Have you ever wondered to yourself, “are hydrangeas deer resistant?” With lots of diverse opinions out there, the answer may surprise you. Learn everything you need to know about whether hydrangeas are deer resistant plants with these simple tips.
Hydrangeas are beloved by garden enthusiasts for their stunning blooms and elegant foliage.
However, the joy of growing these beautiful shrubs can quickly turn to frustration when they become a tasty snack for hungry deer.
Whether you live in an area with a high deer population or simply want to protect your garden, it’s essential to understand the relationship between hydrangeas and deer
In this post, we’ll break down whether hydrangeas are susceptible to deer damage as well as the best deer repellent strategy to deter them from eating your garden plants.
So if you are wondering whether deer eat hydrangeas, I got you.
Here’s what you need to know.
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Hydrangea and Deer: A Delicate Balance
Deer can be a nuisance in many gardens, as they’re known to munch on a wide variety of plants, including hydrangeas.
However, the term “deer-resistant” should be taken with a grain of salt, as no plant is entirely immune to deer browsing.
Deer may sample different plants, and the degree of damage depends on factors like the availability of other food sources, the local deer population, and the time of year.
But Are Hydrangeas Deer Resistant?
The answer is…
It really depends.
It depends on where you live, the deer population, weather conditions, and the variety of hydrangeas you have, hydrangeas may or may not be more deer-resistant.
Having gardening friends from around the world, they have very different opinions on this very topic.
Some will argue deer never touch their hydrangeas. While others will tell you deer devour them.
Where I live, if I’m asked, “are hydrangeas deer resistant?” my answer is no. They need protection.
Are Hydrangeas Deer Resistant Gardening Zone 6a, New Jersey
Given so many gardeners have a variety of opinions on whether deer eat hydrangeas or not, I’m here to tell you that if you live in the New Jersey area, they do.
Rutgers Cooperative Extension shared a study that rates all plants by deer resistance and the results are the same for all hydrangeas.
They are each rated with an occasionally severely damaged rating.
To give you an idea of what plants are rated with a similar rating, here are a few in the same category:
- Fall Mums
- Gerbera Daisy
- Hybrid Tea Rose
- Japanese Eunonymous
- Shasta Daisy
So if this list gives you glimpse into just how palatable they are to deer, now you know they need protection.
Are Limelight Hydrangeas Deer Resistant?
Another common question because so many people grow them is about the beautiful panicle hydrangea, Limelight.
Whenever I am asked do deer eat limelight hydrangeas, much like my answer above, the answer is unfortunately no too.
I planted a limelight hydrangeas both here and in my former garden and if I did not protect it with repellent, deer would snack on them.
So if you have any kind of panicle hydrangeas and deer are in the area, I suggest spraying the leaves with deer repellent when the foliage emerges and every month after. And possibly spray more often than that if there is a large herd or an abundance of rain.
It’s equally important to spray limelight hydrangea flowers too as they emerge and again when they start to bloom.
Are Oak Leaf Hydrangeas Deer Resistant?
Much like Limelight Hydrangeas and other varieties, the Oak Leaf Hydrangea isn’t much better where deer are concerned.
Some believe they are more resistant than other types of hydrangeas, but in my neck of the woods, deer eat oak leaf hydrangeas.
That said, I had an oak leaf hydrangea in my old country garden and did not protect it with any sort of repellent or fencing. But it was off the path and the deer never came across it.
Why You Should Deer Proof Hydrangeas
Because I don’t want to mess around with my garden plants, I always defer to the Rutgers Cooperative Extension who studied all different kinds of plants and their deer resistance.
But regardless of how resistant a plant is, if deer are hungry enough, they will eat any plant. So keep in mind that no plant is completely deer-proof.
However, Rutgers categorized plants with ratings of Rarely Damaged, Seldom Severely Damaged, Occasionally Severely Damaged, and Frequently Severely Damaged.
So check this list to see how your garden plants rate because it is chock-full of great information. Even if you aren’t located in my neck of the woods, it’s still a great resource to use when determining what to plant in your garden.
NOTE: Local deer populations and weather conditions can affect the success of any of these plants. Like I said, if deer are hungry enough, they’ll eat anything.
