A very common question we get asked, is if hydrangeas are deer resistant. The truth is, NO plants are deer resistant. If hungry enough, deer will eat just about any plant. However, there are plants that deer prefer more than others. According to Rutgers University, most hydrangeas are “occasionally severely damaged”. Which means that deer prefer other plants more, but when hungry deer will eat hydrangeas. They recommended adding repellent or extra protection, especially during winter months.
Several environmental factors will determine if you need to worry about deer munching on your plants. Growing deer populations and cities expanding are putting additional pressure on deer to find food. This is heightened during winter months when food is harder to find. In winter months, the exposed stems sticking out are what attract deer the most. Making hydrangeas that bloom on old wood especially susceptible to deer damage, as it could ruin the following year’s blooms.
Preventing Deer From Eating Hydrangeas
There are some species of hydrangea that are more deer resistant than others. Oakleaf hydrangeas and climbing hydrangeas in particular are not as appetizing to deer. We recommend planting these varieties if you live in an area with a dense deer population.
In winter months, you can cover hydrangeas to prevent deer from munching on the branches. This should also help provide extra winter protection to the plants. For hydrangea trees, be sure to cover the "trunk" of the plant, because deer like to munch on the bark.
You can also buy deer repellent spray to apply on the leaves and branches of hydrangeas. Typically you need to apply every 30 days to maintain protection. This is the easiest way to prevent deer from eating your hydrangeas.
In general, hydrangeas are definitely not a favorite for deer. However, we would never consider hydrangeas deer resistant or deer proof. Taking additional measures to prevent deer from eating your beautiful shrubs doesn’t require a lot of work, and shouldn’t prevent you from trying to grow hydrangeas in your garden.
Sources: Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station ‘Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance’ 2018
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Author Judith King - Published 10-17-2017