If you think that rhododendron deer-resistant plants of the Ericaceae family are a reality, then you should know that this is not true. The shrub is not resistant to the animal which loves to chew on its leaves, especially in winters.

Beautiful Rhododendron Flowers

If you wish to protect your rhododendron genus plant and keep the animal at bay, then this guide is the right one for you. We list below how to protect them by using some economical and effective methods.

Are Rhododendron Deer Resistant?

💥 No, Rhododendrons are not deer resistant and in cold winter months when there is not much foliage available for the animal, the tangy taste of the rhododendron leaves is a delight for them. 


Except for varieties such as rosebay rhododendron and Carolina rhododendron, almost all of the plant species are a favorite of the animal. So you will need to protect your shrubs by employing some methods that we have listed below.

How To Keep Deer From Eating Rhododendrons

You can keep your deer from eating your rhododendrons by creating barriers and using deterrents. Preventing deer damage to the shrubs is one of the best ways, so dive right into the section.

– Install a Deer Fence

Installing a deer fence acts as a deterrent and is one of the best ways to keep the animal away from your garden. Get a budget-friendly one or a decorative garden fence from your local store that is at least eight to twelve feet in height. 

Wooden Fence to Prevent Deer

A high fence will make it difficult for the animal from jumping over and thus restrict access to your property. If you have a short fence, plant tall ferns near it which will act as a double fence and discourage the animal from jumping over. 

– Choose Rhododendron Varieties Deer Dislike

Deer dislike some varieties of rhododendrons and avoid them most times. Surround your property with rhododendron types such as rosebay rhododendron, Gibraltar azalea, or Carolina rhododendron and you find the animal staying steer clear.

– Mix Strong Smelling Plants With Your Rhododendron

Surround your rhododendron shrubs with plants that emit a strong smell. Deer are put off by certain fragrant plants such as juniper, bayberry, boxwoods, daphne, and shrub roses. It may not keep the animal away but will reduce it from lingering long and exploring your property any further.

– Spray Planting Area With Deer Deterrent

Use commercially available liquid concentrates and spray them around your rhododendrons. The spray contains characteristic odors such as garlic, mint, egg solids, and chili peppers, which keep the deer away. The animal dislikes strong odors and the smell of the spray will be a put-off for them.

– Install Motion-Activated Devices

Furthermore, install sensor devices that sense intruder motion and scare the animal away without causing harm.

Deer Can be Detect with Motion Device

Knowing that the device is battery operated and activates sprinklers, flashlights, or sounds to chase away the deer when it detects its movement on your property, and hence get them away from these gorgeous shrubs.

– Choose an Appropriate Location for Rhododendrons

Do not plant your rhododendrons near trees that attract deer such as willow, apple, oak, hawthorn, cedar, yew, and dogwood as these trees attract deer. Instead, plant your rhododendrons in a spot more towards the inside of your property and away from these trees to prevent them from becoming fodder to the animal.

– Plant It Out of Reach

Do not plant your rhododendrons near fences, steps, and railings as deer can stand on their hind feet to pull out the shrubs. An ideal spot that will be out of reach will be to plant them near the porch or deck.

– Pets

Are you a pet owner? Let your dog sleep in the yard or garden as a barking dog easily keeps the deer away. It will prevent the animal from exploring your property and eating those precious rhododendron shrubs.

– Practice Plant Blocking

Block your rhododendrons by surrounding them with other plants deer detest such as butterfly bush, ferns, mint, thyme, etc… These act as a green natural barrier and will prevent the animal from reaching the rhododendrons.

Blocking Plants with Fence

Take care the plants are close enough to make it difficult for the deer to reach over to the precious shrubs within it.

– Rocky Perimeters

Create a rocky perimeter around your property or specifically around your rhododendron shrubs. Deer avoid rocky spots and it is a natural way to keep them at a distance.

Use rocks of varying sizes and shapes so that the deer will find it impossible to walk over them. Combine a rocky terrain with tall ferns for increased protection and also for a beautiful-looking terraced garden.

