Roses and Deer: A Guide to Resistance and Protection

Unfortunately, roses are not deer resistant. Deer enjoy eating rose leaves, buds, flowers, and even thorny canes. If you live in an area with high deer pressure, you should take measures to protect your plants. Fencing off your roses or spraying them with deer repellent are two options. In this guide, I’ll run the best ways to recognize deer damage and how I protect roses from these hungry animals.

Are Roses Deer Resistant?

How Do I Know Deer Are Eating My Roses?

A single deer grazing in a field

If you see deer munching on your roses, it’s easy to determine that these animals are responsible for damaging your plants. However, sometimes it can be trickier to figure out what is damaging your rose bushes.

While deer will consume practically every part of rose plants, they are especially fond of tender, young growth. So if you notice that your plants are missing their stem tips and new leaves, deer are likely to blame.

It’s also helpful to remember that deer are large creatures with healthy appetites. Rather than eating small holes in flowers or leaves, they take large bites from rose plants or eat them to the ground. Insects like Japanese beetles are more likely to cause holes in plant leaves and flowers.

You can also look for deer signs around your plants. If you see deer prints around your roses, there is a good chance they’re munching on your roses.

How to Protect Roses from Deer

A collection of colorful rose plants growing in a garden

Since deer love to eat roses, you may need to take steps to protect your plants from these common rose pests.

Fencing

The most foolproof way to keep deer away from roses is by using a physical barrier like a fence.

When your roses are still young, you can build a cage around the plants out of chicken wire or hog paneling. If you opt for this option, the enclosure should be small enough that deer cannot stand inside of it. However, you should also be mindful that deer can eat roses through large holes in the fencing and reach over short fences.

If your rose plants are larger, it makes more sense to install a proper fence. Since deer can easily jump fences, ensure your fence is at least eight feet tall or installed at an angle.

Deer Repellent

If a fence isn’t an option, you can use deer repellent to protect your roses.

While some people say cayenne pepper, soap, and marigolds can help repel deer, it’s best to turn to specially-formulated options. Some highly-rated deer repellents include Deer Out and Liquid Fence (via Amazon).

Deer repellents are available in both liquid and granular formulations. Spraying liquid repellent on your plants can discourage deer from feeding, and sprinkling granular repellent around your roses can keep deer away.

If you want deer repellent to be as effective as possible, you should begin applying repellent when new growth appears in the spring. Remember, deer love tender new growth!

Continue reapplying repellent about every two weeks throughout the rose blooming season.

Are There Any Deer Resistant Roses?

While all types of roses are susceptible to deer damage, some rose varieties are less appealing than others.

Rosa rugosa is more deer resistant than many hybrid roses, and other species roses.

Are Deer Still an Issue? Consider Deer Resistant Alternatives

While we hate to admit it, deer love roses. They can severely damage plants even after you implement protective measures.

If so, you may want to replace your roses with deer-resistant plants.

Some flowering shrubs that deer dislike include butterfly bush, spirea, viburnum, peony, and forsythia. You can also plant smaller deer-resistant plants like lavender, floss flower, and bee balm.


Frequently Asked Questions:

Will Deer Eat Thorny Roses?

Deer are not inhibited by roses’ thorns and will happily munch on thorny canes. However, deer will often choose thornless roses before they turn to thorny varieties.

Will Roses Regrow After Deer Damage?

Rose plants will typically regrow after deer damage them. You can prune damaged sections and continue watering regularly to help your plants recover.

What Plants Are Deer Resistant?

Deer-resistant plants include boxwood, butterfly bush, peony, daffodil, and pachysandra.

Are Knockout Roses Deer Resistant?

No, Knockout roses are not deer resistant. Roses will eat all parts of these plants.

Are Roses Deer Resistant – Wrapping Up

Fragrant rose flowers and green leaves are an enticing option for hungry deer. Therefore, you should use a fence or deer repellent to protect your roses from deer.

Further reading: 50 deer-resistant flowers and plants.

Contributing Editor | briana@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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