If you struggle with deer eating your garden plants and you are trying to work out some deer-resistant options that you can grow, you may be wondering “are hydrangeas deer resistant?” These beautiful plants are popular in gardens around the world, but do deer like to eat them?
Unfortunately, few hydrangeas are deer resistant. Deer will eat almost anything when they are hungry, and hydrangeas are no exception, although they are not a firm favorite for deer either.
However, there are a few things you can do to deter deer from eating your hydrangeas, which we’ll cover in this article.
Do Deer Eat Hydrangeas?
Deer will eat most garden plants, particularly when they are hungry. With expanding cities pushing deer into ever-smaller areas, food is often in short supply, and deer will scavenge in gardens to try and find tasty, healthy plants to eat.
Usually, deer will eat the small, young leaves of hydrangea and leave the older ones, although when they are very hungry, they will eat any part of the plant that they can get at. Unfortunately, hydrangeas need their young leaves and will suffer if deer crop too many of them.
Depending on what else you grow in your garden, you may find that the deer ignore your hydrangeas for the most part, particularly if you have plants that tempt them more. However, there is no guarantee of this, and many frustrated gardeners can confirm that deer are destructive feeders that will eat and trample on plants almost indiscriminately.
So, in short, if you have hydrangeas in your garden and deer tend to visit, your hydrangeas are certainly in danger of being munched on, and this can rob you of flowers, leaves, or even the entire plant if they crop it too heavily.
What About Deer Resistant Hydrangeas?
If you’ve spent any amount of time researching this subject, you have probably already come across deer-resistant hydrangeas, and you might think they are the perfect solution. However, while they are less popular with deer, remember that they are deer resistant, not deer-proof.
When hungry enough, deer will happily devour these plants as well as the non-resistant varieties; they may not like them as much, but they will certainly still eat them.
If you want to try them anyway, consider opting for climbing hydrangeas or the Oakleaf variety. These two are generally considered the least popular with hungry browsers, and the climbing variety may manage to grow out of reach.
However, even if you plant one of these two varieties, you should consider other methods to deter deer from getting at your hydrangeas, because they may still choose to eat them, particularly in winter when food is scarce. Alternatively, they might trample on them.
What Else Can I Do?
You may be wondering about other ways to keep deer away from your hydrangeas, particularly if you already have hydrangeas that you want to protect, rather than choosing new varieties for your garden (or if your deer are hungry feeders that will go for the resistant plants too).
There are a few things you can do to keep deer away from your hydrangeas, but be aware that there is no perfect answer unless you keep the deer out of your garden entirely. These animals may be deterred by some of the solutions below, but there aren’t really any foolproof fixes – which is why we’ll start with the fence.
Method One: Build A Fence
This is an expensive way to protect your hydrangeas from deer, but it is probably the most effective and closest to foolproof that you will find. It has the bonus of protecting all of your other plants from deer too, although it will not be a viable solution for many people (depending on circumstances).
A fence around your garden needs to be around two meters high in order to truly keep the deer out. When looking at fencing, it may help to research the deer that are common in your area, as different species will need different fencing.
Some deer can squeeze through small gaps, while others are particularly good at jumping. Finding out which kind you’re dealing with will help you choose fencing that works, rather than ending up with an expensive failed experiment.
Fencing also needs to be quite strong, as deer can push it over otherwise. You might be able to use wire fencing to prevent deer from entering your garden, which could be cheaper and less obtrusive than solid board fencing, but you need to make sure that this is safe and won’t trap wildlife. Check it regularly for damage and loose wires.
Deer dislike jumping onto uneven surfaces, so you can further deter them by making your boundary rocky and filling it with different levels.
Method Two: Grow Unappealing Plants
You might find that this is more viable, especially if you do it over a period of years, but bear in mind that there aren’t really any completely deer-proof plants. You may find that hungry deer will eat anything that you grow, whether it is to their taste or not.
However, it’s still worth choosing plants that deer are less fond of, so that you aren’t essentially advertising your garden as a good spot to eat. There are plenty of plants to choose from, but a few good options include:
- Butterfly bushes
Choosing these will help to make your garden less interesting to deer and they may opt to browse elsewhere instead. Avoid planting things like cherry trees, apple trees, and hostas, as deer love these and may well eat your hydrangeas once they have been attracted by the other plants.
Method Three: Create Cages
If you don’t want to fence in your whole garden, consider fencing in your hydrangea plants. This will make them less appealing to deer and even if you don’t cover the whole plant, can make the vulnerable young stems harder to access.
You can build hydrangea caging yourself, and it will cost considerably less than trying to install deer-proof fencing. If you build the cages to be removable, you can put them on in winter, when the deer are more likely to be searching for food.
Alternatively, consider investing in some deer netting. This is a nearly invisible solution to the problem; you simply drape it over the bushes and stake it to the ground with wooden pegs to hold it in place.
This will work well to deter the deer and it is inexpensive, but both of these methods become problematic as your hydrangea grows bigger. You will have to either cut back your plant or remove and reapply the netting/cages, or your plant will again become vulnerable to the deer.
However, this should still protect most of the plants and is a good solution for dealing with hungry deer.
Method Four: Stalk Mulching
Another option is to mulch the stalks of your hydrangea in winter. You can use a light covering of mulch or dead leaves, and this will protect the vulnerable stems from hungry deer mouths. It has the added benefit of keeping the plant safe from frost and low temperatures.
However, it won’t protect the bark of a hydrangea tree, and deer have also been known to browse on this when they are hungry, so you may need to use some burlap sacking or other material to stop it from being nibbled on.
You can mulch in the late fall to protect your plant from winter browsing. Often, deer will leave hydrangeas alone at other times of year because there is sufficient food for them elsewhere. They only eat hydrangeas when they are hungry.
Method Five: Deer Repellent Sprays
Alternatively, if you are prepared to be proactive about your deer deterrents but you don’t want to be building cages or fences or applying netting to your plants, you can purchase deer repellent sprays.
These usually combine a strong odor that deer dislike with an unappealing taste. Some work solely by smell or taste, but usually, a combination of the two is the most effective method. These sprays can protect your plants from hungry mouths.
However, be aware that deer repellent sprays wash away and if you aren’t able to apply them consistently, they simply will not work for you. They need to be added to your plant as instructed by the manufacturer, but it may be as often as once a week.
This is obviously high maintenance, but it needs to be done in order for the method to work properly.
So, overall, some hydrangeas are deer resistant, yes, but many are not. Even those that are unappealing to deer may be munched in lean times, so it is important to look at other ways to protect your hydrangeas from hungry mouths.
Fences, mulching, growing unappealing plants, and regularly using repellent sprays can be good ways to keep your garden safe from deer, but you will often need a combination of methods to truly stave off these voracious feeders.