– Use a Fishing Line

Use a fishing line and surround the perimeter of your flower bed. The deer will not be able to see the transparent clear line and will be easily startled when they bump into it.

Fix it at a height of about two or three feet so that the deer do not go right through it. A word of caution, the animal can get tangled in the line so be watchful.


What Are Some Deer-resistant Plants?

Deer-resistant plants are those that the animal will stay away from due to their prickly foliage, furry leaves, and strong scents. Deer have a strong sense of smell and rely completely on it to navigate toward food.

Anything pungent, the animal stays away from it. Here is a detailed list of deer-resistant evergreen plants that you can line your property with and protect those precious rhododendron shrubs.

– Plants With Hairy and Fuzzy Foliage

Line your garden with these deer deterrent plants that have fuzzy leaves and stems. The bristly texture is harsh on the animal’s tongue thus they detest it.

Fuzzy Foliage in Garden

A few examples of such plants are lady’s mantle, flowering tobacco, poppies, Siberian bugloss, and purple top vervain.

– Prickly Foliage Plants

Pick prickly foliage plants and line them around the perimeter of your property. Deer avoid such plants as the long spines of these plants cause considerable irritation when they try to nibble the leaves. Examples of such plants are cardoon, sea hollies, globe thistle, and bear’s breeches 

– Fragranced Foliage

With their strong sense of smell, deer are sensitive to certain odors and fragrances. Their olfactory senses dislike pungent and strong odors and therefore they stay away from them. 

Fragranced Foliage Plants

Plants with such distasteful odors are myrica pensylvanica, Russian sage, mint, lavender, thyme, and oregano. Line your shrubs with these plants and see the animal stay away from eating them. 

– Grasses and Ferns

Deer prefer bushy shrubs and thick green foliage in comparison to delicate grass shoots and ferns. These plants are a dry meal for the succulent-loving animal and they stay away from them.

Plant these to deter deer and additionally they also bring in an ornamental look to your garden.

– Toxic Foliage

Deer can differentiate between toxic plants and non-toxic plants, this comes naturally to them and thus they stay away from those that seem to be a threat to them.

Toxic Foliage Plants

Toxic plants the animal will commonly avoid are false indigo, Helleborus, daffodils, spurges, and bleeding hearts. A word of caution here; these plants are toxic to pets as well.

– Plants With a Leathery Foliage

You can choose to plant leathery foliage plants. The animal avoids plants that are leathery or fibrous as they find them difficult to digest. Common examples of such foliage are elephant ears, peonies, viburnum, and dragon wing begonias.

– Frequently Asked Questions

– Are Rhododendron Maximum Deer Resistant?

Yes, rhododendron maximum or the rosebay rhododendron is not a favorite of deer.

– Are Purple Gem Rhododendron Deer Resistant?

No, the purple gem rhododendron is a shrub that the deer love to feast on.

– What Flowering Shrubs Are Deer-resistant?

Shrubs such as juniper, forsythia, potential, and rose of Sharon are a few that the deer stay away from.

– Do Deer Eat Rhododendrons and Azaleas?

Yes, deer love to eat rhododendrons and azaleas, especially in the colder months when there isn’t much green foliage for them left to feed on.


You have now understood that rhododendrons can be a target of the deer, but you can easily deter and keep the animal away. Let us summarize the key points from this article through the list below.

  • Rhododendrons are not deer-resistant shrubs especially during winters when there isn’t much foliage for the herbivorous animal.
  • You can easily keep the animal away by installing fences, motion sensors, using strong-smelling liquid concentrates, or having plants with a strong odor around the shrub.
  • There are various varieties of rhododendrons such as rosebay rhododendron, Gibraltar azalea, or Carolina rhododendron which the animal stays away from.
  • Additionally, you can also plant tall grasses, ferns, thyme, mint, and daffodils around rhododendrons to keep the animal away from them.
  • The animal stays away from plants with a leathery texture, toxic foliage, and prickly stems.

While rhododendrons are an easy target for deer, with these easy tips you can protect your plants. You just need a little effort to keep the intruder away from your property and your rhododendron will thrive through the year. 

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