Do Deer Eat Hydrangeas? Here is All You Need to Know about Deer and Hydrangeas

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It can come as a shock that deer love your hydrangea bushes as much as you do, but for the wrong reasons. Your flowering shrubs can be completely devoured even before you’ve had a chance to enjoy their fragrant beauty. But do deer eat hydrangeas, or are they the usual scapegoat to other garden marauders?

It’s unfortunate but true. Deer love the tender tips of the hydrangea plants, especially the fresh shoots. Whereas older leaves can escape harm if deer aren’t all that hungry, new shrubs don’t stand a chance. If you’re looking to give your flowers protection against voracious herbivores, read on for a few useful tricks.

What Are Hydrangeas?

Hydrangea represents a species of 70 plants commonly found in America, Africa, and Asia. These flowering plants are classified as trees and shrubs, but there are a few lianas in the family. Hydrangeas bloom in the spring and autumn, producing a fragrant flower that ranges from white, pink, blue, green, cream, and stunning color mix varieties.

Seeing as they are easy to propagate, hydrangeas are the favorites of many gardening enthusiasts and landscaping professionals.  Some of these species have excellent soil and weather tolerances, and hydrangeas can be classified as;

Bigleaf Hydrangeas

Also called French, florists or Hortensia hydrangeas, this subspecies is divided further into;

  • Mophead Hydrangeas: These are the most popular of the shrubs, and they bloom large flower heads in hues of pink, purple and blue.
  • Lacecap Hydrangeas: They are similar to the mopheads except for their smaller blooms.
  • Mountain hydrangeas: This is a hardy type of bigleaf hydrangeas that grows in high elevations and blooms similar to lace caps.

Panicle Hydrangeas

Distinct for their range of large, elongated flower heads, panicles are the most cold-resistant variety of hydrangeas.

Smooth Hydrangeas

These are also known as Annabelle hydrangeas, and their most distinctive features include heart-shaped leaves and sizable blooms

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Oakleaf Hydrangeas

While the leaves of this hydrangea resemble that of the oak tree, its blooms have color changes during the fall.

Climbing Hydrangeas

Some climbers grow up to 60 feet in height, producing large fragrant, white flowers.

Which Deer-Resistant Hydrangeas Can You Use For Your Garden?

There are some hydrangea species that, although not wholly resistant to hungry deer, will experience minor damage and possibly recover. Based on years of gardening in places where the deer pressure is high, I have ranked these plants in suitability by deer resistance.

These tips come from my direct observations and experience; I can’t pretend to predict the behavior of wild animals. You can ensure the safety of your hydrangea blooms by using protective measures that I shall cover in the next chapter.  My list starts from the most deer resistant to the plant that these herbivores make their first choice

i) Bracted Hydrangeas: Most Deer Resistant Hydrangea

Bracted hydrangea or H. involucrata is a rare shrub that you should familiarize yourself with if facing a deer menace. With fuzzy and incredibly soft foliage plus its late-season blooming, varmint hates it, and by the time it flowers, food is abundant elsewhere.

ii) Mountain and Bigleaf Hydrangea: Second Most Deer Resistant Hydrangeas

Mountain hydrangea, H. Serrata, and bigleaf hydrangea, H. macrophylla are closely related and very common types of these flowering plants. While they are typical of what comes to your mind when you consider hydrangeas, they are also infrequently visited by hungry deer. Their blooms are blue, pink, or purple, and they flower atop glossy green foliage that’s thick and leathery.

The foliage could be a deer-resistant contributor, but that’s put to doubt when even the flowers are often left untouched by hungry deer. These hydrangeas manage to escape deer-ridden invasions, displaying stellar blooms come summer alongside a cascade hydrangeas variant.

iii) Climbing Hydrangea: Medium Deer Resistant Hydrangeas

By these hydrangeas’ unique climbing traits, deer damage will be minimal, centralized to the flower stalks and flower buds. Climbing hydrangea, H. anomala, and petiolaris, along with its close relative the false hydrangea vine, Schizophragma hydrangeoides grow over 6 feet using trees or structures.

Due to their stalks clinging close to supports, deer damage is minimal to the plant itself.  Flowers, on the other hand, are usually too high up for the animals to reach.

iv) Oakleaf Hydrangea: Non-Deer-Resistant Flowers

H. quercifolia or oakleaf hydrangeas boast a fabulous bloom as well as foliage. Not only are the flowers large and bodacious, but they’re fragrant enough to act as pollinators due to the sweet honey-like scent they give off. That’s unless the deer get there first, and on younger plants, they’ll take off all blooms they can reach.

If the deer don’t visit oak leaves during the winter, they’ll come in spring when the flower buds form. The Gatsby Pink oakleaf hydrangea blooms late in summer and manages to be left intact by the animals. If yours is a deer-ridden garden, these are worth taking a closer look at.

You should also check out Do Deer Eat Hostas

How Do You Keep Deer from Eating Your Hydrangeas?

According to the National Gardening Survey, 77% of American households actively garden. Combined with the presence of over 30 million deer, that’s a recipe for disaster for plants like hydrangeas. Such flowering shrubs often fall victim to the four-legged menace.

