Deer are difficult to handle for many gardeners. If you’ve put effort into keeping your beds tidy and healthy, the last thing you want is to wake up one morning finding your hard work destroyed, especially when growing petunias. So the question is, do deer eat petunias?
Deer do eat petunias. Although petunias are not the most attractive plants to deer, they are not considered deer resistant either. If you find your buds removed and the leaves chewed, you may have a deer problem.
There are a number of ways to keep them away from your petunias, including motion-activated lights and large fences. But, if your problem won’t go away, rather plant a deer resistant ornamental instead.
About petunias and deer
Petunias are incredibly popular annuals grown for their ornamental value, producing large and colorful blooms throughout summer that instantly brighten gardens.
Although there are several species in the Petunia genus, most plants grown in home gardens are hybrids. These plants are specially selected for their superior characteristics, typically in color or growth habit.
Do deer eat petunias?
Unfortunately, deer are known to eat petunias in some gardens. These plants are certainly not on the list of those considered deer-resistant. Usually, they prefer far juicier plants and will opt for tastier options in your beds. But, if they find nothing else to snack on, there is a chance they will mindlessly snack on your favorite annuals.
There are also other garden enemies that may lead to petunia problems. Rabbits, squirrels and even chickens may nibble on your petunias if they get the chance. And when it comes to pests, you should keep an eye out for aphids and slugs or snails that leave large holes in the leaves.
Signs deer have eaten your petunias
Deer damage is easy to spot in your backyard. Previously lush plants will look sparse and diminished, completely stripped of leaves and blooms. When planted in the ground, you may also find your beds trampled.
They are especially fond of delicate new growth, including foliage soon after planting and flower buds before they have fully developed.
Luckily, as long as the damage is not too severe, your petunias may come back just as strong. In the early stages of growth, a cut off the top of some of the stems can actually improve growth and branching, leading to more flowering in the long run.
But the damage is typically more severe than a light trim and it can take a while for your petunias to recover. In these cases, it’s better to keep deer out of your garden altogether if possible.
How to keep deer away from petunias?
Ask any gardener who has struggled with persistent deer how they manage the problem and they will likely tell you it’s not an easy task. It may take some trial and error to find the right method or combination of methods that ultimately does the trick.
The first line of defense is typically something to give the deer a fright and scare them away. A classic scarecrow or anything with movement like a windmill is an option. Unfortunately, these methods may not last long once the deer realize these things are not a true threat.
There are also more technical measures involving motion activation. Sprinklers or lights triggered by deer movement are usually enough to scare them away. But, they need to be placed very carefully so they are triggered whenever the deer come anywhere near your petunias. Keeping the beds out in the open and away from dense leafy growth is also helpful as it takes away any areas where the deer may hide out.
The final line of defense can be the most costly – a literal fence. As they can jump remarkably high, this fence needs to be tall enough to limit that potential.
If none of these methods work, consider planting an equally as stunning but much less tasty alternative. Marigolds and snapdragons are the most common recommendations, but there are many other options out there that deer won’t worry about.
Apart from their stunning looks, petunias are also chosen by gardeners year after year for their ease of growth. As they are not cold tolerant, they are usually grown as annuals, planted in spring and removed from the garden when temperatures drop in fall.
As long as they are planted in the right soil with enough nutrients, they will continue to bloom prolifically throughout summer. Regular watering is needed to maintain leaf and stem health, but they don’t need excessive amounts of it, happy to be watered the same amount as the rest of the plants in your ornamental garden.
Petunias do tend to wilt and become leggy around midsummer, but a quick trim will encourage new dense growth to form, also improving flowering. They don’t face many problems with pests and diseases either. But one garden nuisance you may encounter if you’re unlucky is deer.
What is the most deer resistant plant?
French marigolds are my favorite deer resistant plant. Not only are marigolds bright and vibrant, they look absolutely stunning in any garden! Foxgloves are also another favorite that look stunning in any garden.
How do I stop deer from eating my plants?
Deer can get scared easily. While it isn’t always the case, having something motion activated, like a sprinkler or light, can help keep deer away from your flowers and plants.
- Rutgers university: Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance
- University of Florida: Gardening Solutions
- University of Minnesota: Petunia > Leaves > Holes in leaves or leaves chewed off
- Clemson University: DEER RESISTANT PLANTS FOR THE LANDSCAPE –ANNUALS & PERENNIALS