Roses And Deer – Do Deer Eat Rose Plants And How To Save Them

Roses And Deer – Do Deer Eat Rose Plants And How To Save Them

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There’s a question that comes up a lot – do deer eat rose plants? Deer are beautiful animals that we love to see in their natural meadow and mountain environments, no doubt about it. Many years ago my late grandfather penned the following in his little grade school Friendship Book: “The deer loves the valley and the bear loves the hill, the boys love the girls and always will.” Deer do indeed love the beautiful succulent growth they find in those meadows and valleys, but they cannot resist a rose garden if there is one close by. Let’s learn more about roses and deer.

Deer Damage to Rose Bushes

I have heard it said that deer look at roses like many of us do fine chocolates. Deer will eat the buds, blooms, foliage and even the thorny canes of rose bushes. They are especially fond of the new tender growth where the thorns are not so sharp and firm yet.

Deer usually do their browsing damage at night and occasionally you may see deer eating roses during the day. According to published information, each deer eats, on average, 5 to 15 pounds of plant material taken from shrubs and trees each day. When we consider that deer generally live and feed in herds, they can do an astounding amount of damage to our gardens, roses included, in a short amount of time.

Where I live in Northern Colorado, I cannot count the times I have gotten phone calls from fellow rose-loving gardeners in total despair about the loss of their entire rose beds! There is little one can do once their roses have been munched on by the hungry deer except prune down what is left of the damaged canes. Also, pruning out the broken canes and sealing all the cut ends may help.

Watering the rose bushes with a water and Super Thrive mix will go a long way in helping the roses recover from the major stress of such an attack. Super Thrive is not a fertilizer; it is a product that provides essential nutrients to the bushes at a time of great need. Do not apply large amounts of fertilizer, as the roses need some time to recover. The same is true after a hail storm or other like events that cause significant damage to rose bushes.

Deer Proofing Roses

If you live in an area that is known to have deer close by, think about protection early on. Yes, the deer do love roses, and it does not seem to matter if the roses are the popular Knockout roses, Drift roses, Hybrid Tea roses, Floribundas, Miniature roses or the wonderful David Austin shrub roses. The deer love them! That said, the following roses are considered to be more resistant to deer:

  • Swamp rose (Rosa palustris)
  • Virginia rose (R. virginiana)
  • Pasture rose (R. Carolina)

There are many deer repellents on the market too, but most need to be reapplied from time to time and especially after a rainstorm. Many things have been tried as deer repellents over the years. One such method involved hanging bars of soap around the rose garden. The bar soap method did seem to be effective for a while, then the deer seemed to get used to it and went ahead and did their damage. Perhaps, the deer were just hungrier and the scent of the soap was no longer a strong enough deterrent. Thus, the need to rotate whatever form or method of repellent used is important to achieve maximum protection.

There are mechanical gadgets on the market that act as protective deterrents, such as timed or “electronic seeing eye” items that cause a sprinkler to come on or a noise when motion is detected. Even with the mechanical items, the deer get used to after a while.

The use of an electric fence placed all around the garden is probably the most helpful deterrent. If it’s not tall enough, however, the deer will jump over it, so a trick of baiting them to the fence may be used if desired, which involves the use of peanut butter spread lightly onto the electric fence wire while it is turned off. The deer love peanut butter and will try to lick it off, but when they do so, they get a little shock that sends them in the other direction. A Rosarian friend of mine in Minnesota told me about the electric fence and peanut butter trick that he calls this the “Minnesota Deer Trick.” He has a great blog website located here:

In some cases, placing dog hair or dryer sheets around and through the rose bed has worked. Just remember that changing it up is important to its effectiveness.

Another method of deterrent protection to consider is planting a border around the rose bed of plants known to repel deer or are resistant to them. Some of these include:

  • Astilbe
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Coreopsis
  • Columbine
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Marigolds
  • Dusty Miller
  • Ageratum

Contact the Extension Service where you live or a local Rose Society group for more helpful information specific to your area.

Do Gophers Like Roses?

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Your garden looks like dinner to a number of beasts, including deer, rabbits, raccoons and squirrels, but none are as difficult to control, or can do as much damage, as gophers. Because they burrow underground, you may not even know they've come calling until plants start losing leaves and dying -- and yes, those plants include your prize rosebushes. In fact, gophers are especially fond of rosebushes, especially ones with nice, big roots.

How To Prevent Deer Damage

There are a few things you can do to discourage or minimize destruction by deer during the winter.

Apply Deer Repellent

Deer repellent is a great first line of defense. It should be sprayed on shrubs and vulnerable trees in fall before temperatures dip below freezing. Here in central NJ and PA, deer repellent sprays should be applied September through December (earlier is generally better).

Treat all of your shrubs and young trees. Older trees can be sprayed only on newer growth. The key is to spray anything that will be accessible at a height of 6 feet above the maximum expected snow depth on your property.

>> Does deer repellant really prevent deer damage? Find out here!

Cover Your Shrubs

Wrap shrubs in burlap or cover them in temporary netting for the season to encourage deer to seek out easier food sources (burlap also protects broadleaved evergreens from drying out over the winter).

