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Do Deer Eat Rhododendron? (Answered)

Planning to plant rhododendron plants but are there deers in your locality? Or your existing Rhodos are getting eaten by deers? This article will discuss if deers eat Rhodos, if they eat it and how you can plant succesfully.

Do deer eat rhododendron?

Deers do eat rhododendrons, but it’s not their usual food. They like the taste of the plant but eat the plant only when they can not find their favorite ones. Most of the time, deers are prone to eat rhododendrons when the food source is scarce in the winter months.

According to some people and blogs, deers like rhododendron plants very much, but they usually do not eat them. It does not make sense why deers will not eat something they like? Let’s try to find out.

There are many species of rhododendrons. Some of them are tall, and some of them are bushy. There are also some evergreen and deciduous species of rhododendrons. But evergreen ones are more popular.

That means most of the rhododendron plants in our garden stay green in the winter. Winter is the most challenging season for the deers. They dislike the season as there is less food for them in the season as everything gets covered by the snow.

Deers lose more than 25% of their body weight in the wintertime. At that time, rhododendron plants are like a way to get some nutrition and energy to survive the winter.

Moreover, the rhododendron plants taste decent to them. So why not! It’s not their favorite, as they don’t eat it if other options are available. But they will eat anything edible in the winter. They even eat bitter and toxic plants when they lose their patience in hunger.

Considering that fact, rhododendron plants are quite a good food option in the winter. You can say rhododendron plants are deers’ favorite in the winter.

So, what should you do if you have a rhododendron plant in your garden? If your locality has lots of vegetation, you will not have to worry about the deers in other seasons. Deers are picky eaters, and they will not eat everything they find.

They will eat their favorite ones first. And when their regular food is not available, they will choose to eat other edible plants, including the rhododendrons. Check out if deers eat these parts of Rhododendrons.

Rhododendron flowers and buds:

Deers do eat flowers and buds of Rhododendrons. Flowers and buts are soft and easy for them to eat.

Rhododendron bushes and plants:

Rhododendron plants can be many feet tall to bushy scrubs. But for deers, bush plants are more suitable to eat.

Rhododendron leaves:

Rhododendron leaves have less tannin and are easily digestible to the deers. Deers often eat the young leaves and leave the older ones as young leaves are tastier and have a less bitter taste.

Is rhododendron deer resistant?

Rhododendron plants are not deer-resistant. But some species of rhododendrons taste more bitter to the deers, so they don’t usually eat them.

The amount of tannin in the leaves makes it more or less bitter for humans, deers and mammals. There are many species of rhododendrons, and some have less tannin in their leaves while some have more tannin.

Rhododendron species that have colorful leaves have more tannin in them. Those rhododendrons are less favorable to the deers. Carolina rhododendron and rosebay rhododendron are some of the names of Rhodo plants that deers don’t like much.

There are 1000 species of rhododendrons, but none of them are totally deer-resistant. As we mentioned earlier, rhodo plants are not deer resistant, but deers will not eat them usually.

Rhododendron leaves are tasty, tender and easy to digest for the deers. Deers also like the flavor of rhododendron plants. It also has a good amount of fiber and nutrients that help deers survive the winter.

Deers’ digestive system is sensitive, and a slight change in their food can sometimes cause acute health effects. But rhododendron leaves are easily digestible, and they can eat a lot of it at once.

That makes it problematic for the garden owners. A hungry deer can eat 70% of the leaves of a single mid-size rhododendron plant within an hour.

Check out if those types of rhododendron plants are deer-resistant.

PJM rhododendron:

According to some blogs, PJM rhododendrons are deer-resistant. But some blogs claim that deers are less likely to eat this type of rhododendron plant.

Rhododendron maximum:

Rhododendron maximum is a group of large rhododendron plants. Deers do eat them if they can reach them.

Purple gem rhododendron:

Deers eat purple gem rhododendron plants in the winter.

Nova zembla rhododendron:

Nova zembla rhododendron plants cannot resist deers.

Lavender rhododendron:

Lavender rhododendrons are not deer-resistant.

Do deer like eating rhododendrons?

Deers do like eating rhododendrons but in the winter. But generally, when there are many available food options for the deers, deers will not touch rhododendron plants.

Rhododendron plants have less tannin, which makes plants bitter taste. This also makes rhodo plants a good food option for the deers.

But even in the winter, deers do not always eat rhododendrons. If there is an obstacle around the rhododendron plants, deers will not cross the obstacle and eat rhododendrons.

According to a rhododendron breeder, even four feet tall fences are enough to keep the deers away from the rhododendron garden. Deers can jump four feet easily, but they usually do not do it.

Will rhododendron grow back after deer eat them?

Rhododendron plants will grow back after deer eat them. Rhodos are fast growers, and they can quickly grow back after deer damage. But if the plant is too young or the damage is significantly severe, the plant can hit the bucket.

Rhododendron plants grow quickly in the spring and summer. So if a plant gets damaged by deers, the plant will regrow in the spring and recover the damage.

How do you keep deer from eating rhododendrons?

Keeping rhododendrons safe from deers can be difficult if you don’t know what to do and what works against them. Fences are pretty expensive and can make your garden less beautiful. So what else can you do?

Here are some tips and ways to keep your rhododendron garden safe from the deers.

Deer repelling spray:

Some commercial deer repellent works pretty effectively to keep the deers away. The repellents contain smells they fear and smells they don’t like. So, whenever they sense the smell in the air, they run away far from the source.

That’s how you can keep your rhododendrons and other plants safe from the deers. There are many different brands and qualities of deer repellent. Choose the water-resistant repellent, which works even after the rain.

I Must Garden Deer Repellent: Mint Scent Deer Spray for Gardens & Plants – Natural Ingredients – 32oz Ready to Use


Fencing is the most convenient way of keeping the garden safe from the deers, but when the temperature is too low and there is nothing to eat in the wild, deers can jump over a fence to eat if the fence is not high enough.

However, some source claims that short fences also work. Installing fences is expensive but a long-term solution to prevent deers.

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Hair clippings:

It may surprise you, but hair clippings can save your rhododendron plants from the hungry deers. Deers are quite timid animals, and small things can make them scared.

Hair clippings will work as an indication of predators nearby. They always need to be careful about coyotes, wolves, and animals. You can collect hair clippings by contacting a salon worker.


Bones work similarly to hair clippings. The deers will think they are close to a wolf den or something like that. You can collect bones from a meat processing shop.

Keep a dog:

A dog can help you keep the deers away from your rhododendron garden. Deers will not come back once they get chased by your dog.

Chilli powder:

Deers dislike anything spicy. Spicy chili powder is an environment-friendly and easy way to keep the deers away. Make a water and chili mixture, and add vinegar and liquid soap.

Leave the mixture overnight and spray the liquid over your rhododendron plants. Make sure to cover your nose and eyes while applying the chili spray.

How to recover rhododendron from deer damage?

As the deer tend to munch on the rhododendron, you need to make sure that you take proper of the plant. Proper watering and fertilizing can ensure to recover the deer damage to the plant. Beside, you can also prevent the deer to munch on if further to protect in the longer run.

Final thoughts

Rhododendron plants are usually not on their food list, but they will munch on the rhodos in the winter when their regular food is unavailable. Homemade and commercial deer repellents do pretty well in keeping the deers away from your rhododendron plants.