Maybe a stupid question, but do deer eat Azaleas?

squirrellypete(z7b AL)March 1, 2006

I was out checking on my 30 or so Encore Azaleas looking forward to hopefully a beautiful show this spring and I noticed that about 75% of them look like the tips of almost all of the branches have been nibbled off. Any idea what did this and does this mean little or no spring show now? How can I keep this from happening again (fencing them off isn't an option unfortunately)?

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Sincerely, Danielle

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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Not a stupid question, and a year ago I would have said they've never touched mine.

This winter though, the deer have given two azaleas near my front walk a very tidy all-over trim, and I know it was deer because I found last years fawn browsing one afternoon. Insult to injury, he was standing on my hellebores while eating my azaleas. :)

I expect I've lost this Springs flowers on mine, and I couldn't say why - it's not like we have snow cover that would cause deer to try something they've never eaten before. If they had warned me the azaleas were looking tempting, I would have sprayed with deer repellent when I sprayed their favorite roses. Bobbex and Plantskydd repellents are both effective and do not need to be reapplied after rain. (One qt Bobbex concentrate will protect 17 large shrub roses for a year; I'm adding azaleas)

Here is a link that might be useful: Bobbex

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 9:01PM
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Oh definitely! I find a lot of nibbled branches. In fact, on my native azaleas I occasionally spritz them with Deer Off to protect the flower buds. But I can't do them all and so some get munched.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 9:34PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

We have had severe deer damage for many years. Initially I could hang mesh bags of soap on the plants and the deer had enough to eat they would avoid the smell and my plants were safe. Then as the deer herd grew I finally noticed that one deer would bite the soap bags and yank them off the rhododendrons and azaleas. Then the entire herd would enjoy munching the plants. I tried sprays, the best being one that is based on eggs. They all would work for a while until the deer get accustomed to them. They also required being reapplied every couple weeks and after rain storms. They eventually became completely ineffective. Here is where we stand today.

We have some plants that because of location and/or variety don't seem to be bothered much. The rest we have to physically protect. On the old plantings we apply deer netting. We get it at our ACE hardware. It is black and comes in rolls 100' x 7'. When it is put on we can't see it from a distance. It is a great product. In the spring when the buds swell, we remove the netting and take our chances. Otherwise the plants grow through the netting and it doesn't serve a purpose anyway. Fortunately this works because the deer have already killed the plants they really like.

The newer beds with plants that the deer really munch all year long like azaleas, we have put up a deer fence. We get 8' steel fence posts from one of the deer fence companies. These posts have a 4' section you drive into the ground and then you bolt the 8' posts to these short sections in the ground so the fence is exactly 8' tall no matter how far the post is driven into the ground. This is nice, because you can take the tall sections down if you want to. Then I fastened the 7.5' standard deer fencing to the these posts. I ran a wire along the top and bottom to hold the deer netting in place. I have spans of 20'. Again, the deer fencing is black plastic and is not visible from a distance. The deer fencing cost me less than $2 per foot with posts and fencing.

Here is a link that might be useful: These are the materials I used:

    Bookmark   March 2, 2006 at 9:57AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I was going to say, "only for breakfast, lunch, and dinner."

    Bookmark   March 8, 2006 at 11:05PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Actually most deer specialize in midnight snacks. When they are starving they will browse nearly all day long.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2006 at 11:24PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Though my earlier response was meant to be sort of tongue in cheek, deer ARE to the hungry stage when they start feeding on azaleas, which contain fairly high amounts of oxalates. I don't know if the toxic glycocides that are also present in these plants can harm deer, but are certainly known to cause problems with the human animal.

Many years ago, azaleas were considered to be a plant that deer did not bother with, but with vastly increased development in some areas, they are feeding readily on plants that are not good for them.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 7:43AM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

The nature of deer browse is they try everything. If something bothers them they don't go back to it very soon. Many times they build up a tolerance to things that other animals can't tolerate. They never eat much of any one plant on any one day. They keep moving on. The exception seems to be when they find something they really like such as azalea buds which they can wipe out in one day and in winter when there is heavy snow and they are thrilled to find anything green to much on. There are even reports of deer eating monkshood in very trying conditions. However, Crocus, Hellebores and the Giant Shirley Foxglove seem to be very seldom bothered.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 9:03AM
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squirrellypete(z7b AL)

Thank you all for your responses. At least now I know I don't have overly destructive mutant deer, just the regular kind lol. I had no idea they would bother them so I will try some of your recommended methods.

And rhizo, I'm thinking about putting up a sign near them that says "now serving -- breakfast, lunch & dinner" lol.

Happy gardening. Squirrellypete

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 9:19AM
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We had our first deer last year and we have been living here since '86. I guess we planted everything a deer wanting a gourmet meal would want. Expensive hosta, azaleas. Tried the soap, really didn't work. Deer Off, yes. Hubby's dirty, sweaty work clothes....great. Just not in the same location. Moved them around. Thought about asking the neighborhood men over for beer and then ask them to mark a tree or two. I feel bad for the deer as they are being run out of every place they go. All of these subdivisions that strip the land. Heaven forbid, someone leaves a tree. Between Bambi and Thumper this last year I had my hands full.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2006 at 9:52PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Nanapam, I can't even blame new construction or housing here...this is a timber and fishing community in economic distress, no building going on for some time now.

Just one of those natural cycles I suppose, where the deer have been doing well. Quite well. Mom and little guy are about the chubbiest deer you could imagine, and while the doe is most likely pregnant, the yearling is just well fed.
Azaleas, delphinium, perennial geranium (particularly if purchased at Heronswood) were all added to their diets last year...roses and raspberry canes had been on the menu for some time.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2006 at 11:29PM
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We have a small greenbelt of trees about 100' from the back of our cluster home. We feed the deer corn (which the other woodland creatures also take advantage of) and
provide a salt block. In 6 years I have only had the deer
much on some morning glory up by the house. they did
snack on the hostas by fall last year..........most people
refuse the feed them but we have found that they stay in
the trees (except for fall when the acorns attact them to
the back lot) most of the time.............
My one neighbor asked me to stop feeding them...i did and she complained that they were eating all her plants! I returned to feeding them and they leave all our plants is a truce!!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 10:05AM
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They eat everything that can't get up and run away from them, including plants that are "deer resistant". Unfortunately, deer can't read...

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 7:53PM
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