Will deer eat pepper plants? Most of us are curious to know about this plant’s fate because pepper is always recommended as one of the effective repellents for keeping the browsing mammals from our gardens.
But are they safe from the attack, and can you plant them without worrying about the predator? Read on to learn about pepper varieties, why deer eat them, and how to protect your plants from damage.
JUMP TO TOPIC
- Will Deer Eat Pepper Plants?
- Which Types of Pepper Will Deer Eat?
- What Are Deer Resistant Pepper Plants?
- How To Keep Deer Away from Your Peppers?
Will Deer Eat Pepper Plants?
Deer, like other wild animals, have strong survival tactics that help them survive in the wild. Through these tactics, the browsing mammal can detect danger and feed itself even when food is scarce.
Naturally, the animal is attracted to grass, barks, and sweet plants. If you have various plants in your garden and observe the animal’s behavior without interfering, you will notice that it will start munching on some varieties and pick others last. Pepper plants will make it last in the selection.
We have mentioned that deer have survival instincts. Interestingly, its senses are sharper than ours. That is, when tasting foods, the taste can be twice how we feel. You can imagine the heat it experiences when it bites hot peppers. Not something it’d likely want to taste again.
Which Types of Pepper Will Deer Eat?
The types of peppers that deer will eat are the bell peppers, the cayenne pepper, and the Thai chili ones. The reason why they would eat them is that they would find these available when nothing else is, it’s not their favorite, but it is a food source they found.
Even though pepper plants are considered deer resistant, but not all varieties are. Some are considered sweet, and others hot. The heat in pepper pods is determined by a compound called capsaicin.
When ingested, capsaicin attaches itself to the mucus membrane, which is why running nose and uncontrollable tears are common experiences with the hot variety.
– Bell Peppers
When these animals notice them, they will go for it because their skins are smooth and have a sweet bursting flavor when chewed, and this is their primary target. These peppers are large compared to other varieties, which means that they would spot a food source bigger in size and go for it.
Moreover, these fruit are rich in water, which means that they would also target it for the source of water, even though, it is not their favorite fruit, but they will even bite off the stems too.
They are a popular ingredient in different culinary. They have a negligible amount of capsaicin and are also called sweet peppers. The plants they grow in are similar, and the difference is the color of the fruits. The fruits come in green, orange, purple, red, and yellow hues.
They are hollow inside and have a few seeds that can be used for plant propagation, even though a mini variety is also available and has the same characteristics. They have a sweet smell and are rich in potassium, vitamin C, carbohydrates, and fiber. It is one of the varieties deer eat.
– Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper has a long, thin shape and vibrant red color. It produces small, white flowers that eventually give way to the peppers.
The plant has a sweet aroma and flavor that deer find appealing. The animals will devour your plants and leave significant damage. Whether it is through the hairy stem, or the flowers, they will eat them all, including the leaves that have a soft foliage. Moreover, these are less of the kinds that they will hesitate at first, because the smell of these peppers are not bitter or revolting for them.
– Thai Chili Pepper
The buds of this plant are not a favorite taste to their buds, they result in other plant parts. When other parts are not appealing, deer often go for the tender parts, such as the shoots and the new branches, anything that is newly growing and blooming.
The young plants become the unlucky lot, as they are the ones targeted. Thai chili pepper plants produce plenty of buds that can literally cover the plant, which is why deer avoid mature plants because from the smell of it, they can sense the density of the heat.
Thai chili peppers are rich in vitamins C, A, K, and B6, in addition to this they are also a rich source of potassium and copper and are low in calories. These nutrients are important to the deer diet. The pepper buds are small with smooth skin, and their taste ranges from hot to very hot.
The buds have a green color when unripe, turning to orange and deep green as they ripen. These peppers have a strong smell and can be considered repelling to deer. However, in seasons with a low food supply, the smell does not seem to deter this herbivore as you would expect.
What Are Deer Resistant Pepper Plants?
Deer resistant pepper plants are the jalapeno peppers and the ghost pepper plants. These are the types that they will stay away from, because of their strong smell and taste. Moreover, these two are ones that have a spicy taste, and it would cause an intolerance for them to digest.
– Jalapeno Pepper
They are popular with people that love their food mildly hot. Jalapenos are small and have a green hue when unripe and eventually turn red after ripening. If you want to experience the heat, go for the green ones, as the ripe jalapenos taste sweet.
The buds have a strong smell, especially when not ripe. This is the type of smell deer don’t like. When the browsing animal happens to bite the buds, you will notice it shake its head and quickly move on to the next plant part.
