Protect Your Hydrangeas: Unveiling the Truth About Deer’s Appetite

February 8, 2021 in animal welfare, environment

Article summary and Key takeaways: Hydrangeas are beautiful flowering plants that can be vulnerable to deer damage. However, deer do not have a strong preference for hydrangeas and tend to consume them at a relatively low rate compared to other plants. Factors such as the availability of alternative food sources and the palatability of the hydrangea species can influence deer’s preference for hydrangeas. To protect your hydrangeas from deer, you can choose deer-resistant varieties, install physical barriers like fences or netting, use repellents and deterrents, practice companion planting, and employ scare tactics. Other plants that are generally unappealing to deer include lavender, rosemary, and daffodils. By implementing these strategies, you can enjoy the beauty of hydrangeas in your garden without worrying about deer damage.

Do Deer Eat Hydrangeas?

Hydrangeas are beautiful flowering plants that add color and elegance to any garden or landscape. However, if you live in an area with a high deer population, you may be concerned about whether or not these graceful creatures will feast on your beloved hydrangeas. Understanding whether deer eat hydrangeas is crucial for protecting your plants and maintaining a vibrant garden. In this article, we will explore the feeding habits of deer, factors that influence their preference for hydrangeas, and strategies to protect your hydrangeas from deer damage.

Deer Feeding Habits

Deer are herbivores and have a varied diet that includes leaves, grass, twigs, and even flowers. They typically feed on a wide range of plant species, including both native and ornamental plants. While deer are known to be opportunistic eaters, their preferences can be influenced by various factors.

Factors Influencing Deer’s Preference for Hydrangeas

Several factors can determine whether deer will target hydrangeas in your garden. One such factor is the availability of alternative food sources. If there is an abundance of other plants for deer to feed on, they may be less likely to consume hydrangeas. Additionally, the palatability of the hydrangea species can play a significant role. Some hydrangea varieties may be more appealing to deer due to their taste, scent, or texture, while others may be less desirable.

Evidence from Research Studies

Research studies have been conducted to determine whether deer have a preference for hydrangeas. One study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management found that deer consumed hydrangeas at a relatively low rate compared to other plant species. The researchers observed that deer generally preferred plants with lower fiber content and higher protein content. Hydrangeas are known to have relatively high fiber content, which may contribute to their lower palatability to deer.

Deer-Resistant Hydrangea Varieties

While deer may not be particularly fond of hydrangeas, some varieties are less appealing to them than others. If you’re concerned about deer damage to your hydrangeas, choosing deer-resistant varieties can be a wise choice.

Overview of Deer-Resistant Hydrangea Varieties

Some popular deer-resistant hydrangea varieties include:

  • Paniculata Hydrangeas: These varieties, such as ‘Limelight’ and ‘Vanilla Strawberry,’ have cone-shaped flower clusters and are known for their robustness and resistance to deer browsing.
  • Oakleaf Hydrangeas: These hydrangeas, such as ‘Alice’ and ‘Snowflake,’ have distinctive oak-like leaves and often display beautiful fall colors. They are generally less appealing to deer.
  • Smooth Hydrangeas: Varieties like ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Incrediball’ have large, round flower clusters and are known for their ability to withstand deer feeding.

Tips for Selecting Deer-Resistant Hydrangeas

When selecting hydrangeas for your garden, consider the following tips to increase their resistance to deer:

  • Choose varieties with higher fiber content, as deer tend to prefer plants with lower fiber content.
  • Opt for hydrangeas with strong scents, as deer may be deterred by strong-smelling plants.
  • Consult with local garden centers and experts to identify hydrangea varieties that have proven to be less appealing to deer in your specific region.

How to Protect Hydrangeas from Deer

If you have identified deer as a potential threat to your hydrangeas, there are several strategies you can employ to protect your plants.

Physical Barriers

One of the most effective ways to prevent deer from accessing your hydrangeas is by installing physical barriers.

Fencing Options

A sturdy fence can provide a reliable and long-term solution for keeping deer away from your garden. Choose a fence that is at least 8 feet tall and bury it several inches into the ground to prevent deer from crawling underneath. Additionally, make sure the fence is strong enough to withstand deer pressure.

