Although deer find asters unpalatable and do not prefer their texture, rabbits are quite the opposite. Rabbits find asters irresistible and can cause severe damage to the plant at any time during the growing season. Deer may feed on the flowers in late summer and fall when other food sources are becoming scarce. Overall, rabbits are much more of a threat to asters than deer.
Asters (Symphyotrichum) also known as New England asters seem to be one of the aster varieties that rabbits like the least, often avoiding them entirely in favor of other plants. Deer will also avoid them but may predate the flowers in fall if other food sources are unavailable. If growing aster varieties that deer and rabbits find delectable, you may need to put up a fence or barrier to protect the plants, as too much damage by these animals can kill the plant.
Also, commercial repellents such as Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit seem to offer some protection against these herbivores. Asters have a B rating on the Rutgers University scale meaning they are seldom severely damaged by deer.
Keeping Deer Away From Asters
Commercial repellents such as Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit seem to offer some protection against these herbivores, although in addition to using this repellent, it may be necessary to use protective fencing as well. Planting small, thorny shrubs or plants around asters may also serve as a deterrent to deer and rabbits. Deer will most likely eat the flowers and not the woody stems, whereas rabbits may nibble the new growth.
Will Asters Come Back After Deer Eat Them?
Asters are tough perennials and any foraging by small herbivores is unlikely to damage or kill the plant. Pruning out any damaged or eaten stems and foliage may help to rejuvenate the plant as well as pruning the plant to half of its original height. Asters flower on new wood so next year's growth would not be damaged if the current year's growth suffers some form of setback. An addition of compost or cow manure may be used as a top dressing to nourish the plant and promote new growth. This should be done in late fall or early spring. It is best to avoid using commercial fertilizers on aster plants.
Sources: Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station ‘Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance’ 2018
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