Black-Eyed Susans are native plants that grow in any open, sunny position and have naturalized themselves throughout much of North America. One reason that Rudbeckia hirta was able to spread so far across a continent is that deer mostly leave them alone. The seedlings are most likely to be browsed as they put on the first sets of true, tender leaves. The texture of the more mature stems and leaves is not appealing to deer. There is also a strong taste to all parts of the plant that deer do not like.
According to Rutgers University this plant is Seldom Rarely Damaged on their rating scale from Rarely Damaged to Frequently Severely Damaged. This rating means that Black-Eyed Susan's may only be damaged or browsed in extreme circumstances and only when any other plant material is not available.
Keeping Deer Away From Black-Eyed Susan
No protection is needed for Black-Eyed Susan against deer. Deer generally walk right past all varieties and cultivars of Rudbeckia. Rabbits may be a bit of a bother when seedlings are sprouting in the spring. The tender leaves are irresistible to rabbits and may need to be protected. The best way to protect new Black-Eyed Susan plants is to start seeds in pots over the winter and transplant them when the plants are at least 6 inches tall and have maturing leaves.
Will Black-Eyed Susan Come Back After Deer Eat Them?
Black-Eyed Susan's are hardy perennial plants and can withstand a fair amount of damage by pests and diseases. Any damage done in one season can be pruned away and will spur more growth and flowers if it is early enough in the summer. If the damage is later in the summer, the foliage can be cut back early for fall, and the plant will happily grow back vigorously the next spring.
Sources: Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station ‘Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance’ 2018
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Author Robbin Small - Published 7-31-2022