Deer vs. Dahlias: Unveiling the Truth Behind Their Appetite

February 5, 2023 in animal welfare, environment

Article summary and Key takeaways: Deer have a taste for dahlias and may eat them, especially during periods of food scarcity. However, there are several other flowers that deer tend to avoid, such as tulips, daffodils, marigolds, zinnias, and lavender. Rabbits can also damage dahlias by nibbling on the leaves and stems. To protect dahlias from deer, gardeners can use repellents, fencing, or plant deer-resistant flowers around them. Some dahlias varieties are more resistant to deer browsing than others. Signs of damage can help identify the animal responsible, which may include deer, rabbits, groundhogs, squirrels, or birds. There are also other flowers that deer generally dislike, such as lily of the valley, salvia, columbine, yarrow, and geraniums.

I. Introduction

Deer are beautiful creatures that roam freely in forests, meadows, and even suburban neighborhoods. However, their presence can sometimes be a cause for concern, especially when it comes to our precious garden plants. One common question that gardeners often have is whether deer eat dahlias. Dahlias are beloved for their vibrant and showy blooms, but they can also be a favorite snack for hungry deer. Understanding the feeding habits of deer and their preferences when it comes to dahlias is crucial for gardeners who want to protect their beloved flowers.

II. Do deer eat dahlias?

Deer are herbivores, and their diet mainly consists of leaves, grass, twigs, and buds. However, they can also be opportunistic feeders and will not hesitate to munch on garden plants if they find them delicious enough. When it comes to dahlias, research suggests that deer do indeed have a taste for these beautiful flowers. In fact, dahlias are often listed as one of the plants that deer find particularly appetizing.

Several factors may influence a deer’s decision to eat dahlias. One of these factors is the availability of alternative food sources. If deer have access to abundant and easily accessible vegetation, they may be less likely to target dahlias. Additionally, deer are more likely to eat dahlias during periods of food scarcity, such as winter months or drought conditions, when other food sources are limited. Another factor that may influence a deer’s decision to eat dahlias is the presence of natural deterrents, such as strong-smelling plants or thorny bushes, which can discourage them from approaching the flowers.

III. What other flowers do deer not eat?

While dahlias may be a delicacy for deer, there are several other flowers that they tend to avoid. Some of these flowers include:

  • Tulips
  • Daffodils
  • Marigolds
  • Zinnias
  • Lavender

Deer tend to dislike these flowers due to their strong scents, bitter tastes, or toxic properties. For example, daffodils contain toxic alkaloids that deer find unappetizing, while the strong fragrance of lavender and marigolds can act as a natural deterrent. Understanding the flowers that deer dislike can help gardeners make informed choices when selecting plants that are less likely to be devoured by these hungry creatures.

IV. Do rabbits eat dahlias?

While deer are often blamed for eating dahlias, rabbits can also be culprits in damaging these beautiful flowers. Rabbits have a similar diet to deer and are known to feed on a variety of garden plants, including dahlias. However, rabbits are generally smaller in size compared to deer and may cause less extensive damage. They tend to nibble on the leaves and stems of dahlias, which can stunt their growth and prevent them from fully blooming.

V. Do deer eat other types of flowers?

In addition to dahlias, deer have been known to feast on a variety of other flowers. Research suggests that deer may have a preference for certain flowers, while avoiding others. Some of the flowers that deer have shown a preference for include zinnias, marigolds, daffodils, gladiolus, snapdragons, and peonies.

The factors that influence a deer’s decision to eat these flowers are similar to those that influence their decision to eat dahlias. Availability of alternative food sources, the presence of natural deterrents, and seasonal scarcity of food can all play a role in whether or not a deer decides to dine on these flowers.

VI. How to protect dahlias from deer

Gardeners who wish to protect their precious dahlias from hungry deer have several options. One effective method is the use of repellents. There are many commercially available deer repellents that can be sprayed on dahlias to deter deer from approaching them. These repellents often contain strong-smelling or bitter-tasting substances that are unpleasant to deer.

Another option is the use of fencing. A sturdy fence around the garden can prevent deer from accessing the dahlias. However, it is important to ensure that the fence is tall enough (at least 8 feet) and buried several inches into the ground to prevent deer from jumping over or digging under it.

For those who prefer a more natural approach, planting deer-resistant flowers and plants around the dahlias can help deter deer. Some examples of deer-resistant plants include lavender, daffodils, and marigolds, which we mentioned earlier. These plants can act as a natural barrier and discourage deer from approaching the dahlias.

VII. Are dahlias resistant to deer?

While dahlias may be a favorite snack for deer, not all varieties are equally susceptible to their appetites. Some dahlia varieties have shown greater resistance to deer browsing. These varieties often have tougher leaves or produce blooms with less appealing scents or flavors.

Research suggests that single-flowered dahlias, such as the ‘Bishop’s Children’ series, are less likely to be eaten by deer compared to double-flowered varieties. The single-petaled blooms of these dahlias may be less enticing to deer, as they tend to prefer flowers with soft and lush petals.

VIII. Identifying the animal eating dahlias

When dahlias show signs of damage, it can be challenging to determine whether deer or other animals are the culprits. However, there are some signs and clues that can help identify the animal responsible. Deer tend to leave behind characteristic browse marks, often cleanly snipping off leaves or stems. They may also leave tracks or droppings in the vicinity of the damaged dahlias.

Other common animals that may eat dahlias include rabbits, as we mentioned earlier, as well as groundhogs, squirrels, and certain birds. Each animal may leave behind different signs of damage, making it important to carefully examine the evidence and consider the specific behaviors and feeding habits of each species.

IX. Flowers that deer hate to eat

In addition to the flowers mentioned earlier that deer tend to avoid, there are several other flowers that deer generally dislike. These flowers include:

  • Lily of the Valley
  • Salvia
  • Columbine
  • Yarrow
  • Geraniums

The reasons why deer dislike these flowers can vary. Some flowers, such as lily of the valley, emit a strong scent that deer find unappealing. Others, like geraniums, have a bitter taste or produce toxic substances that deter deer from feeding on them.

X. Conclusion

Understanding whether deer eat dahlias and how to protect these beautiful flowers from hungry wildlife is essential for gardeners who want to enjoy their blooms without worry. While deer may have an appetite for dahlias, there are steps that can be taken to deter them and preserve the beauty of these flowers. By selecting deer-resistant flowers, using repellents, or implementing fencing, gardeners can create a haven for their dahlias and ensure that these stunning blooms continue to thrive.

Question: How do I keep deer from eating my dahlias?
Answer: Use deer repellents, fencing, or plant deer-resistant flowers nearby.

Question: Are dahlias resistant to deer?
Answer: No, dahlias are not typically resistant to deer.

Question: What animal is eating my dahlias?
Answer: It is likely that deer are eating your dahlias.

Question: What kind of flowers do deer hate to eat?
Answer: Deer tend to dislike flowers such as daffodils, lavender, and marigolds.


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About the author 

Jason Farland