Viburnums are a group of flowering shrubs and consist of more than 150 species of plants. Native to North America and Asia, viburnums include deciduous and evergreen shrubs. While birds love to eat the berries, its colorful flowers attract bees and moths. Some varieties are subject to viburnum leaf beetles. This pest will eat the leaves of the plant.
Landscape shrubs are usually not the preferred food for deer, but no tree or shrub is truly deer proof. During cold periods, when food sources are low, deer might munch on viburnums. According to Rutgers University viburnum is ranked “seldom severely damaged” on their rating scale from Rarely Damaged to Frequently Severely Damaged.
Deer will feast on acorns, apples, grass, and woody portions of plant stems. They particularly like hostas, daylilies, and English ivy. Deer are also attracted to plants that have been fertilized.
Keeping Deer Away From Viburnum
Deer usually steer clear from munching on viburnum, but no tree or shrub is truly deer proof. If hungry enough, deer will eat anything. You can try spreading odor deterrents around your plant. (mothballs, decaying fish heads, garlic, fabric softeners), but these usually last just a few days. Fencing and other physical barriers such as thorny plants, netting, sprinklers, or lights can help. Deer are easily startled. Windchimes or whistles may scare deer off. Commercial repellant sprays or DIY sprays such as hot pepper, soap, or rotten egg and water sprays are an option.
Will Viburnum Come Back After Deer Eat Them?
When natural food sources are low or during a cold winter, deer may feed on shrubs like viburnum. Many times the damage is cosmetic and the plant can recover. If you find that your viburnum has been munched on, you need not worry. Viburnums actually benefit from pruning. Even if you have to prune it during the wrong season, you will not harm the plant. Flowering may be delayed, but the plant will flower the next season. If you need to clean up your viburnum from a munching, cut back the branches down to the newly sprouting leaves. Pruning a viburnum can actually revive it.
Sources: Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station ‘Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance’ 2018