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Do Deer Eat Rhododendron? (Yes, here’s why)

Yes, deer do eat rhododendrons. Deer seem to love the taste of the leaves and flowers.

Rhododendron

This can be a problem for gardeners who have this type of shrub in their landscape.

This is because deer will often eat all of the leaves and flowers off of the plants. 

There are some things that you can do to help protect your rhododendrons from being eaten by deer, however.

You can plant them in an area where there is a lot of other vegetation that the deer will prefer to eat instead. 

You can also try using a fence or other type of barrier to keep the deer away from your plants.

You can use deer repellent spray to discourage them from eating your rhododendrons.

Also Read :- Do Deer Eat Watermelon? (Yes, here’s why)

Reasons why Deer Eat Rhododendron

1. Deer love the taste of Rhododendron

Deer love to eat the sweet, tender leaves of Rhododendron plants. They find the flavor to be quite enjoyable, and so they will seek out these plants whenever they can.

2. Rhododendron is a nutritious food source

Rhododendron is a very nutrient-rich plant. It contains high levels of essential vitamins and minerals, which make it an excellent food source for deer.

3. Rhododendron is easy to digest

Rhododendron leaves are very easy to digest, which is why deer love to eat them. This also means that the deer can get more nutrients from consuming them than from eating other types of plants.

4. Rhododendron contains a few tannins

Tannins are chemical compounds that make leaves taste bitter to humans and deer alike. Deer can easily digest the small amounts of tannin in rhododendrons. 

Since red or pink leaves have a lot more tannin than green ones do, it is easy for deer to tell which rhododendron leaves are freshest from their color alone. 

By eating only the most recently matured leaves from this plant, they cycle through the different tastes as each matures and its unique flavor begins to develop. 

They seek out new growth whenever possible because they know it will be sweeter and untainted by the bitter taste of older leaves.

Read Also:- 10 Deer Resistant Plants for Shade (Easy to Grow)

5. Rhododendron leaves have low levels of calcium oxalate crystals

Calcium oxalate crystals are needle-like chemical compounds found in many types of plants, including azaleas and rhododendrons. Ingesting too much can cause an upset stomach in both humans and animals alike. 

Therefore, the lower level of these compounds in rhododendron leads deer to believe that this plant is safe for them to eat.

6. Deers love the smell of Rhododendron 

Rhododendrons have a very strong, sweet smell that deer find irresistible. They will often consume these plants just for the pleasure of the smell alone.

7. Rhododendron is a plentiful plant

Rhododendron is a very common plant and can be found growing in many different environments. This makes it an easy food source for deer to access, especially during times when other types of food are scarce.

8. Rhododendron grows quickly

Rhododendron plants grow very quickly, which means that there is always new growth available for deer to eat. They love to eat the fresh, tender leaves, so they will continue to come back to this plant time and time again.

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9. Rhododendron doesn’t have any natural predators

Unlike many other types of plants, Rhododendron does not have any natural predators. This means that deer can eat as much of this plant as they want without fear of being attacked by predators.

10. Rhododendron is an easy plant to digest

As we mentioned before, Rhododendron leaves are very easy to digest. This is one of the main reasons why deer love to consume them. They know that they will get the most nutrients from these plants, and they won’t have any trouble digesting them.

Common Namerhododendron  
TypeBroadleaf evergreen
FamilyEricaceae
Zone4 to 8
Height3.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread3.00 to 7.00 feet
Bloom TimeApril
Bloom DescriptionLavender, pink, rose
SunPart shade to full shade
WaterMedium

What are the implications for homeowners?

The implications of deer eating rhododendron are significant. Deer consume large quantities of rhododendron leaves, which can result in defoliation and damage to the shrub. 

Rhododendron is not a preferred food choice for deer, but they will eat it if other food options are not available. 

This can cause a reduction in the number of rhododendrons present in an area, and can also lead to the death of individual plants. 

In addition, when deer eat rhododendron leaves, they may spread a fungal disease called white pine blister rust. 

This disease can infect white pine trees and other members of the Pinaceae family, which include Fraser fir, balsam fir, red spruce, and hemlock.

Read Also:- Do Carrots Have Seeds? (+ How to get the seeds)

Deer eat rhododendron to meet their nutrient requirements, but this is less of a dietary preference than an act of necessity. 

Deer are selective feeders that will pick out their favorite plants first. This includes oak leaves and acorns, maple tree seeds, honeysuckle berries, poison ivy flowers and fruits, various tree bark species including elm trees, American sycamore trees, or eastern cottonwood trees. 

They often eat white pine needles as well. When these food options are not available due to weather conditions or other factors preventing them from growing in abundance where the deer live, they turn to less preferred foods for sustenance. 

This means that rhododendron may be consumed if other food sources are limited or not available. This can lead to plant damage and defoliation, and may even cause the death of individual plants.

Deer spread a fungal disease called white pine blister rust when they eat rhododendron. White pine is a host for this fungus, which causes significant damage to them and other members of the Pinaceae family such as Fraser fir, balsam fir, red spruce, and hemlock. 

