No plants are 100% safe from a little nibble here or there, especially in the winter or during periods of drought, but Mountain Laurel is one of the broadleaf evergreens that deer regularly ignore in favor of tastier treats.
According to Rutgers University, Mountain Laurel is "Occasionally Damaged" on its 4-part scale of deer damage. The scale goes from Rarely Damaged to Frequently Severely Damaged. The part of the shrub most often reported as being damaged by deer are the flowers. Eating the leaves will immediately cause an unpleasant burning in the deer's mouth, and it will move on to another plant. Arbutin and andromedotoxin are released from the leaves and stems, making this shrub highly toxic to most mammals.
Keeping Deer From Mountain Laurel
Full protection from deer is only guaranteed by fully fencing in the garden or whole property. Any fence needs to be at least 8-feet tall. Deer can and will easily jump fences lower than 8 feet. Electric fencing will help to deter deer from entering an area. Check with your city or municipality to find out if electric fencing is zoned for your neighborhood. Deer often learn to tolerate ultrasonic alarms, repellent sprays, and sound makers. Cages of hardware cloth and contractor stakes are useful to protect young trees and shrubs until they mature and out-grow deer browsing. The key to having any sort of success with these methods is to change it up on a regular basis. The good news is that deer stay away from Mountain Laurel, so minimal protection is really needed until the shrubs reach maturity.
Will Mountain laurel Come Back After Deer Eat Them?
Mountain Laurel most definitely grows back if deer have a go at them. Chances are that only a few leaves here or there will get eaten, so damage will be minimal. If flowerheads are eaten, they will still grow back. The flowers will be lost for that season, but new ones will form through the summer for the next year. Repellents may need to be reapplied after periods of rain.
Sources: Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station ‘Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance’ 2018
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Author Robbin Small - Published 6-29-2022