Be sure to remove any protective covers in spring (and, for good measure, apply a spray repellent right away).

Use Deer Fencing

Put up fencing around new trees or wrap them with tree protectors to keep deer away from the bark and lower branches. Keep in mind that fencing must be 8 feet tall – deer can jump over anything shorter than that.

Fencing is highly effective but putting it up can be labor-intensive and has to be done before the ground freezes. You’ll also have to find space to store it during the summer months.

Remove Food Sources

Bird feeders can attract hungry deer, particularly feeders stocked with sunflower seeds, corn and dried berries. Removing bird feeders entirely can help reduce the number of deer visiting your property. But if you’d like to continue feeding the birds through the winter, opt for suet cakes instead of loose seed (suet is animal fat, which is an important food source for birds in the winter, but also highly discouraging to the herbivorous deer). If you prefer to use seed, thistle seeds are much less appealing to deer than the corn and sunflower seeds they adore.

As autumn moves on and winter approaches, take a good look at your property to see which plants could be at risk from deer damage. Start a repellent spray program now (before it’s too late) and protect any vulnerable or prized shrubs and trees with burlap or fencing.

Deer Repellent Recipes

Dried Blood Repellent for Deer and Rabbits

Dried blood should be available at your local garden store. It is a biproduct of cattle beef processing. It comes in a powdered form and is effective for discouraging deer and rabbits from eating your plants.

Egg Deer Repellent

Deer don't like eggs! This recipe is easy to make and fairly inexpensive, it calls for 18 eggs. You can also make small batches.

If you have any advice, post it here!


Years ago, I lived on Catalina Island (off the coast of L.A., Calif.) where deer were constantly destroying my roommate's roses and small fruit trees. We tried hair, urine, soap and all kinds of things to no avail. Finally, we tied several cans together in bunches all tied to a trip line that surrounded our garden just outside our sliding glass door. A couple of nights later I heard something outside the door and flung open the curtains. There was the deer that had somehow climbed over our trip line. I startled it and it took off, this time, catching the trip line dragging the line and cans banging behind it, chasing it and its buddies for several hundred feet. We about died laughing and we never had deer problems again!

This was in my local newspaper just the other day: chunks of deodorant soap. The effect will last for a week before the soap has to be replaced.

We live in the foothills of the Allegany mountains in the US. The product we use is an all-natural solution whose main ingredient is Coyote Urine called Deer Repellent Packs. It has got to be the easiest product to use. just hang it on the plants/areas you want to protect for up to 90 days use.

How To Identify Deer Damage

The first step to managing any pest is to positively identify the culprit. If you suspect critters have been grazing in your garden, look closely at the damaged plants for the following clues:

  • Foliage and twigs eaten by deer have ragged edges. Deer lack upper incisors, so they eat by tearing off plant matter. Rabbits and rodents have upper and lower incisors and leave clean cuts.
  • Another indication is the height of the damage -- deer can reach up 6 feet or more.
  • Most deer damage occurs from late fall through early spring, when their natural food sources are scarce. A mature buck consumes between 4 to 10 pounds of food each day, including grass and other plants as well as buds and twigs.
  • Deer are creatures of habit once they establish pathways or a feeding area, it is difficult to deter them.

Hot sauce repellents are simple solutions of hot sauce and water. You should also add a surfactant, which helps the solution stick to the leaves instead of simply running off once applied. Oil or glue both work well, and commercial retention additives can also work. A sample recipe is about 1 gallon of water with 1 to 2 ounces of hot pepper powder, 1 to 2 ounces of hot sauce and 1 to 2 ounces of water-soluble glue. If you have a bad deer problem, aim for the higher concentrations. You can also dilute 2 tablespoons of a hot sauce in 12 1/2 gallons of water, along with a commercial retention product.

Apply repellent on a dry day when temperatures are above freezing. Spray the solution using a spray bottle or applicator to all parts of leaves and stems that you want deer to avoid. Spray thoroughly, until these parts are entirely coated. Deer usually target tender new growth, so concentrate your applications there. If you are worried about deer attacking your edible plants, spray the hot sauce on before they fruit, to discourage deer from thinking of those plants as a food source. You will probably need to reapply after a rain.

Deer Proofing Roses: How To Prevent Deer Damage To Rose Bushes - garden

Deer love to eat roses.В Even roses with terrible thorns have susceptible new growth before the thorns have had time to harden.В Supposedly the new growth tastes best to the deer, but it is more likely that the deer prefer it because of the softness and the increased amount of nutrients in new growth.В New growth can be sprayed with an odor type deer repellent to make sure that deer don't browse at all on the roses.В The roses listed below have been found to least eaten of the many roses available.

Rugosa roses are very durable and can grow in a variety of conditions.В The strong clove like fragrance of the flowers is a deterrent to browsing deer.В Also the rose canes are usually very thorny and bristly.В The leaves are usually leathery and rough.

Learn Everything You Need To Know About Growing Roses

All About Rose Gardening

Old Garden Roses date back from the 1800's and tend to ramble and be very fragrant.

Watch the video: Flowers that deer wont eat - Are they deer proof?