There really are few things in this life that are more tragic than putting your heart and soul into something only to be thwarted by natural forces. Deer can be a serious thorn in the side of rose gardeners – no pun intended in this case. Unfortunately, deer eat roses. But selecting the right type of rose and doing a little deer mitigation will go a long way.
Will deer eat roses?
We get the question a lot: will deer eat roses? If I planted roses, will deer leave them alone? Unfortunately, the answer is yes, deer eat roses with zeal. They are most fond of new, non-woody growth and will destroy all of the buds on your rose bushes, as those are apparently some of the most tender and delicious snacks on your rose bushes.
Healing your eaten rose bushes
The good news regarding deer eating roses is that they seldom ever eat the entire plant. They like new, tender growth, like green stems, leaves, and buds. They will usually leave behind some of the older growth. This gives you a solid foundation with which to work.
The best way to heal your damaged rose bushes is by ensuring that they receive plenty of sunlight, 8 or more hours per day, and are getting an adequate amount of water. You can also fertilize your rose bushes with a high nitrogen fertilizer to provide maximum support for your recovering plant. A 5-1-2 NPK fertilizer will work well for these purposes.
Your rose bushes will need time to heal. Most of all, they will need to be protected from any more deer damage. But how do we keep deer away from our roses?
Deterring deer from eating your roses
Deterring deer from visiting your rose bushes is pretty difficult, in part because over time, deer become accustomed to most of the strategies we deploy. Some gardeners have reported that, after putting up motion sensor sprinklers, deer mostly avoided their roses – that is until they figured out that the worst thing that happens is they get a little wet.
You can apply deer repellents as well. There are many types available on the market. The problem with these, however, is the need for routine reapplication. They can wear off quickly, especially if you live somewhere where it rains frequently.
Some gardeners have reported that dog hair tends to spook deer away, and there are even some zoos that will sell the urine of mountain lions to you, which some gardeners claim helps keep deer and other pest herbivores away.
One final piece of advice: pick varieties of rose that deer are less likely to eat. Deer can handle some thorns, but extremely thorny varieties of rose bushes are usually the best ones to plant if you live in an area with heavy deer traffic. These include:
- Rosa rugosa
- Rosa ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’
- Rosa ‘Thérèse Bugnet’
- Rosa ‘Hansa’
- Rosa ‘Radcor’
- Rosa ‘Amiga Mia’
- Rosa glauca