Rhododendron leaves contain an ample amount of moisture that fungi can utilize to develop into infectious spores that get carried from one tree to another on the deer’s head or mouth during feeding activity. 

While it is unlikely that rhododendron alone will infect trees with white pine blister rust, it is possible that an infected tree may act as a source of the fungus for other trees in the area. 

If deer populations are high in an area where white pine blister rust is present, it can significantly increase the chances of this disease spreading.

Read Also:-  White Fuzzy Mold on Plant Soil? (How to Treat It)

What to do if a deer has been eating your rhododendron

The good news is that there’s plenty you can do to get rid of these hungry interlopers without resorting to violent means such as poisoning or hunting.

Step 1: Electric Fence

An electric fence will serve two purposes at once: it’ll keep your garden safe from deer while also helping your plants grow taller and thicker than ever before. This is done by doing away with their natural predators (i.e., deer). 

For this to work, you’ll have to use deer-proof plant species as a barrier, such as roses, honeysuckles, and other ornamental plants that deer tend to dislike.

Step 2: Scaring Deer Away

There are several animal deterrents available that can help with keeping them at bay. 

Some of the most common ones include motion-activated sprinklers (they will turn on when something comes close enough), noise machines (to make loud noises to scare them away), and digital scent dispensers (which release chemical agents every time an animal is near).

Step 3: Using Herbicides

Spraying herbicides directly onto your garden might be seen as dangerous by some people. This is because they’re toxic and might affect other living creatures. However, using them is actually the most efficient way to get rid of deer for good. 

Just make sure you’re up against some resilient specimens that are resistant to common herbicides before making a purchase.

Read Also:- How Much Space Do Pumpkins Need To Grow?

Step 4: Using Deer Repellent

If all else fails, there are also some repellents available on the market that can help you keep deer out, for at least a little while. 

Some of the most effective ones include coyote pee, fox urine, or any other predator’s scent animal-controlling agents. They tend to produce irrational fear in deer. Therefore, they’ll stay away from your yard for as long as it lasts.

Step 5: Fencing Out Your Yard

Using fencing might be seen as an extreme measure, but if deer are a persistent problem in your area, it might be the best way to protect your plants. 

Make sure to use a fence that’s at least 8 feet high and use wire mesh instead of chicken wire because deer can easily chew through it.

What plants can be used to prevent deer from eating Rhododendrons?

There are many plants that can be used to prevent deer from eating your Rhododendrons. 

One option is to use a physical barrier such as fencing. You can also use plants that are unpalatable to deer, such as Boxwood, Yew, or Holly. 

You can use plants that produce an unpleasant taste or odor when ingested by deer, such as Garlic or Rue. By using one or more of these strategies, you can help keep your Rhododendrons safe from deer damage.

Boxwood 

If you are looking for a specific plant to protect your Rhododendron from deer damage, Boxwood is a good option.

Boxwood is a dense evergreen shrub that is not palatable to deer, and because it is so durable, it can grow into an effective physical barrier.

Yew 

Yew is another plant that can be used as a physical barrier. Yew is poisonous to humans and animals such as deer. 

Because of this, if you choose to use yew as a deterrent, you should also ensure the area by your rhododendrons is kept free from fallen leaves or other debris. This is where the poison could enter your soil or water table.

Garlic Plant

If you want to protect both your rhododendrons and other plants in your garden from deer damage, Garlic Plant might be for you. 

Deer strongly dislike the taste and odor of garlic, but it can also be used to deter rabbits and other animals.

Read Also:- What Do You Put Under Grow Bags? (4 Options)

Rue 

Rue has a strong odor that keeps deer away, but it can also be effective in keeping cats and dogs away from gardens. 

Rue is an extremely invasive plant and should only be planted in contained areas such as pots or raised beds, which makes this option less than ideal for many who want rhododendron protection.

Holly 

Holly is another great choice for any garden owner. This is because it keeps deer, rabbits, and even cats at bay without the need to use chemicals or fencing. 

Because Holly is dense and prickly, deer will opt to eat other plants in your garden rather than bother with your Holly bushes.

As you can see there are many options to choose from when it comes to preventing deer from eating your Rhododendrons. 

By using one or more of the plants listed above, you can help keep these beautiful plants safe and healthy.

Summary

Discover how to protect your rhododendrons from deer damage. This comprehensive guide provides practical tips and effective strategies to safeguard your beautiful plants. From natural deterrents to fencing solutions, learn how to keep your garden thriving and deer-free. Don’t let deer ruin your rhododendrons – take action today to preserve their beauty and vitality.

Conclusion

In the end, whether or not deer will eat rhododendron plants is largely dependent on the individual deer.

Some deer may not be interested in eating rhododendron plants, while others may consume them regularly. 

If you are concerned about deer eating your rhododendron plants, it is important to monitor the situation and take appropriate action if necessary.

Read Also:- Is Russian Sage Invasive? (No, here’s why)

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