Are Arborvitae Deer Resistant?

Arborvitae (Thuja) are stalwart evergreen shrubs and trees that are easy-to-care for, take well to pruning, and create a nice-looking border, hedge, or privacy screen. Hardy from USDA zones 3-7, they have a formal pyramid shape and vivid emerald-green textured foliage in wavy scales. 

Although reports vary across the country, there are quite a few areas reporting deer loving to snack on Arborvitae. Some say that Thuja occidentalis (White Cedar) is tastier to deer than Thuja plicata (Western Red Cedar). Also, when hungry enough, deer will eat – or at least sample – almost anything.

According to Rutgers University, however, even Thuja plicata is Occasionally Severely Damaged on their rating scale from Rarely Damaged to Frequently Severely Damaged. It recommends using barriers such as fences or burlap or deer repellents for plants in that category.

Keeping Deer Away from Arborvitae

Fencing, wire caging, or wrapping in strong netting or burlap to a height of 8 feet can work, but is costly, bulky, and may not work with your landscape vision. The most important time to protect them is winter through early spring, when there is less other food available.

We recommend using a deer repellent. They usually need to be reapplied throughout the season – particularly after it snows or rains – but it’s worth it to protect your favorite plants! 

A few home-made options you can try include hanging dryer sheets, Irish Spring soap, or making a spray with eggs, garlic powder, and water.

Will Arborvitae Come Back After Deer Eat Them?

If there are still some green needles left on the branch, be patient – there’s a good chance that branch will recover. Prune off any branches that have been stripped bare in spring or summer, water well, and fertilize lightly. Pruning in fall and winter is not recommended.

Sources: Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station ‘Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance’ 2018

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