Do Deer Eat Petunia Flowers and Plants?

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Petunias are pretty and sweet smelling and have lush, green leaves, so many gardeners seeking to grow them wonder if deer will eat petunias.

The simplest answer is that deer will eat petunias just as much as they’ll eat any other sort of flower or vegetation.

Petunias and DeerPin

Deer are fairly indiscriminate browsers, and if petunias are at browsing level in an area not protected by a fence or a dog, or you turn on the lights and step out onto the porch when you see deer, they will probably eat your petunias.

In this article, we discuss the topic of deer foraging preferences and provide lists of plants the deer population prefers, along with those they dislike.

We wind it up with a novel concept for keeping deer away from your favorite plants. Read on to learn more.

Deer Resistant Herb & Flower Garden Before & After

Deer love to eat plants of all kinds. If you have deer in your area (and it’s very likely you do), you’re wise to take some time to learn which plants deer favor and which they don’t.

Deer visit and will browse just about anything, but they definitely have favorites. Among them are ornamental plants and shrubs, such as:

  • Morning Glories
  • Plantain lilies
  • Sweet Peas
  • Snowdrops
  • English Ivy
  • Impatiens
  • Clematis
  • Daylilies
  • Pansies
  • Violas
  • Hostas
  • Violets
  • Dahlias
  • Tulips
  • Lilyturf
  • Crocus
  • Cosmos
  • Gerbera
  • Fuchsia
  • Rhododendrons
  • Rose Mallow
  • Hydrangeas
  • Arborvitae
  • Hibiscus
  • Fir Trees
  • Azaleas
  • Roses

…to name a few.

Deer are also quite fond of a wide range of fruits and veggies, including but not limited to:

  • Grape vines, leaves, and fruit
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Peas & Beans
  • Passion Fruit
  • Sweet corn
  • Carrot tops
  • Beet tops
  • Cabbage
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Apples
  • Beans
  • Chard
  • Kiwi
  • Okra
  • Pears

These are by no means complete lists.

Deer like vegetation. Hungry deer like just about any vegetation.

So Do Deer Eat Petunia Flowers and Plants?

Yes. They are also especially fond of moist plants, which are plants with higher water content. One example of this is petunia.

Petunias have almost succulent growth when they are still young plants, and deer prefer this. This includes the flowers and leaves of petunia plants.

How Can You Know If Deer Will Eat Your Yard & Garden Plants?

If you are unsure whether deer will rapaciously devour the plants you have in mind, think about the qualities of those plants.

If they are broad-leaved, tender, and free of fuzzy or thorny leaves and stems or strong aromas, deer will likely favor them. Flower buds and foliage that are not yet fully developed are also favorite food sources for deer too.

Although deer will eat just about anything if they are hungry enough, they are very likely to lay waste on plants that are young, soft, and tender. They are especially attracted to plants that have broad, flat leaves and/or petals.

Deer typically like plants that don’t have much of a smell; however, sweet-smelling plants can be very attractive to them. For this reason, they may strip a rose bush of its beautiful flowers but leave behind the thorny, problematic foliage and stems.

If you have plants that fit this description, you can be pretty sure deer will like them. 

How Can You Know That Deer Will Dislike Your Yard & Garden Plants?

Deer seem to be repelled by plants that have long, thin petals. This is especially true if those plants also have aromatic stems and leaves, so, for example, azaleas and marigolds tend not to be favored by deer.

Other plants that repel deer with their strong scent and prickly leaves include all sorts of culinary and medicinal herbs, such as lavender, aniseed, rosemary, salvia, sage, echinacea, and the like.

They are also repelled by any member of the onion family, so they are very unlikely to ravage your onion, chive, and garlic bed. Horseradish and tarragon are also not preferred fragrant plants. Ornamental alliums are also fairly safe from deer.

In the veggie garden, thorns and fuzz, and fur will deter deer. For example, they will often forego the prickly leaves of zucchini and other types of squash.

Tomato leaves and stems have both fur and a strong smell that deer are unlikely to desire; however, they may enjoy the fruit. Deer also seem not to be particularly fond of asparagus.

