Deer's Feast or Famine: Hydrangeas Under Attack

Deer Feed
hydrangeas threatened by hungry deer

The delicate dance between deer and their preferred food sources has long fascinated those who cultivate and nurture gardens.

As the seasons change and hydrangeas bloom, these beloved flowering shrubs find themselves caught in the crosshairs of hungry deer.

In this article, we will explore the complex relationship between deer and hydrangeas, examining the factors that drive these graceful creatures to feast upon these vibrant plants.

From understanding the vulnerability of different hydrangea varieties to discovering effective strategies for protection, we will delve into the world of deer's feast or famine, leaving you eager to uncover the secrets of safeguarding your beloved hydrangeas.

Key Takeaways

  • Deer primarily feed on plants, including grass, leaves, shoots of woody trees, and fruits like apples, blueberries, and persimmons.
  • While not their primary diet, deer will eat hydrangeas and other edible flowers if food is scarce.
  • There are no hydrangea varieties that are completely deer-resistant, but deer are less likely to eat Oakleaf hydrangeas and Climbing hydrangeas due to their height or inaccessibility.
  • Strategies to keep deer out of your garden include using fencing, individual plant protection with netting, and the use of homemade or commercial deer repellents.

Deer's Feeding Habits and Hydrangea Vulnerability

Deer, being herbivores, have a diverse diet that includes the consumption of various plants, making hydrangeas vulnerable to their feeding habits. Hydrangeas, which are popular flowering shrubs, are not immune to the impact of deer. While deer primarily feed on grass, leaves, and shoots of woody trees and plants, they also consume edible flowers like hydrangeas. This can have a significant impact on hydrangea populations and the overall plant communities they inhabit.

As deer populations grow and their food sources become limited, they may resort to feeding on hydrangeas, despite their preference for other plants. To mitigate this, gardeners can consider planting deer-resistant hydrangea varieties or implementing strategies to keep deer out of their gardens, such as using fencing or repellents.

Overview of Hydrangeas and Deer Interaction

The interaction between hydrangeas and deer is of significant concern due to the vulnerability of these popular flowering shrubs to the feeding habits of herbivorous animals.

Deer, being herbivores, have a diet that includes grass, leaves, shoots of woody trees and plants, as well as fruits like apples and blueberries. While hydrangeas are not their primary source of food, deer do consume them, especially during times of scarcity.

This browsing behavior of deer can have a negative impact on hydrangea populations and growth. Factors such as growing deer populations and limited food sources may drive deer to feed on hydrangeas, leading to a decrease in their numbers and hindering their growth.

To mitigate this impact, strategies such as planting deer-resistant varieties, using fencing or netting, and employing deer repellents can be effective in deterring deer and protecting hydrangeas.

Types of Hydrangeas and Their Susceptibility to Deer

hydrangea varieties and deer

Different types of hydrangeas vary in their susceptibility to deer feeding. Here are three factors to consider when it comes to hydrangea varieties and their attractiveness to deer:

  1. Height: Oakleaf hydrangeas and Climbing hydrangeas tend to be less appealing to deer due to their height or inaccessibility. These varieties can be planted strategically to deter deer from feeding on other hydrangeas in the landscape.
  2. Flower fragrance: Some hydrangea species have aromatic flowers, such as the catmint and Russian sage. These fragrances can repel deer and make them less likely to feed on the plants.
  3. Leaf texture: Deer tend to avoid plants with hairy or fuzzy textures. Hydrangeas with leaves that are rough or fuzzy, like the Oakleaf hydrangea, may be less attractive to deer.

Considering these factors, landscape design plays an important role in deterring deer from feeding on hydrangeas. Planting a combination of taller varieties, fragrant species, and those with less appealing textures can help protect hydrangeas from deer damage.

Strategies to Protect Hydrangeas From Deer Damage

Implementing effective strategies is crucial in protecting hydrangeas from potential damage caused by deer. There are two main strategies to consider: using deer repellents and implementing fencing solutions.