Having deer much on your well-tended hydrangeas isn’t only frustrating, but it’s also expensive. However, there are proven preventative tips that you can employ to keep the varmint from invading your yard. To avoid them from making garbage of your flower beds, climbers, and shrubs of hydrangea;

1. Use Deer-Resistant Hydrangea Varieties

There aren’t any genuinely deer-resistant hydrangea species when the animal is hungry enough. However, certain varieties often appear unattainable or unpalatable. Climbing hydrangeas, for instance, can reach a couple of dozen feet, heights that put the leaves and flowers out of reach for foragers.

Deer also don’t find oak leaf hydrangeas appealing for some reason as much as they do for other types of the flowering plant. For this species of hydrangea, you can use dwarf or full-grown plants which bloom white flowers.

2. Use Deer Repellant

Whether commercial or homemade, deer repellant solutions work to confuse the animal’s senses and keep them away from your hydrangeas. Spray your plants every week or two and after rains or when you’ve watered them. While you may not like the smell during the application, it’ll soon fade from being noticeable by humans, but not by the four-legged herbivores.

If commercial deer repellent isn’t an option, make your own by mixing garlic, chili peppers, eggs, and water for your spray.

3. Soap Up Your Garden Landscape

Instead of sweating about how to stop deer invasions against your hydrangeas, you can use scented soap to change their minds. Next to your shrubs, hang scented soap or your favorite infusing deodorant to keep the nuisances away. You can also cut a soap bar to hand near your plants or spread them around your garden.

Deer also prefer newer hydrangeas instead of old plants, and you can pay more attention to younger shrubs or the ground nearest to them.

4. Grow Anti-Deer Plants near Your Hydrangeas

Tulips, lilies, hostas, and pansies are deer inviters, as are arborvitae, knockout roses, and cherry or apple trees. In the opposite direction are plants suitable for the protection of your hydrangeas. These include boxwoods, lavender, spirea, and daffodils, as these distract the animals with their heavily aromatic foliage or flowers.

Plants with fuzzy or hairy foliage and stalks are natural deer repellants since the animal doesn’t like how they feel on the palate. These include poppies, lambs ear, and flowering tobacco, which have a coarse, bristly texture. Prickly plant species like globe thistle, bear breeches, and sea holies are avoided for the spines in their leaves.

Deer stay clear of these plants as much as they do foxglove, beautyberries, poppies, butterfly bushes, and foxgloves. Begonias, irises, and peonies keep deer away as they’re fibrous and hard to digest, while monkshood and daffodils are toxic to the herbivores.

5. Fence or Barrier around Your Hydrangeas with Nets

When your hydrangea crop is significant, it pays to invest in an enclosure, see-through, or an electric fence. Keep in mind that your fencing must be at least six to eight feet high since deer can jump high. By wrapping a reusable electrical defense around your plants, you’ll have peace of mind from deer damage.  Such individual or group plant netting is almost invisible to the critters.

Nets are also lightweight enough not to crush your shrub, trees, or climbing hydrangeas.  When your hydrangeas grow through the netting, you should have them held down with stakes so as not to blow away in the wind. You must carefully adjust regularly to add space for more leaves and flowers when they bloom in mid-summer and fall.

6. Have a Radio Blaring In Your Hydrangeas at Night

While this may sound far-fetched, it’s been proven to frighten deer away from devouring hydrangeas. A solar-powered radio placed in the middle of your flowering plants at night will prevent Bambi from munching on them.  Occasionally, you can visit the garden to change the station once in a while, and the marauders will cease venturing onto your shrubs.

Also Read: Do Deer Eat Elderberry Bushes

FAQs

1. Do hydrangeas grow back after being devoured by deer?

Hydrangeas are naturally resilient, and when they’ve been munched on and trampled by deer, they’ll grow right back up. That’s because deer saliva isn’t toxic to the leftover stems and these animals tend to prefer the upper parts of your flowering trees, climbers, or shrubs.

It pays to look at the hydrangea stalks that deer have leftover to ensure enough buds to bloom. These act as a backup, and when they’re left intact, the shrubs or trees will flourish and flower once more.

2. Are oak leaf hydrangeas safe from deer damage?

Seeing as they reach up several feet in height, oakleaf hydrangeas will remain a towering charm that beautifies your garden. Deer can’t reach these plants, and neither do they find this variety of hydrangea delicious compared to other types.

Oakleaf hydrangeas bloom pinkish or white flowers that are stunning but lack the species’ distinctive fragrance. Despite this, deer avoid them when they can, and you can use the dwarf variant if you’re not comfortable with tall-set flowers.

3. Do deer eat limelight hydrangeas?

A highly tolerant and low-maintenance variety of hydrangea, limelights bloom pretty yellow flowers in neat clusters. It’s not clear how deer feel about this variety, as while some areas experience attacks, others don’t report any damage whatsoever despite the presence of the animals. 

In places where the herbivore eats this variant, the blooms are completely decimated. That leads to the consensus they do so out of hunger and not preference. Repellant will give you peace of mind when you’re dealing with limelight hydrangeas in the presence of deer. You can also employ other suitable means of keeping these animals away.

Conclusion

The moment deer are hungry, they’ll consume anything and everything if they can gain access to it. It’s less likely that the hydrangeas you’ve labored to bloom will escape such a situation, and it’s therefore worth investing in the best methods to keep them at bay.

Deer-proof shrubs around your prize hydrangeas or methods like soaping or an ever-talking radio will work to shoo these critters away. If all else fails, tall fences, electric netting, or a vigilant dog will be appropriate options, primarily when used simultaneously.

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