Netting and Covers

If installing a fence is not practical or desirable, you can use netting or covers to protect individual hydrangeas. Place netting over the plants and secure it tightly to prevent deer from reaching the foliage. Similarly, covers made of burlap or other materials can provide temporary protection during vulnerable periods, such as when the hydrangeas are in bloom.

Repellents and Deterrents

Another approach to deterring deer from your hydrangeas is by using repellents and deterrents.

Natural Repellents

Several natural substances have been found to repel deer, including garlic, soap, and hot pepper sprays. These can be applied directly to the foliage of hydrangeas to make them less appetizing to deer. However, natural repellents may need to be reapplied frequently, especially after rain or irrigation.

Commercial Deer Repellents

Commercial deer repellents, available in spray or granule form, contain chemicals that are designed to deter deer from feeding on plants. These repellents often have a strong odor or taste that is unpleasant to deer. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer to ensure safe and effective use.

Other Strategies

In addition to physical barriers and repellents, there are other strategies you can employ to discourage deer from your garden.

Companion Planting

Planting deer-resistant species alongside your hydrangeas can help mask their scent and make them less attractive to deer. Good companion plants for hydrangeas include lavender, rosemary, and catmint.

Scare Tactics

Deer can be easily startled by sudden movements or loud noises. Installing motion-activated sprinklers or using scare devices like wind chimes or reflective tape can startle deer and discourage them from approaching your garden.

Other Plants that Deer Do Not Eat

If you’re concerned about deer damage in your garden, there are several plant species that are generally unappealing to deer.

Overview of Deer-Resistant Plants

Some examples of deer-resistant plants include:

  • Lavender: Known for its fragrant flowers and foliage, lavender is generally avoided by deer.
  • Rosemary: This aromatic herb is not typically on deer’s menu due to its strong scent.
  • Daffodils: Deer tend to steer clear of daffodils, making them a popular choice for deer-prone areas.

Comparison of Deer Resistance

Hydrangeas, while not completely immune to deer browsing, are generally less preferred by deer compared to other more palatable plants. However, it’s important to note that deer preferences can vary depending on the region, the specific deer population, and the availability of alternative food sources.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Keep Deer from Eating Hydrangeas?

To keep deer from eating your hydrangeas, you can employ various strategies such as installing physical barriers, using repellents, companion planting, and scare tactics.

Are Hydrangeas Deer Resistant?

While hydrangeas are not completely deer-resistant, some varieties are less appealing to deer due to their higher fiber content or strong scent.

What is the Most Deer-Resistant Hydrangea Variety?

Among the different hydrangea varieties, paniculata hydrangeas, oakleaf hydrangeas, and smooth hydrangeas are generally considered more deer-resistant.

Do Other Animals Eat Hydrangeas?

Although deer are known to feed on hydrangeas, other animals such as rabbits and groundhogs may also nibble on the foliage or buds of these plants.

Do Deer Prefer Azaleas or Hydrangeas?

Deer preferences can vary, but in general, deer tend to prefer azaleas over hydrangeas. However, both plants can be at risk of deer browsing in areas with high deer populations.


While deer may occasionally nibble on hydrangeas, they are generally less preferred by these graceful creatures compared to other plants. By selecting deer-resistant varieties, implementing physical barriers, and using repellents or deterrents, you can effectively protect your hydrangeas from deer damage. Additionally, considering companion planting and scare tactics can further discourage deer from your garden. By implementing these strategies, you can enjoy the beauty of hydrangeas without worrying about hungry deer.

Question 1:
Answer: Use deer repellents, fencing, or plant deer-resistant varieties of hydrangeas.

Question 2:
Answer: Some hydrangea varieties are deer resistant, but not all.

Question 3:
Answer: The most deer-resistant hydrangea varieties are typically the ones with thick, leathery leaves or strong scents, such as the Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia).

Question 4:
Answer: Besides deer, other animals that may eat hydrangeas include rabbits, squirrels, and woodchucks.

Question 5:
Answer: Yes, deer may eat both azaleas and hydrangeas.


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About the author 

Taylor Kenny

Hi everyone, I'm Taylor. As a Cornell-educated veterinarian, my career has been focused on the welfare of animals. From bustling vet clinics to serene wildlife sanctuaries, my experiences have taught me the importance of compassion and understanding in animal care. I'm here to share my knowledge, experiences, and tips on how we can all make a difference in the lives of animals.