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Do deer eat Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) is a question you might ask yourself if you reside in an area where deer are known to roam freely. These beautiful little wildflowers are spectacular additions to any garden, with their lovely, easy-to-care-for nature and bright yellow petals.

It’s no wonder you might be concerned that your plants risk becoming a tasty snack for your deer visitors! 

Deer do not typically eat black-eyed Susans. The mature leaves of a black-eyed Susan are rough, hairy, and scratchy, which is an excellent deterrent for deer. Although, if hungry enough, deer are known to eat these plants, especially the basal leaves in the winter, flowers, and new shoots.

The unfortunate thing about deer and their bountiful appetites is that not many plants are safe from their never-ending scavenging. If a deer is hungry enough, even the most unpalatable plants might turn into their next meal.

So, how secure are your Black Eyed Susans? Are they going to become the local deers’ next meal, and if not, who else might want to chow down on a few of them?

Do Deer Eat Black-Eyed Susans?

A deer with Black Eyed Susan flowers
A deer with Black Eyed Susan flowers

The thing about deer is that not much escapes their notice, and their munching jaws when hungry enough. Although, Black Eyed Susans are not their favorite snack. 

When a Black Eyed Susan reaches maturity, its leaves and stems become relatively hairy, making them rough and scratchy. Luckily for gardeners that grow these lovely little wildflowers, it means that deer will avoid them as long as there is something else for them to snack on. 

Most gardeners feel safe enough to consider their Black Eyed Susan flowers moderately deer resistant. But before you go and plant out a whole garden of Black Eyed Susans thinking they will be safe from your local deer, you should consider one or two things. 

Firstly, the new shoots your plants put out in the spring are not yet hairy enough to repel deer, so they often get chomped quite quickly if a deer happens upon them. Secondly, white-tailed deer have been known to happily munch away on Black Eyed Susans’ basal leaves during winter. 

Lastly, suppose there are no other more appealing plants in the area. In that case, the chances are your Black Eyed Susans will go from being relatively unappealing to looking like the most delicious thing a deer has ever seen.  

Do Deer Eat Brown Eyed Susans?

Bee sitting on Brown Eyed Susan flower (Rudbeckia triloba)
Bee sitting on Brown Eyed Susan flower (Rudbeckia triloba)

A Brown Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba) is a somewhat weedy plant that will handle a little shade, unlike its cousin, the Black Eyed Susan. The main difference between these two beauties is that the Black Eyed Susan produces smaller flowers in larger numbers than the Brown Eyed Susan.

Unluckily for your neighborhood deer, their stems and leaves are hairy and scratchy, just like the Black Eyed Susan, making them an unsavory meal unless there are no better pickings around.

In the winter, it’s a different matter as these little wildflowers produce tasty leaves at the base of their stems that any deer would be happy to feast upon if they find them.

Are Black Eyed Susans Safe for Deer?

Suppose you notice that some of your local deer have had a little munch on the Black Eyed Susans growing in your garden, which leads you to wonder if you haven’t inadvertently poisoned your visitors. Luckily for you (and for them), there are no recordings of Black Eyed Susans being unsafe for deer to eat.

The chance of your local deer eating the stems of your Black Eyed Susans is slim as they don’t appreciate the little hairs growing there. If they eat some of the stems, they might suffer from a ticklish throat, but nothing too serious.

The flowers and new shoots might offer them some nutrition, especially if pickings have been slim for other nutritious plants.

Do Black Eyed Susans Grow Back If a Deer Eats Them?

In most cases, if your Black Eyed Susans have fallen prey to the local deer, you will find that they probably won’t eat the stems down to ground level, which you should take as good news as it means that your plants will likely grow back.

My suggestion, in this case, would be to cut your Black Eyed Susan stems right down to their first node or, if you can, find the point where several stems have come out of one. Hopefully, this will allow them to put out new growth, and if all works out, you should have fresh flowers within a month.

Deer Resistant Black Eyed Susans

Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' is one of most deer resistant Black Eyed Susans
Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ is one of most deer resistant Black Eyed Susans

We have already established that deer will eat pretty much anything if they are hungry enough or if environmental conditions are extreme enough.

So, when we talk about deer resistant Black Eyed Susans, we need to remember that even though these varieties are typically deer resistant, you might find that they get munched on if the conditions are right.

The most popular varieties of deer resistant Black Eyed Susans include:

  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherry Brandy– This variety produces beautiful maroon to red flowers with dark center cones.
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Toto Rustic – This variety grows around 1 foot in height and produces beautiful autumnal hues.
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky – This dwarf variety is perfect if you want something smaller.
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun – This variety produces stunning dark red blooms.
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherokee Sunset – This spectacular variety produces double and semi-double flowers in shades of orange, yellow, red, mahogany, and bronze.
  • Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm.

How to Grow Black Eyed Susans

Black Eyed Susans grow well in zones 2 to 10. It prefers a position in full sun to part shade. Shade is particularly appreciated in hot climates. Black Eyed Susans require good soil – make sure you add plenty of mulch, compost, and fertilizer high in phosphorus.

Black Eyed Susans are fairly drought resistant but they will look their best with regular watering.

What Do Black Eyed Susans Attract?

Peacock butterfly sitting on a Rudbeckia flower,
Peacock butterfly sitting on a Rudbeckia flower,

If you wish for your garden to be a haven for butterflies and bees, then planting a few Black Eyed Susans here and there will do the trick. These lovely herbaceous plants are excellent for attracting pollinators into your garden.

The flowers are a stunning addition to any sunny garden, and the flowers and seeds will also bring all the birds to your yard, especially birds such as the American goldfinch, bobtail quail, and wild turkey.

What’s Eating My Black Eyed Susans?

So we’ve established now that if something is munching down on your Black Eyed Susans, it’s probably not going to be your local deer, especially if it is not wintertime and there are other more palatable morsels around. So what could it be?

Several little critters like to snack on Black Eyed Susans, but the more common culprits include the Asiatic garden beetle, the flea hopper, snails, slugs, stalk borers, and sawflies, among others.

What Time of Year Do Black Eyed Susans Bloom?

Most of the time, you only need to worry about critters and deer feasting on your Black Eyed Susans when they put out their beautiful blooms. So to prepare for the coming onslaught, it’s best to know when this is.

Black Eyed Susans flower from summer to early fall, with flowers lasting around 6 – 10 days. If you want a truly spectacular show, ensure that you plant your Black Eyed Susans in full sun and well-drained decent soil. A happy home for your plants’ roots makes for a happy plant.

Interestingly, if you live in a hot climate, planting your Black Eyed Susans in a partially shaded position will prolong the bloom.

Verdict: Are Black-Eyed Susans Deer Resistant?

Deer resistant plants and flowers
Deer resistant plants and flowers

Black Eyed Susans are moderately deer resistant. Their hairy stems make them scratchy and rough, which is not too appealing to passing deer. But if a deer happened to pass a Black Eyed Susan in bloom or spot some new growth, the chances are they wouldn’t be able to help themselves and would stop for a bit of a snack.

This moderate resistance often changes during times when the pickings are low. Deer are known not to be too fussy if there are no better options in the area, this is especially true during colder weather or if the environmental conditions are right.

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