Do Deer Eat Azaleas or Are They Deer Resistant?

Because of their blooming period that starts in the spring and the colorful shrub they create, azaleas are popular flowering shrubs in domestic settings and are native to Asia, Europe, and North America.

There are other pests 

Aside from the azalea lace bug, many people wonder do deer eat azaleas, as these large mammals are known to jump fences and invade gardens. If they do eat azaleas, then it remains to be seen how to keep deer from eating azaleas.

Do Deer Eat Azaleas

Yes, deer will eat azaleas if they are very hungry. What must be stressed, though, is that azaleas definitely aren’t at the top of a dietary pyramid for deer and they’ll only eat it if they are starving.

In fact, deer will eat anything if they’re starving and it can be difficult to control them in such a state. However, deer in your area most likely won’t show any interest in your azaleas if they are already well-fed.

Is It Safe for Deer to Eat Azaleas

This is a far more complex question and the answer might actually benefit you. Azaleas are highly toxic – the leaves and the nectar (as well as the honey made from that nectar) contain andromedotoxins.

In humans, this poisoning usually isn’t dangerous, resulting in minor cardiovascular issues, as well as nausea and vomiting. With animals, though, it’s a different story.

Cattle, such as cows and sheep, present with cardiac arrhythmias, gastrointestinal tract irritation, and neurological symptoms after ingesting just 0.2% of their body weight in azalea leaves, according to this recent medical study.

The intoxication often lasts for up to two days, and unlike with humans – it’s often lethal. In fact, the number of animals dying from azalea intoxication is greater than the number of animals that recover.

Although no published study has been conducted on deer, they’re fairly similar to cattle as they are ungulates too and it’s safe to assume that they don’t have developed immunity to andromedotoxins.

What does this mean for you? Well, the best-case scenario is that the deer gets poisoned, survives with non-lethal symptoms, learns its lesson, and leaves your azaleas alone.

The worst-case scenario (for the deer, not you) is that it dies from intoxication, and once again, your azaleas are left alone.

Will Azaleas Regrow After Deer Eat Them?

Yes, your azaleas will continue to grow after a deer have grazed through them. Since they’re flowering shrubs, it’s likely that new flowers will grow in the same spot the following flowering season.

Importantly, deer won’t feed on the branches of azaleas, so it’s usually the case that the shrub remains unharmed. If, however, the animal broke some branches by accident, make sure to remove them soon afterward.

Are There Deer Resistant Azaleas

No, there are no deer-resistant varieties of the azalea. In fact, azaleas are often damaged by deer according to Rutgers University, and no single variety is resistant to deer.

Plants are usually resistant to deer and other pests because of their taste, smell, or due to physical barriers. Some plants smell bad to pests, others taste bad, while plants like cacti and pumpkins are difficult to eat because of their prickles or spikes.

Azaleas, unfortunately, smell great and taste great, and there’s no physical protection for them either.

Do Deer Eat Azaleas

How to Keep Deer from Eating Azaleas

Since they have no natural protection from deer, you’ll have to physically protect your azaleas from deer. Here’s how to do it.

Keeping Deer Out of Your Garden

This is the only way to completely protect your azaleas and other plants from deer. Deer are particularly attracted to rich gardens and they’ll try to invade them if there isn’t enough food for them in the wild.

Mechanical Obstacles

Fences offer great protection to your garden against potential deer invasions and are the most effective way of controlling deer. Deer normally can’t jump higher than 7 feet, except for truly extreme scenarios when running from predators.

I refrain from using the word impossible, but it’s extremely unlikely that a deer will jump over a 7-feet-tall fence because of food (unless it’s literally starving to death).

Although they’re not that good at digging, make sure to dig the fence below the ground too, – by at least a foot – this will ensure that smaller, digging animals can’t just dig their way through to your garden.

Another effective obstacle is a dog! If your garden already has a fence around it that you don’t want to replace, you can just let your dog out into the yard.

Deer won’t approach an area if they can smell and hear a dog. By contrast, a dog’s natural instinct is to protect its territory from potential threats and intruders.

Repellents and Motion-Activated Scare Devices

Repellents can work very quickly, showing deer the door in a flash. They’re usually based on an ingredient that deer find disgusting and spray in the air. 

However, most repellants evaporate after a while and are washed off by rain, which means that you have to reapply them time and again.

Because of this, no repellent is a permanent solution.

Motion-activated scare devices are very effective, as they let out a loud sound and bright lights when activated. However, they can be very expensive, which is why some people opt for motion-activated sprinkler systems.

Since no animal likes being sprayed with water, the deer will retreat immediately.

Making Home-Made Deer Repellent

In a pinch, you can make your own deer repellent. It’s quick easy and effective although the results may be short-lived. Here’s everything you need to know.

Smells That Repel Deer

Use boiled eggs, chili peppers, citrus, garlic, or a combination of two or more of these to repel deer from your property. Deer simply can’t stand the scent of any of them. 

How to Make Home-Made Deer Repellent

Here are the simple steps to making your own deer repellent.

Ingredients

For this repellent, you can use any single ingredient from the list above. For starters, use three eggs or three cloves of garlic and a gallon of water.

Step 1 – Blend and Combine the Ingredients

Blend the boiled eggs and garlic together until very smooth. After that, combine them with a gallon of water and mix the bottle thoroughly.

Step 2 – Strain and Spray

After mixing, strain the solution to make sure only the water remains. I wouldn’t suggest smelling the mix at any point because it’s a foul smell, designed to repel deer.

Once you’ve strained the solution, you can load it in a spray bottle and spray it all over your azaleas. The scent won’t linger for too long, though, so remember to reapply after a few weeks.

I should point out here that a desperate deer will eat your azaleas despite the smell, and may even get used to the scent after a while so you may need to switch up the ingredients from time to time.

Verdict: Do Deer Eat Azaleas

Deer will gladly eat azaleas as they smell interesting to them, but this shouldn’t be a long-term problem for you. An adult deer will get poisoned by eating azaleas and it’ll either die or pull through the painful symptoms. Either way – it won’t eat your azaleas anymore.

When it comes to the question of how to keep deer from eating azaleas, you have to prevent them from entering the garden. This is done by building a tall fence, using repellents, and installing motion-activated scare devices, such as noise-producing devices and sprinklers.