deer damage to English Roseum

mcj3157(z6 NJ)December 27, 2005

I planted two 3 foot tall english roseum rhododendrons this summer and have had severe deer damage to them this winter. They have munched on ~90% of the leaves on both plants and I'm wondering if they will live next spring? I hear they are evergreen and don't drop their leaves naturally so I'm concerned about their chances of survival. Should I just replant next year and protect them with a netting next winter?

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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

They will be fine. I would use deer netting to cover them to protect them from future browse. You need to take the netting off in the spring before they flowers buds start to open. Usually by then there is enough good things for the deer to eat, they won't bother the rhodies.

Rhodies have adventitious buds under the bark that will open if needed and provide new leaves. The plant will be weakened if it has to use these buds too often, but one year will be no problem. To help the rhodies keep their strength, you may elect to break off any flower buds that start to open next spring.

I would avoid any fertilizer until after the leaves have fully opened and not use any after mid-July. Fertilizer is not normally necessary, but if you soil is poor, it may help.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2005 at 3:03PM
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waplummer(Z5 NY)

You may want to think about cutting them back to the ground.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 11:24AM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

This can be done, but there is no reason to do it. The deer just eat the green stuff and rhodies will generate new leaves and branches much quicker from the branches than from the stump.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 4:24PM
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mcj3157(z6 NJ)

Thanks for the advise. I've covered them with the black plastic deer netting and will see how they come back in spring. The deer have eaten all the leaves, but have left the stems and branches. Hopefully they will support new growth of leaves. Will they blossom next year or will they take a second year to fully recover to blossom?

    Bookmark   January 1, 2006 at 3:18PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Rhododendron only blossom from buds formed in the previous summer. If the deer ate all the buds, then they won't bloom this coming spring. The flower buds and foliage buds look a lot a like this time of year. Usually the flower buds are larger, so if you look close you may see some flower buds. As I mentioned, it may not be a good idea to let any flower buds open completely if the plant is heavily stressed.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 9:41AM
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chester_grant(6)

Last winter the deer nibbled ALL the leaves off a few rhodies leaving just stems! But in the spring the rhodies recovered with new growth. This winter I tied half-soap bars - one to each rhodie - and this is working so far.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 2:59PM
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waplummer(Z5 NY)

I lost several rhodies to deer by not cutting back - all 30 year old plants.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 5:00PM
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jesup(z6b/7 Valley Forge, PA)

We have severe browsing here (hunters counted 35 different deer on my and my 2 neighbor's properties on opening day alone - they've taken about 9 so far with a few weeks to go).

Since moving in 3.5 years ago, I've had some new rhodies (18-30" tall) that were chewed to nubs two years in a row and came back with no trouble (with some loss of branches); one that almost died but is coming back now. Some long-established (but not tall enough to be out of reach) hybrids have been chewed back to nothing every year and have come back, though one is down to one main branch. The other 3 all have lots of leaves, and even a bud or two. Native R. maximums on the property generally are ok, though they're almost all tall enough that only the lower branches get nibbled. However, some of the smaller ones have died; partly due to the _major_ drought 3 years ago, partly from the stress of browsing.

Netting thrown over doesn't work - the first winter, I tried that. They ate every leaf through the netting. Last year I caged all of them. The ones caged in wire cages were fine, the ones in mesh cages were ok except where the deer could push the fence against the plants and chew them through it, or where they got tangled in it and ran off with it, or (in one small area I fenced) where they accidentally went through the fence.

We've mostly given up (especially since I've planted ~100+ rhododendrons, azaleas, and pieris in the last two years), and we installed a deer fence around about an acre around the house/garage/driveway/gardens, with an automatic gate. This is heavy-duty, shock-corded fencing from Benner's (see link). Not cheap, but really, really nice.

Here is a link that might be useful: Benner's Deer Fencing

    Bookmark   January 3, 2006 at 11:14AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

>I lost several rhodies to deer by not cutting backCare to explain?

    Bookmark   January 3, 2006 at 5:17PM
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mcj3157(z6 NJ)

Jesup,
I also have about an acre of property and would have trouble getting in and out of my driveway if I used the perimeter fencing method. I may use it in a section of my wooded backyard to try to re-direct some of the deer when they come down from the woods at night. This wouldn't be a complete closed fence but could reduce the number of deer strolling through. Would you think this would help or is it just a waste of time?

Waplummer- I'm also not sure how you lost rhod's by not cutting them back? I thought they didn't need to be cut back at all?

    Bookmark   January 3, 2006 at 7:01PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Many people here in PA that put up deer fencing also put up automatic gates to block their driveway. They essentially live in a corral with 7' high wire fences.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2006 at 10:36PM
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chester_grant(6)

My prior post: Last winter the deer nibbled ALL the leaves off a few rhodies leaving just stems! But in the spring the rhodies recovered with new growth. This winter I tied half-soap bars - one to each rhodie - and this is working so far." Unquote.

Well some animal is eating and removing the soap bars! Gee...rats? Squirrels? As the soap bars on my saplings, which are much higher off trhe ground, are still there I guess thats its rats which are eating the soap on the rhodies.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 11:47AM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

I used to use mesh bags with soap bars in them. One day I saw deer grabbing the bags and ripping them off. They apparently had gotten accustomed to the soap and were so hungry they weren't afraid to get rid of it.

I use deer mesh and deer fencing. Some people say the deer eat the leaves right through the mesh, but mine (from Ace Hardware) has about a .75" grid and is too small for leaves or deer-snouts to get through. If you wear something with buttons when you put it on, it will catch on every button. I put it over the top and tie it at the bottom. I put the fencing around two new beds.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 4:14PM
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chester_grant(6)

So you reckon your deer dont like soap. Well I actually saw a deer sniff one of my soap bars and move on.....so I guess it may depend on how hungry they are......this year isnt a real hard winter and there is much more green deer food around than last winter....

BTW I use little mesh bags for the soap as well - "Trader Joe" mesh bags they use to sell grapefruit and brussel sprouts....but the bags were split open/and or nibbled through.......

    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 5:14PM
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