Are Lilacs Deer Resistant?

The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is a hardy, deciduous shrub that can grow 8-20 feet tall with a width of up to 20 feet. Their fragrant white, purple, or pink flowers bloom among dark green heart shaped leaves and are a favorite for gardeners.

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Although deer will feed on over 700 species of plants found in garden and landscape areas. The common lilac is one that deer tend to avoid. According to Rutgers University lilacs are rated “seldom severely damaged” on their rating scale.

Rarely Damaged
Seldom Severely Damaged
Occasionally Severely Damaged
Frequently Severely Damaged

Deer are very determined hungry animals. Once they discover plants they like to eat such as hostas, daylilies, and English ivy, they will devour the plant. They will hop fences, ignore scare tactics, and show up daily. Even though lilacs are considered deer resistant, they will nibble on them if no other food is available.

Watch out for your friendly squirrel. He likes to eat lilac shrubs. Oftentimes, squirrels will strip the bark from the lower portions of lilac plants.

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Keeping Deer Away From Lilacs

Lilac shrubs can add color, texture and fragrance to your landscaping area, but they can also help to repel deer. Deer tend to avoid plants with strong aromas, like the common lilac. If you live in an area that is prone to deer, choose plants that deer dislike to protect your garden.

If you find that deer are nibbling on your lilac bush, commercial deer deterrents sprayed on or around the garden area help. These sprays emit a foul taste and odor that deter deer.

Will Lilacs Come Back After Deer Eat Them?

Even though lilacs are labeled as deer resistant, they can be vulnerable during the first few weeks after planting. Even if your plant has been snacked on, as long as the root system is not damaged, the shrub should survive. You can cut a lilac plant almost to the ground and it will recover and flourish. Lilac plants are very hardy and can actually benefit from being pruned, even if it is unintended.

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

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Author Chris Link - Published 12-16-2020