In the flower garden, they’ll typically leave the hairy geraniums alone. Ornamental plants, such as lambs’ ears, often get a pass. While you might think that they would also avoid sunflowers because of their furry, prickly leaves and stems, the fact is they will simply eat the blooms (especially if they are seeded out) and leave the foliage. 

Deer Resistant Plants – Factors of Plants Less Favored by Deer

Are There Many Plants That Deer Dislike?

There are actually a lot of good choices in plants deer tend not to eat. Planting them is no guarantee that deer won’t eat them, but if they’ve got something to munch on that they prefer, they will typically avoid plants that can be poisonous, such as Poppies, Bearded Irises, Daffodils, and some other spring bulbs.

A wide variety of pretty garden common flowers, such as Foxgloves, Peonies, Cleome, aster, Daisies, Marigolds, and Lantana, tend to be deer resistant.

Shrubs such as Common Boxwood, Lenten Rose, Barberry, Serviceberry, and Butterfly Bush are just a few of the attractive bushes that deer tend not to like.

There are also quite a few native plants that naturally repel deer. Among them are Wild Ginger, Monkshood, Wood Fern, and Snowdrops.

These are just a handful of examples of some of the many types of plants that deer do not especially favor. To get a very specific list for your location, search “plants deer avoid .gov.” 

Every state has a specifically prepared list. Refer to the list for your state to get good ideas about deer resistant plants for your area.

Hungry Deer Will Eat Any Plant

Some of the recommended deer-resistant plants are too smelly for deer to enjoy. Some are downright poisonous. 

Even so, when they are small, tender, and young they may be quite palatable to deer. It’s also important to keep in mind that if deer are hungry, they will eat just about anything.

Even so, they are travelers and browsers more than grazers. Their feeding habits tend to be a bit hit-and-miss, so having a yard and garden full of plants they don’t typically like is an excellent way to minimize the amount of deer damage they can do.

Plan Your Yard & Garden To Steer Deer Away From Your Personal Favorites

It’s easy to see that there are many plants deer love and many they don’t much care for. Even if you have a yard full of the latter category, you may still experience some deer incursions.

On the flip side, you may have a yard full of deer favorites (also known as deer candies like Hostas, Petunia plants, and Daylilies) and experience a few deer nibbles. That is the case in my own yard.

This is because I keep the plants I don’t want to be bothered close to the house and cultivate a deer garden off the beaten path in the back. 

I provide deer with an appropriate browsing area that satisfies their hunger and steers them away from my house and garden.

The presenter of this video explains the concept:

How To Make A Clover Food Plot Trail

Even though he works in a much larger area than the standard suburban yard, the premise is still true. 

How Do You Plant A Deer Browsing Plot?

You can easily create a wild scaped deer forage area by simply purchasing a specially prepared deer seed mix at your local feed store or online. Mow the area you want to use very close and sow the seed generously.

Keep it watered, and mow high until your seed starts to sprout, then let it rest until your forage plants are mature. If the deer don’t keep it well browsed, mow it high from time to time to keep it tidy.

You can also create your own deer food plot by planting a little patch of favored plants such as:

  • Orchard Grass
  • Red Clover
  • Soybeans
  • Sorghum
  • Turnips
  • Chicory
  • Alfalfa
  • Peas
  • Kale
  • Corn

I, personally, stay away from crops that can also be used for human consumption because I think the deer will tend to develop a taste for these and will seek them out in vegetable gardens. 

My own plot consists of mixed clovers, chicory, alfalfa and orchard grass. Just a patch of pretty clovers would do.

I’m also in the process of growing a couple of oak trees to provide acorns in the autumn. After my last pruning and cleanup of the winter, I set up a deadfall of the pruned yard and garden material in the deer forage area that they can pick through as they prepare for winter.

Deer Are Part Of The Landscape

The bottom line is no matter what you do and where you are, deer are probably already visiting your yard, and there’s not much you can do to stop them.

While you shouldn’t feed them with grain and other unnatural foods(i.e., baiting), there is no harm in simply establishing a safe, out-of-the-way, naturalized area that is more attractive to them than your veggie gardens and flowerbeds.

You can also choose to put up a wire fence to prevent deer from eating your precious petunia flowers and other plants.

In some areas it is possible to get certification for this sort of wildlife food plot. In others, certification is required. Check with your local officials if in doubt. 

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