinklers that will warn or scare away unwelcome visitors.