Gardening Tip: If you live in an area that is prone to deer damage, choose plants from the rarely and seldom severely damaged list in your landscapes.
According to Rutgers, several varieties of hydrangeas (oak leaf, big leaf, climbing, smooth, and panicles) are rated as occasionally severely damaged.
So what does that mean?
It means, if we want to grow them, we have to protect them.
Although gardeners from around the world have different opinions, I recommend erring on the side of caution if there are deer populations in your locality.
To get you thinking about options, here are 7 effective ways to protect hydrangeas and other susceptible plants from deer damage.
And if you are looking for other plants to include in your garden that are deer-resistant, here is my list of the best cottage garden flowers.
Quick Ways to Deer Proof Hydrangeas
Here are a few strategies to keep deer from eating hydrangeas.
- Fencing: Install a sturdy 8-foot deer fence or a double fence around your garden.
- Repellents: Apply deer repellents to your plants, which emit odors that are unpleasant and taste bad to deer.
- Companion Planting: Integrate deer-resistant plants around your hydrangeas to create a less attractive environment for deer.
- Motion-Activated Devices: Install motion-activated sprinklers or lights to startle and deter deer.
- Get a dog: When they are outside dogs can keep deer away and mark their territory.
- Walk your gardens daily to keep an eye on things and catch problems early.
To learn more about each one, you can check out this handy guide.
The Best Deer Repellent Strategy
I’ve been gardening in a high deer population area for well over 25 years. Where I live in New Jersey, Zone 6a, deer will devour certain plants in a day if they aren’t protected well.
But how can I grow a wide variety of plants given the high population of deer in my locality?
Believe me, they visit my property too. I see herds of deer walking around my neighborhood.
To protect my gardens, I employ a variety of deer proofing strategies as well as grow plants that are on the rarely and seldom severely damaged plant list according to Rutgers.
Do not underestimate the power of deer repellents. Cause they work!
When used consistently and often, it is a very effective means of keeping deer from eating hydrangeas and other garden flowers.
Throughout the years, I have tested and used a variety of deer repellent sprays to deter deer browsing.
My favorite brand that I’ve been consistently using for several years is Deer Out.
In comparison to other brands, I’ve found the nozzle does not clog, it doesn’t smell terrible and most importantly, it works!
But then, I started using a two-prong deer repellent strategy that worked really well too.
In addition to using the spray repellent, I added a granular repellent for additional protection, called Deer Scram, that is applied around the perimeter of your property, garden, or even plants.
Because I used to live on half an acre, I used one bucket for my entire property in one application. And when I started using both, I found no evidence of deer damage at all.
(The one exception was after SO MUCH RAIN that I needed to reapply the repellents sooner – my mistake. More about this below).
But then, I started using this deer repellent that is systemic instead of just being topical. And it works amazing! The only drawback is it stains the plants initially but does wash off after a bit.
I would not spray them on white flowers. It’s not worth the risk. Go with Deer Out instead.
How to Deer Proof Your Garden With Deer Repellents
This is how I’ve been applying spray repellents every year and has worked very well for me.
- Purchase deer repellent in late winter. Trust me when I tell you, be prepared because highly susceptible plants will pop out of the ground before you know it.
- Apply the first spray application to susceptible plants when they first break ground or leaf out in early spring.
- Reapply when they are halfway to maturity.
- Then again when they are fully leafed out or ready to bloom (like tulips).
- From this point on in early spring, plan to spray deer repellent on susceptible plants 1x per month. If it rains, do it a little sooner than that.
- If you have herds of deer living on the property that literally eats everything, I recommend spraying every 1-2 weeks initially depending on the damage they do and the size of the population.
Because deer are creatures of habit and follow patterns, once they learn they don’t love your garden plants, they will find a different path.
This does not mean you should let your guard down and keep up with the deer-repellent strategy.
More About the Granular Deer Repellent
I started using this granular in May 2021 and apply it within a day or two of spraying my plants so my deer-proofing is done around the same time.
(With my gardens, it takes some time to spray plants, so I break it up).
The granular works like a barrier. It’s really stinky though and my dogs want to eat it, so don’t apply it around your pets.
Since my former garden was half an acre, I applied it around the perimeter of my yard 1x per month to keep deer from crossing it.