They feed on the shoot, leaves, and the plant’s soft branches and avoid the buds, because that is where the smell will be coming from. That is why they prefer young jalapeno plants that have not started producing buds. Basically, when they enter your garden, expect serious damage to the plant parts, but not the fruit produced.
– Ghost Pepper
It is the hottest pepper variety available today. It has small buds, approximately two to three inches long, and is about one inch wide. The buds have rough skin that almost looks dehydrated. They come in orange, brown, purple, and red hues.
The most intense aspect of this plant would be the taste of it, which is what they dislike. However, it is a known characteristic that the intensity doesn’t occur immediately but in phases. When not cautious, it is possible to ingest more than you can handle. It takes about 15 minutes for the heat to kick in, and when a deer eats it and then gets surprised, they won’t appreciate this.
What is essential for you to remember is that they like to approach sweet flavored food, and this is the type that would taste sweet at first, then gradually change to a chili flavor, and finally, they would experience the intensity.
However, before the pepper plant begins to produce fruits, deer will munch it, as in the flower, or the stems, when they are hungry and in search for food, which is when they can wipe out your vegetation. However, when the fruits start getting produced, you will notice less damage as the pepper’s heat intensity won’t allow deer to come back for more food.
How To Keep Deer Away from Your Peppers?
To keep deer away from your peppers you can use unpalatable chilies and create a barrier, moreover, you can install a fence around your garden. As another option, you can also place your guard dog next to your plants, and protect them.
Although deer do not eat the hot pepper variety, you will not miss them in your garden f you have the sweet variety. This can mean huge losses in the anticipated harvest if you have planted them for family consumption and loss of revenue if done for commercial reasons.
– Use Unpalatable Chilies to Create a Barrier
Deer are not afraid of munching the sweet variety of your pepper plants. However, if you have the hot variety, they will not make your pepper garden their favorite spot of source of food. You can take advantage of the jalapenos and ghost peppers to keep these animals away, because of the pungent smell that would spread through these two plants.
Consider planting the hot varieties earlier than the sweet ones to have an effective barrier. The simple reason is that deer can eat the plants when they are young before budding. Once flowering starts, plant your sweet varieties within the border, making the hot ones the first they come into contact with.
– Fence Your Garden
Deer do not like encountering physical barriers when browsing food. Fencing is a practical option that will help you keep them away. You can choose a regular fence, or an electric fence is an excellent option if you have had enough damage from these animals.
High fences are preferable to ensure deer do not jump over them. The fence should be strong enough to ensure that if several deer lean on it, it won’t come down, and you can raise it to the level of their growth and the height of the animal too. You can enhance the sturdiness by deciding strong fencing materials and digging a dip, about two feet.
With an electric fence, you can use peanut butter on aluminum foil. It attracts deer to feed on it, and since the foil is a good conductor of electricity, it electrifies them, an experience they would dare not want to have again. The electric fence can be a bit expensive, but it is a sure way of ensuring these browsing herbivores do not find your garden inviting.
– Place a Guarding Dog
As much as dogs are used for companionship, they can become handy when deer become a menace to your pepper garden. After getting a dog, allow it to play outside and even around your garden. As it plays within your property, the dog leaves a scent that makes deer scared. They sense a predator nearby and would not risk being the next meal for the predator.
Additionally, when the dog senses a deer approaching, it starts barking. This will alert you about the intruder while scaring the deer away from your garden. Owning a dog becomes a double win for you as you get to enjoy its companionship and security for your garden.
So, will deer eat pepper plants, or should you ignore what people say and plant them anyway in a deer-infested location?
Here is a summary of deer and pepper plants:
- Deer generally avoid hot pepper plants, but when they is little to feed on, they eat them to sustain their body needs.
- Hot pepper plants are more vulnerable to deer attack when young because the capsaicin compound has not yet intensified.
- Deer have sharp survival instincts that help them choose whether a plant is palatable.
Do you love extra heat in your food and want to enjoy fresh peppers from your garden? If you have a variety you are interested in but are afraid of deer destroying your plants; you should let the thought fade. Fill your garden with your favorite varieties and protect them using the methods described here. You will thank yourself for not backing out.
- Marissa Schuh and Cindy Tong. 92022). Growing peppers in home gardens. University of Minnesota Extension.
Retrieved from https://extension.umn.edu/vegetables/growing-peppers
- Pepper, bell. Plant Village.
Retrieved from https://plantvillage.psu.edu/topics/pepper-bell/infos