Bottlebrush is a common name to describe several ornamental shrubs in the garden. While that may seem confusing, the one thing that these shrubs have in common is great resistance to damage from browsing deer. Callistemon spp. and Aesculus parviflora both display showy flower spikes at the end of their branches, which mature into ornamental fruit (buckeyes) and seed pods. The unusual texture of the flowers and, in the case of the Callistemon Bottlebrush, the strongly scented, evergreen foliage help to deter deer.
According to Rutgers University, Calistemon and Bottlebrush Buckeye are both classified as Rarely Damaged on their rating scale from Rarely Damaged to Frequently Severely Damaged.
Keeping Deer Away From Bottlebrush
Often small, newly planted shrubs are at risk of damage by deer browsing. You can use wire fences, cages or netting to protect young plants from deer. Once these ornamentals reach maturity and a height that makes browsing more difficult, these protective measures can be removed. Repellent sprays will work to keep deer away from individual plants for a short while. Often deer become immune to the scents and resume their foraging patterns. Changing formulations frequently may help to confuse the deer. The products will need to be frequently applied if you garden in a climate with frequent rains.
Will Bottlebrush Come Back After Deer Eat Them?
The very short answer is yes, Bottlebrush has no difficulty regrowing if deer decide to give the plant a try. Calistemon is an evergreen shrub that may take slightly longer to regrow foliage. Aesculus is deciduous and can quickly regrow if the damage is done early in the summer. Regrowth the following season will also replace any deer-browsed leaves or stems. Because deer leave ragged edges behind when they browse, any damage done to the plants will need to be pruned properly with clean, sharp pruners or loppers. This ensures that there are no damaged stems or bark where pathogens can easily enter and take hold.
Sources: Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station ‘Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance’ 2018
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Author Robbin Small - Published 5-15-2023