One of the most frequently asked questions I am asked today is, “are hydrangeas deer resistant?”
And the answer may surprise you.
In this post, we’ll break down whether hydrangeas are susceptible to deer damage as well as the best repellent strategy to deter them from eating other garden plants.
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Are Hydrangeas Deer Resistant?
The answer is…
Depending on where you live, the deer population, weather conditions, and the variety of hydrangea you have, it may or may not be more susceptible.
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.
Why You Should Deer Proof Hydrangeas
Because I don’t want to mess around with my garden plants, I defer to the Rutgers Cooperative Extension who studied all different kinds of plants and their deer resistance.
At the conclusion of this study, Rutgers listed landscape plants rated by their deer resistance.
Keep in mind, that if deer are hungry enough, they will eat any plant.
So 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.
Gardening Tip: If you live in an area that is prone to deer damage, you’ll want to choose plants from the rarely and seldom severely damaged list in your landscapes.
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.
According to Rutgers, several varieties of hydrangeas (oak leaf, big leaf, and panicles) are rated as occasionally severely damaged.
So what does that mean?
It means, if we want to grow them, we need 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 ways to protect hydrangeas and other susceptible plants from deer damage.
And HERE is my list of the best cottage garden plants that are deer resistant.
The Best Deer Repellent Strategy
I’ve been gardening in a high deer population area for well over 20 years.
Where I live in New Jersey, Zone 6a, deer will devour 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 small herds of deer walking around my neighborhood.
To protect my gardens, I employ a variety of deer proofing techniques as well as grow plants that are on the rarely and seldom severely damaged plant list according to Rutgers.
That said, I also grow LOTS of plants that deer love such as hostas, tulips, and roses.
But I make it less palatable for them through the use of deer repellent.
Do not underestimate the power of deer repellents.
When used consistently and often, it is a very effective means of protection from deer damage.
Throughout the years, I have tested and used a variety of spray repellents to deter deer browsing.
My favorite brand that I’ve been consistently using for several years is Deer Out.
(HERE is where you can order it.)
In comparison to other brands, I’ve found the nozzle does not clog, it doesn’t smell terrible and most importantly, it works!
New for 2021 (and I’m still testing this out), I’ve been testing a two-prong deer repellent strategy that has been working really well.
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.
(You can purchase it HERE if you want to try it out.)
Because I live on half an acre, I use one bucket LIKE THIS for my entire property in one application.
Since using both this year, I’ve 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).
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 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 property that literally eat everything, I recommend spraying every 1-2 weeks initially depending on damage they do and size of 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 keep up with the deer repellent strategy.
But What About the Granular Deer Repellent?
I started using this granular in May 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 yard is half an acre, I apply 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 have not been entering my property.
That said, July was a really wet month here. I recently noticed some nibbles on my limelight hydrangeas.
So it’s really important to pay attention to the weather because lots of rain will wash the repellent away quicker.
That was my mistake. I should have re-applied at 3 weeks instead of a month.
But it happens.
Be sure to walk your gardens EVERY DAY to watch for signs of damage and manage accordingly.
Are Hydrangeas Deer Proof and the Best Deer Repellent Strategy Conclusion
We’ve learned that hydrangeas are susceptible to deer damage and that we need to protect them from browsing.
I shared my favorite deer repellent products as well as the system I use to keep them from eating my hydrangeas and other susceptible plants.
Now 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 this is what has worked for me, is 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 deer resistant gardening.
Watch this video to learn more.
Looking for More Information About Hydrangeas?
Check out these posts!
- The Complete Guide to Hydrangea Care and Their Flowers
- 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
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