Severe animal damage this winter...

pepperidge_farm(NW NJ)May 9, 2009

At our home as well as neighbors and even friends in towns up to 30 miles away there was a carnage of the rhodies. Don't know which critter was responsible, but ALL (I mean every single leaf) on my 4 brand new good looking, well taken rhodies got munched right off.

I have read that waiting for flowering then pruning is a good idea, but.... there will be NOTHING on these bushes!

The stems are still green, so I think the little guys are alive. Yesterday I spotted ONE bud on one stem, so I have some hope!

What is the best approach- how much, when?

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Deer. We didn't prune anything that way still green on the plant. We did put a cage around the little guys to protect them from further damage. It took about 2 years before they started looking good again.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 9:10AM
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pepperidge_farm(NW NJ)

Yes- I think I will have to protect them too.

I did get a real close look yesterday and at the little "rings" I think where leaf stems had been attached are tiny little green perhaps buddings?? These are all along the length of the stems, so looks like quite a bit of activity possible? Thus I am loath to cut anything as I may damage the very thing I am trying to get- regrowth! I am planning to feed them unless anyone thinks it a bad idea.

FYI, I am a plant killer indoors, but have had great success with outdoor plants...

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 2:42PM
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We have two rhodies that the deer have stripped twice. The rhodies will come back. Caging helps especially since the deer will return once they find food in an area. Once the rhodie starts to get woody, they won't bother it as much, unless it's a really bad winter. Too many deer, not enough
natural food sources left.
lol - me too with the houseplants!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 4:30PM
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Yes, it is the deer. In my neighborhood, there are several old, very large Rhods that for as long as I can remember were never attacked by the deer. Now, they are ALL stripped clean as far as the deer can reach. They are eating things that deer supposedly do not eat; yucca, holly, you name it. I spent about $5,000 this year on fencing (and we installed it ourselves). That's a lot of money for me but I just cannot tolerate losing hundreds of dollars worth of plantings to the deer.

If you can keep the deer away, the Rhods will recover nicely. But good luck with that.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 10:50PM
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pepperidge_farm(NW NJ)

Well, I gave the pathetic guys some food, and they have begun to sprout leaves, a few each, but I am optimistic. I think I will have to have some faith that the deer have enough to eat right now, but will protect them come fall. I saw some nice azaleas.... now I think I will wait till next spring, I don't want to keep feeding the deer...

We are overrun here, and the mountain lion they have put in our town (yes, the state actually dropped the guy here without telling the town, was sighted so many times that the mayor finally called the state to ask what to do, and was told- oh, yeah- WE put it there!) is overfed and we would need too many of these mountain lions to really control the population.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 1:21PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Here in PA we have lots of deer problems. Your plants will survive one year of damage. But if attacked a second year while heavily stressed you will loose some.

Depending upon the deer pressure in your area, you response will vary. Where deer are just casual visitors, usually a number of deer repellents will work. They only work for a while, so it is best to rotate them. Some repellents used are: eggs, human hair, soap, feathermeal, bloodmeal, creosote, mothballs, tankage and commercial chemical repellents. The greatest amount of protection for home gardens with repellents is obtained by using several different repellents and rotating their use. Repellents should be applied before damage is likely to occur and before deer become accustomed to feeding on the plants. It may be too late to use repellants in your case.

Rhododendrons with a heavy indumentum (fuzz on the underside of the leaves) are not popular with deer and are usually not bothered. Some of the cultivars known as "Yaks" have this indumentum. Among the most popular plants are 'Mist Maiden' and 'Ken Janek.' There have been many sprays to deter deer and they all worked for a while, usually until the deer became hungry. They all were temporary and had to be reapplied after every rain, or every couple weeks when it didn't rain. A Swedish product has the promise of deterring deer for up to 6 months. Tests have shown that it causes about a 95% reduction in deer damage. The product is Plantskydd Deer Repellent.

Deer Netting: To prevent winter deer damage you need to take prompt action in the fall and subsequent falls to insure it doesn't happen again. I use a product found in hardware stores called deer netting. It is similar to bird netting but heavier and courser. I wrap groups of plants together and wrap isolated plants individually. I fasten it on with tie wraps or twine and just cut the tie wraps or twine off in the spring. The important thing is to take deer netting off in the spring before the rhododendrons and azaleas sprout and grow through it. If the foliage does grow through the netting, the netting is hard to remove without damaging the plants. The course deer netting is good in that it doesn't get covered with snow unless it is a very wet snow. Otherwise the snow just goes through it.

Deer Fencing: A heavier product is deer fencing. I have a couple beds of azaleas that were decimated during the summer before I used deer fencing. It is typically 7' to 8' tall and can be wire mesh or a heavy plastic mesh. I purchased the heavy plastic mesh deer fencing with easy to install steel posts from:

When using deer netting in an area that is heavily traveled by deer, place something visible like plastic grocery bags on the netting so the deer can see it and avoid it. Soon they will change their travel path and it won't be a problem. However, if a new fence or deer netting is place across their natural path, they will do almost anything to get through. Persist until you get them to change their travel path. One interesting side effect is that squirrels don't see deer netting too well and bounce off it like a trampoline. They soon learn to watch out for it.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 12:48PM
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