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7 Expert Tips to Protect Your Plants

Do Deer Eat Hydrangeas?

Although some types of hydrangeas have certain characteristics that attract deer, these shrubs are not considered deer-resistant plants. "Deer, like all hydrangeas, just because your hydrangeas haven't been mowed down yet, doesn't mean it won't," says Lorraine Ballado, author of Success with Hydrangeas: A Gardener's Guide. "The extent of deer damage can vary from season to season and depends on deer herd size, available forage, competition for food and changes in deer habitat," says Ballado.

Tips for Protecting Hydrangeas from Deer

If you find yourself constantly trying to keep deer away from your hydrangeas, you're not alone. Implement some of the following strategies to reduce deer damage.

1. Use deer repellent plants as a barrier.

No plant completely kills deer. However, some plants are low on the deer menu, including prickly spines, leathery leaves or milkweed. Garden designer and author Ryan McEnaney recommends using such plants to "create distance between your hydrangeas and deer."

2. Arrange fragrant plants around the hydrangeas.

Strongly scented plants are generally a low priority for a deer to eat. Surrounding your hydrangea with fragrant plants will make the area less inviting to critters and encourage them to move elsewhere. "Try creating a border in front of your hydrangeas with fragrant plants like salvia, lavender, peonies, sage, or any plant in the mint family," says McEnany.

3. Plant hydrangea plants near your home.

Most deer are shy creatures, preferring to stay away from open spaces, buildings, or areas with high human or pet traffic (there are definitely exceptions to this rule!). Keeping your hydrangeas as close to your home as possible makes the bushes a less attractive target. And be sure to plant hydrangeas as far away from wooded areas as possible to help reduce deer damage.

4. Select the tree type of hydrangeas.

McEnaney says it's best to plant hydrangeas with tree trunks when they outgrow deer. This is because deer go for soft stems rather than woody, hard ones. "Panicle hydrangea, oakleaf hydrangea and bigleaf hydrangea bloom on last year's stems, so are less likely to be browsed by deer than tender hydrangeas that bloom on new wood and are ultimately more palatable to deer."

5. Install an electric fence or an 8-foot deer fence.

Deer-proof fencing is a great way to keep animals out of your garden for the long term, but it's also a very expensive solution. Having a tall fence around your property can be an eyesore in your landscaping plan, but you can make it less noticeable by placing it where it blends in with surrounding shrubs and other plants.

6. Wrap the hydrangea with netting.

Use metal stakes and netting to create a temporary fence around your plants. Black deer netting, also known as "invisible netting," won't block the view of your garden, but if it stretches 8 feet or more (deer are amazing jumpers) it will deter deer.

7. Use repellents to reduce exposure.

There are two types of deer repellants: area repellants use odors to deter deer, while contact repellants prevent feeding through foul-tasting substances. Repellents do not eliminate deer damage and must be reapplied after rain. The effectiveness of a particular product varies seasonally depending on whether deer have alternative food sources.

Balato says he tested three spray repellents side by side on several pots of tulips (a favorite plant of deer). "Deer failure lasted longer, and deer continued to avoid the container treated with deer failure," Pallato says. McEnaney says he recommends using Plantskydd, an all-organic deer repellent.