Do Deer Eat Rhododendron? 7 Tips To Prevent Them

If you live in a part of the country where deer are common and you’re really fond of growing rhododendron, you may have noticed a slight problem. Deer seem to really love eating rhododendron, and as a gardener, you probably don’t want your precious plants being destroyed.

So, what should you do to fix this little predicament? Keep reading, in this post we’re going to help you understand the problem better and give you some tips on how to stop them.

Do Deer Cause Damage to Rhododendron?

Deer cause a lot of damage to rhododendrons. Up to 70% of your plants could be eaten by a hungry deer in one sitting. Deer really like rhododendrons, and they will gobble up as much as they can. This will damage your rhododendrons, in many cases, to a point of unrepair.

Will Rhododendron Grow Back after Deer eat them?

It really depends on the amount of damage done to the plant. Sometimes deer will only eat the superficial parts of the plant like the leaves and flowers. Other times they will consume a large portion of the plant. Deer don’t have sharp teeth, so they will often put their mouths over the base of the branch and scrape the leaves and flowers off. This can cause heavy damage to a rhododendron quickly.

So long as there is a sufficient amount of the root system of the plant that remains in the ground, the plant may not die. But, if they’ve eaten off the entire branch ends and eaten the plant to their buds, then your rhododendron will have a hard time surviving. More often than not though, severely damaged rhododendrons will not survive after having been eaten by deer.

Will your rhododendron leaves grow back after deer eat them?

Well, that depends on the extent of damage that the deer have caused to your plants. A damaged rhododendron can re-sprout if the deer have not eaten off the entire branch ends.

How to Keep Deer Away from Rhododendrons?

There are numerous ways to get deer to stay away from your rhododendrons. Deer resistant shrubs can help you deter deer from eating your rhododendrons by making them stay away from your yard. Two other ways that you can deter deer, if you find deer-resistant shrubs to be ineffective, are to use anti-deer fences and draping. In addition, you can put out deer repellents.

Deer-resistant shrubs

One of the best ways to do this is to have deer resistant shrubs lined up in your front lawn to repel deer from wanting to come anywhere near your previous rhododendrons. There are many different deer resistant shrubs that you can use to keep the deer away. These include Boxwood, Juniper, and Arrowwood.

Line these up in around your lawn, and you can be sure that deer will be very reluctant to come anywhere near them. If planting deer resistant shrubs doesn’t work for you, then you can try one of other methods.


Anti-deer fences can be very effective, but you need to have relatively high fences. The fences should be at least 6 to 8 feet tall. If the fences are shorter than 6 feet, deer will likely be able to jump over them with relative ease. Your rhododendron should be set back, away from the fence. Any of the plant that is hanging over or protruding through the fence will get eaten by deer.

Anti-Deer mesh netting

Next, you can use anti-deer netting to drape over your rhododendron. It is somewhat more expensive than fencing, but it is very effective. The netting works by blocking the deer from eating any of your rhododendron. Sometimes a few leaves or flower buds will come through and get eaten, but the plant as a whole will be protected.

One downfall to using mesh netting is the way it looks. It is not very visually pleasing to see a mesh net over your rhododendron. This can be a good solution for when deer are very active and you need something to stop them immediately.


You can try placing bar soap near your plants since it tends to repel deer, but it is not the finest solution. The bar of soap needs to have a heavy scent.

Liquid dish soap like Dawn also works to repel deer. You can mix it with water or other smelling things to create a solution that deer don’t like. Then spray it liberally on your rhododendron.

Human hair

Human hair is also known to repel deer because most deer don’t like to be around humans. But, if you live in an area where there is no hunting and deer are free to roam without being harmed, they may not run so easily from humans. In that case, human hair may not keep them away from your rhododendron.

Motion-sensor sprinkler

You can get a water sprinkler with a motion-sensor. Set it up close to your rhododendron. When deer get near, they the motion-sensor will detect them and the water will start spraying. The noise and water will drive the deer away. This solution is a temporary one. Deer may become used to the sprinkler and just ignore it.

Commercial spray

There are commercial sprays available that are approved by the EPA to repel deer and be safe for your rhododendron. The sprays are usually made from natural things like eggs and spices.

These sprays work by drenching your rhododendron so that deer smell it and get a mouth full when they eat any part of the plant. The unpleasant smell and taste will train them to leave your rhododendron alone. The sprays last for 8 to 10 weeks. But if you apply it several time, deer will learn to go somewhere else.

Are Rhododendrons Safe for Deer

Rhododendrons are actually highly poisonous plants to humans, although they are relatively safe for deer to consume in smaller quantities. Deer, for the most part, won’t get poisoned from eating rhododendrons. It is possible for them to experience some toxicity if they eat to much rhododendron.

So, if you’re worried about your rhododendron garden turning into a graveyard for deer, you can put your mind at ease. It is extremely unlikely that any deer will consume enough of the plants to experience any kind of toxicity or death.

PJM rhododendrons

PJM rhododendrons are a variety of the plant that is relatively deer-resistant. Deer may still attempt to eat it, but it is unlikely they will eat much. In most cases, deer will nip at the smaller leaves of a PJM rhododendron and avoid the large plants.

It can be a good idea to line up PJM rhododendrons around your yard given how much resistant they are toward deer. But you should be warned that their resistance is only to a certain level.

If deer get hungry enough, they will eat PJM rhododendrons. These rhododendron can’t be your main defense against deer eating in your yard. You should still apply one or more of the other methods listed above to stop deer from feasting on your plants.

Final Words

Overall, you can see that rhododendrons are a popular snack for most deer. The amount of damage they cause to a rhododendron plant can be considerable, and in many cases, it is unlikely the plant will recover. But you can take a number of steps toward ensuring the amount of damage inflicted to your precious rhododendrons is minimized. You can reduce the amount of damage through some intelligent use of deer-resistant shrubs, netting, fences, soaps, and sprays.