Deer repellents are a popular choice for deterring deer from feeding on plants. These repellents can be store-bought or homemade. Store-bought repellents often contain ingredients such as predator urine or rotten eggs, which emit odors that deer find unpleasant. Homemade repellents can be made using ingredients like garlic, chili peppers, and soap. These can be sprayed onto the hydrangeas or applied to surrounding plants to create a barrier.

Fencing solutions are another effective way to keep deer out of your garden. A 6- to 8-foot-high stockade fence is recommended, as it is tall enough to prevent deer from jumping over. Alternatively, individual plants can be protected with netting. This will physically block deer from accessing the hydrangeas and other vulnerable plants.

Natural Deterrents and Planting Tips for Deer-Resistant Gardens

deer resistant gardens and deterrents

To create a deer-resistant garden, incorporating natural deterrents and strategic planting techniques is essential. Here are some tips to help protect your garden from deer:

  1. Natural deterrents:
  • Plant deer-resistant species: Choose plants that are known to be less appealing to deer, such as lavender, daffodils, and yarrow.
  • Use strong scents: Deer have a sensitive sense of smell, so planting aromatic herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage can help deter them.
  • Install motion-activated sprinklers: These can startle deer and discourage them from entering your garden.
  1. Planting tips:
  • Create physical barriers: Install fencing around your garden or individual plants to prevent deer from accessing them.
  • Opt for tall plants: Choose taller varieties of plants that are less accessible to deer, making it harder for them to reach and eat your plants.
  • Interplant with less desirable plants: Surround your prized plants with unappetizing options for deer, such as ornamental grasses or plants with prickly foliage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Deer Survive on a Diet Solely Consisting of Hydrangeas?

Deer can survive on a diet solely consisting of hydrangeas, although it is not their preferred food. Hydrangeas may have an impact on the deer population, especially in times of scarcity when deer will eat almost anything, including ornamental shrubs.

Are There Any Types of Hydrangeas That Deer Will Not Touch Under Any Circumstances?

While there are no hydrangea varieties that deer will not touch under any circumstances, certain types like Oakleaf hydrangeas and Climbing hydrangeas are less likely to be eaten due to their height or inaccessibility. Planting other deer-resistant plants around hydrangeas can also help deter them.

How Effective Are Homemade Deer Repellents Compared to Store-Bought Ones?

Homemade deer repellents can be effective in deterring deer from feeding on plants. However, store-bought repellents often contain stronger and longer-lasting ingredients. The pros of homemade repellents include cost-effectiveness and the ability to customize ingredients, but their effectiveness may vary.

Do Deer Prefer Certain Colors of Hydrangea Blossoms Over Others?

Deer do not have a preference for certain colors of hydrangea blossoms over others. However, planting hydrangeas alone may not be an effective natural deer repellent. Implementing various strategies such as fencing, repellents, and planting deterrent plants can help deter deer from gardens.

Are There Any Specific Plants That Can Be Planted Alongside Hydrangeas to Deter Deer?

Companion planting tips for hydrangeas include incorporating plants with hairy or fuzzy textures like lambs ear and poppies, as well as prickly plants like sea hollies and globe thistle. Aromatic foliage such as catmint and Russian sage can also deter deer. Additionally, planting fibrous plants that are hard for deer to digest, like irises and peonies, can be effective deterrents. Some gardeners may consider toxic foliage like daffodils and monkshood, but caution should be exercised due to potential harm to children and pets. Natural deer repellents such as homemade sprays made from ingredients like eggs, garlic, chili peppers, and soap can also help deter deer from feeding on hydrangeas.


In conclusion, the delicate balance between deer and hydrangeas is a constant challenge for gardeners and landscapers. Despite efforts to identify deer-resistant varieties, no hydrangea is completely safe from their consumption.

Understanding the factors that drive deer to target these flowering shrubs, as well as employing strategies such as effective fencing and the use of natural deterrents, can help protect hydrangeas from deer damage.

By maintaining this balance, garden enthusiasts can continue to enjoy the beauty of hydrangeas while coexisting with deer in their surroundings.

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