Humans aren’t the only ones who appreciate wildflowers like coneflowers. Grazing herbivores like deer or rabbits often eat flowers, much to the annoyance of gardeners. In this article, we’ll find out if coneflowers are deer-resistant.
Are Coneflowers Deer-Resistant?
Mature coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) are classed as deer-resistant plants. Most types of coneflowers have rough, hairy leaves and spiky central cones that are unpalatable to deer. The smell of coneflowers may also put off deer.
However, although mature coneflowers stand a good chance of repelling deer, young plants and seedlings are vulnerable. Deer can still eat young coneflowers if the leaves haven’t developed hairs or roughness. So, young coneflowers should be protected against deer.
Deer also target coneflowers that get lots of fertilizer and water. Because these coneflowers are more nutritious, deer are willing to put up with the hairy leaves or spiky cones. Established coneflowers should only need a little water or fertilizer, so check whether you’re overdoing it.
What Other Animals Can Eat Coneflowers?
Although mature coneflowers are deer-resistant, other herbivores still pose a danger. Coneflowers aren’t rabbit-resistant, so your coneflowers could be eaten by rabbits if they aren’t protected. Rabbits prefer young coneflowers but can eat mature leaves or flowers that are close to the ground. Rabbits also eat coneflower stems, which can decimate your plants.
How to Protect Your Coneflowers
Although deer and rabbits pose a danger to your coneflowers, you can protect your plants. Companion plants can put off herbivores such as deer and rabbits. Many companion plants produce a strong scent, so planting them near your coneflowers acts as a deterrent.
Common companion plants for coneflowers include catmint, chives, lavender, lemon balm, oregano, rose, sage, and thyme. These companion plants use strong scents or prickly foliage to put deer and rabbits off your coneflowers.
Another way of protecting your coneflowers against deer and rabbits is to put up barriers. You can use chicken wire, cages, or fences to protect your coneflowers. Make sure that there aren’t any gaps in the barrier and that it’s high enough to deter deer.
You can also use specially-formulated deer or rabbit repellents to protect your coneflowers. These usually come in the form of sprays that can be applied directly to your coneflowers.
How to Help Coneflowers Recover from Being Eaten
If your coneflowers get eaten by deer or rabbits, you can help them recover if there are still several stems. Prune (and deadhead) any damaged parts of the coneflower back to healthy buds. You can also give your coneflower a small dose of fertilizer to encourage new growth.
Water the plant as usual if necessary. Your coneflower should recover enough to flower the following year again. In the meantime, set up some of the defenses described above.
Mature coneflowers are deer-resistant, but young coneflowers are still vulnerable. Coneflowers can also be eaten by rabbits. To protect your coneflowers from deer or rabbits, use companion plants or barriers to deter hungry herbivores. Chicken wire, cages, and tall fences work well, as do repellent sprays.
Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.