If you have roses in your yard, you likely appreciate their beauty and potentially their fragrance as well, if you have a variety that produces that distinctive rose scent. Additionally, you probably realize the hard work that goes into caring for these flowers.
Given the above, it is safe to assume that most people would prefer not to have their roses destroyed by the indiscriminate taste buds of deer. But, do deer actually eat roses?
Do Deer Eat Roses?
Yes, deer will eat roses. In fact, if they are hungry enough, they will eat any type of plant. However, deer have preferences for their food sources just like humans.
Michigan State University has developed a list of plants that are rarely, seldom, or frequently damaged by deer. The two types of roses on this list that are worth pointing out are the rugosa rose and the hybrid tea rose. You will notice that the rugosa rose is listed as only occasionally being damaged by deer while the hybrid tea rose is frequently damaged.
As Horticulturist Ken Salvail confirms in the below video, deer do clearly have a preference for the roses they graze on. Based on his observations, the deer only slightly nibbled on the flower carpet roses, but went to town on the tea roses, floribunda, and grandiflora to the extent where they consumed all the buds. Again, keep in mind that flower carpet roses or other less desirable roses to deer are not completely deer-resistant. Given the right conditions (i.e. a shortage of food), they will potentially eat any type of roses.
Protecting Roses from Deer
If deer frequent your yard, you should considered some ways to deer proof your roses. Here are some common methods to keep away:
Fencing – The most obvious, but likely unpractical solution for many is to build a fence around the yard. According to the University of Vermont, white-tailed deer can jump nearly 8 feet. A fence standing completely vertical must be at least this height to deter potential jumpers. Fences that block the view to the inside of the yard are also useful because the deer will be reluctant to jump into an area that is complete unknown to them from a visual perspective. Electric fencing is also an option, but they are not allowed in all areas.
- Repellents – Repellents such as the environmentally-friendly Bobbex Rose Deer and Insect Repellent have been known to be effective at repelling deer if applied as directed. For example, Bobbex must be applied every 10-14 days in the spring/summer and it will last up to 2 months in the fall/winter. Other popular deer repellents include Deer Out, Liquid Fence, and Nature’s Mace.
- Sacrifice Other Plants – Use other plants as a barrier to your roses. The deer may only be enticed by these plants for a meal while leaving the tucked away roses alone.
- Scare Them – Deer tend to be skittish,even when they are exposed to the frequent distractions of suburban life. Visual and noise deterrents can be used to scare off deer. However, the deer can quickly realize non-threats if you do not routinely change things up. Common noise activated deterrents are motion detected noise makers such as radios, wired cans, pie pans, and ultrasonic repellents. Visual deterrents may include items such as scarecrows, motion lights, motion water sprayers, and hanging CDs.
- Dogs – The scent and presence of a dog often works well to discourage deer from entering a yard. Of course, you will need to have a dog that is willing to protect his ground. If deer do not suspect a threat, they will potentially make their way into the yard even when pooch is around. Keep in mind that deer can be aggressive. It is not advised to leave a dog unattended when deer are present.