One of the only flowers to bloom on the International Space Station, zinnias are an immensely popular genus in both North and South America. They can grow to great sizes in open areas, making them easily accessible to deer.
If you live in an area with plenty of deer, it’s natural to wonder do deer eat zinnias and how to keep deer from eating zinnias. In today’s article, I’ll be answering these questions, but also suggesting ways to keep deer away from your garden.
Do Deer Eat Zinnias
Yes, deer do eat zinnias, but very rarely. According to a study from the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station of Rutgers University, zinnias are rarely severely damaged by deer.
This means that deer will eat them if they’re starving and can’t find food, but they’ll avoid them if other food options are available. The most likely reason behind this type of avoidance observed in deer is the smell of zinnias or rather a lack of one.
Just like people, deer are naturally attracted to food that smells good, and zinnias have almost no smell.
It’s also important to note that when they do nibble on zinnias, deer stick to the flowers and usually don’t eat the leaves.
Deer will avoid plants that are painful to eat (cacti), plants that taste bad (irises), but also plants that smell bad.
Although zinnias can grow to heights of up to 3 feet, meaning that a deer can reach them over your fence if they’re growing right next to it, they won’t bother themselves with your zinnias if other food is available.
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Is It Safe for Deer to Eat Zinnias?
Although not scientifically proven, most experts believe that zinnias are not dangerous for deer or other ungulates.
Interestingly, zinnias are also considered to be non-toxic for humans too. Not saying that you should include them in your diet, but if you were lost in the wild, they could be a source of calories in a pinch.
Will Zinnias Regrow After Deer Eat Them?
Well, zinnias are annual plants, meaning that they die after producing seeds (usually after the first frost). If a deer eats a zinnia shrub, it won’t regrow, but this doesn’t have anything to do with the deer.
Zinnias grow, produce flowers and seeds, and then they die. The plant will die even if the deer don’t eat it.
When it comes to the flowering potential and how beautiful your zinnias can get, know that they actually benefit from deadheading. Deadheading, if you didn’t know, is the practice of removing wilting or dead flowers to promote the growth of new flowers.
Therefore, a deer eating a few dying flowers could actually improve your zinnia display and, save you a job in the garden.
Are There Deer Resistant Zinnias?
No zinnia is completely deer resistant (and if we’re being entirely honest, no plant is deer resistant – even toxic plants can be eaten by deer), but all varieties of zinnias lack an attractive scent and simply aren’t interesting to deer.
They naturally don’t want to eat it because of this, but also because there isn’t a lot of food in zinnias. Stems and leaves are avoided by deer, and they’d have to eat thousands of flowers a day to get enough calories in.
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How to Keep Deer from Eating Zinnias
In most cases, zinnias don’t need your help in protecting themselves from deer. They’re naturally shielded because they don’t have a strong scent and deer don’t find them interesting.
Here are a few methods, though, that can generally help with deer in gardens.
Keeping Deer Out of Your Garden
Deer can be kept out of your garden relatively easily, at least when compared to other pests. Unlike rabbits and moles, they can’t dig below a fence, nor can they climb or pass through it like a squirrel or a mouse.
If you want to keep deer out of your garden in the most effective way then I recommend building or installing a fence of at least 7 feet tall. This is because deer have difficulty jumping higher than 7ft, and since they can’t climb or dig through, a tall fence is almost guaranteed to keep them out of your garden.
However, installing a fence can be costly, so here are a few other options for you to consider.
Letting your pup into the garden might seem like a dangerous idea, but know that deer are a non-confrontational species and they’ll always run away if charged. The only time a deer will fight back is if there’s no place to run or they are cornered.
So, if there’s a low fence that they can easily jump over, they’ll most likely be jumping back over that fence if your dog starts chasing them around the yard.
Just like any animal, deer are scared of loud noises and lights at night. You can find simple motion-activated systems that – once activated – will either blast a deterring sound or start flashing lights. Either way, these systems are a surefire way of getting deer to scarper.
You could also go for the cheaper, but no less effective version, of rigging your sprinkler system with a motion sensor. Every time a deer activates the sensor, it will start the sprinkler and spray the deer with water.
All of these scares will cause the deer to flee.
Making Home-Made Deer Repellent
Not mentioned in the previous subsection, repellents are also good ways of deterring deer. Unfortunately, they’re often temporary as repellents will evaporate within a few weeks unless the rain or an irrigation system has washed them out beforehand.
Because of this, I only recommend repellants as a temporary fix until you find a more permanent solution.
Smells That Repel Deer
The most obvious deer repellents are garlic, boiled eggs, chili peppers, oregano, dish soap, and even Dijon mustard will do a good job of keeping them at bay. All of these can be combined with water to create a good repellent.
Read on to find out exactly what making your own homemade deer repellant entails.
How to Make Home-Made Deer Repellent
Here is my recipe for a very basic, yet very effective way of making deer repellent in your own kitchen using just a few simple store cupboard basics.
Choose one or two of the following: Garlic, boiled eggs, chili peppers, oregano, dish soap, or Dijon mustard, plus water.
Step 1 – Blend the Ingredients
Simply blend the ingredients until they’re very fine – don’t use too much water, only enough to blend until smooth.
Step 2 – Mix with Water
Mix the blend with a gallon of water and then strain through a sieve. The mixture you are left with will have a very powerful and pungent scent for the average human and even more so for deer.
Step 3 – Apply the Repellent
All that’s left is to apply the mix by spraying it on the plants you want to protect. Keep in mind that you’ll need to do this every few weeks if you want them to stay protected.
You might also like to read Choosing Companion Plants for Zinnias | Do’s and Don’ts
Verdict: Do Deer Eat Zinnias?
Yes, deer do eat zinnias, but they’re not happy about it. If deer are eating zinnias in your garden, that means that there’s very little food for them in the wild and they’re desperate.
They’re naturally not attracted to zinnias and they don’t like the leaves and the stems, which means that other plants are at greater risk. Deer can be kept at bay, though, by using one of the deterrents I’ve mentioned above.