When I was solely using the deer repellent spray, we would still get deer in my yard. They’d walk through or graze on the crabapples that drop from my flowering crabapple.
But I’ve noticed with the granular, they stopped entering my property.
That said, July 2021 was a really wet month in New Jersey. And I noticed some nibbles on my limelight hydrangeas.
Which tells you how much limelight hydrangeas are not deer resistant.
So it’s really important to pay attention to the weather because lots of rain will wash the repellent away quickly.
That was my mistake. I should have re-applied at 3 weeks instead of a month.
But it happens.
That is why it is so important to walk your gardens EVERY DAY to watch for signs of damage and manage accordingly.
What If You Live in a Different Locality: Are Hydrangeas Deer Resistant?
Since there are many diverse opinions on whether or not deer eat hydrangeas, I would err on the side of caution.
If you live in a locality where deer are not an issue, then maybe you don’t need to worry about your hydrangeas as much.
But if you’ve heard that there are certain hydrangea varieties that are more resistant than others, I’m here to tell you, to be careful and protect your hydrangeas anyway.
Rutgers tested this and it’s just not worth the risk. I’ve seen nibbles on the very hydrangea plants that have been described as deer-resistant.
Can you risk it though?
Sure! They’ll rebound if they are damaged. But you may risk their beauty during the current season.
Of course, I can’t guarantee that any method is 100% effective where deer are concerned. Because deer will eat any plant if they are hungry enough.
But the methods I outlined above to protect mine have worked for me, are working for me, and I hope, will work for you too!
Watch the Video to Learn More About Deer Proof Landscaping
There’s so much to say about growing a deer resistant garden.
Watch this video to learn more.
More About Deer Eating Hydrangea
Are deer a problem in your locality? Do deer eat hydrangeas there too? Do you have any deer-proofing tips you’d like to share? I would love to know more in the comments below.
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Looking for More Information About Hydrangeas?
Check out these posts!
- The Complete Guide to Hydrangea Care and Their Flowers
- The Basics of Hydrangea Care
- How to Prune a Hydrangea the Right Way
- Why Aren’t My Hydrangeas Blooming?
- How to Divide Hydrangeas
- Propagate Hydrangeas and Grow Your Garden for Free
- The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Fresh Cut Hydrangeas from Drooping
- How to Dry a Hydrangea the Easy Way
- How to Make a Simple Hydrangea Wreath for FREE
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- I like to use a good-quality, potting soil, garden soil, compost, and perlite when planting. While I make my own compost, you can easily buy it ready-made for use.
- I have used this deer repellent with great success. But now, I’m all about this deer repellent that is systemic instead of topical. This means the plant takes it in as opposed to it just smelling bad. If you want to minimize the work and not use repellents, choose plants that are deer-resistant from this list.
- Hands down this is my favorite hand-weeding tool. You can use it to get underneath roots and loosen soil, and it cuts down on the weeding time because you work much faster.
- But I also love this long, stand-up weeding tool to really get around roses from afar.
- I use this organic fertilizer for roses because the blooms are more prolific and it’s organic.
- And I use this organic fertilizer for my vegetables and herbs in the potager garden.
- You’ll need a sharp set of pruners when working with plants and flowers. I buy a few so I can stash them around.
- I use these garden snips to deadhead and cut flowers from my gardens.
- Where pest and disease problems are concerned, if I need to, I generally use this insecticidal soap or neem oil to help control infestations depending on the issue. When using, only apply when pollinators are less active.
- This is my go-to bait for slug and snail problems with my hostas and dahlias.
- This is my favorite set-and-forget slow-release fertilizer for houseplants, annuals, and container gardens.
- Whenever I stake my peonies or other plants, I generally use these grow-through garden supports because they work really well and keep the blooms upright.
- I use this collapsible bin ALL THE TIME. It is invaluable when working in the beds as it’s light to carry around and folds flat for easy storage.
- Drip irrigation set on a timer is your friend! I love these for my planters, window boxes, and hanging baskets.
- And this four way hose bib allows you to split one spicket into four!
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Want to learn more about me?
I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years and author of the best-selling book, The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy-Care Flower Garden. With a deep passion for gardening, I enjoy helping others find their inner green thumb with all things plants and flowers, as well as finding ways to bring the outdoors inside their homes.
Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging here.