Pieris japonica is one of the best ornamental shrubs to plant in the home garden. The foliage has gorgeous color in both the spring and the fall. The sprays of white or pink flowers remain in bloom for a long time, and most animals, including deer, will not even think about nibbling or browsing on this plant. Pieris does not attract browsing and appears on just about every list of the most deer-resistant plants.
The only time that deer might damage your Pieris would be in the middle of winter. Pieris is a broadleaf evergreen and retains its foliage during the winter, when deer tend to be the most desperate for food and might attempt some foraging of Pieris.
According to Rutgers University, this plant is Rarely Damaged on their rating scale from Rarely Damaged to Frequently Severely Damaged. Plants in this category are generally safe to plant if deer are a problem in your area.
Keeping Deer Away From Pieris
Since Pieris is almost invisible to deer, there are few safeguards to consider for protection. Repellents often need to be reapplied after heavy rains or watering sessions. Moreover, deer become accustomed to smells quickly, so different formulations or brands should be rotated to keep the deer guessing. Pieris can be planted in areas that are not easily fenced to protect more vulnerable plants from deer. An informal hedge of Pieris around an ornamental garden bed may help to deter browsing.
Will Pieris Come Back After Deer Eat Them?
Pieris will survive browsing by deer. Flowers bloom on old growth, so if deer eat the buds during the winter, there will be a loss of flowers for one year. Regrowth of eaten stems and foliage is usually quick. Do not be afraid to cut back, at any time of year, any ragged stems or dying branches to tidy up Pieris if it has been browsed. Leaving dead or dying branches on the shrub could invite other pests or diseases to attack.
Sources: Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station ‘Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance’ 2018
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