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A simple and elegant flower, perennial geraniums are easy to grow. But do deer eat geraniums? These beloved flowers are found in almost every garden and are available in various scents such as fruity lemon, nuts, or mint.
Whether you are a weekend gardener or full-time horticulturalist, geranium’s wide variety ensures color and fragrance for everyone. But no one wants to go to all that planting work and cultivate these happy blooms, only to watch them disappear.
Unfortunately, the perfect garden is frequently a veritable buffet to many furry critters, large and small.
Do Deer Eat Geraniums?
In general, no, deer will not eat geraniums readily. The Hardy Geranium (G. macrorrhizum), in particular, is classified as ‘seldom severely damaged’. Other varieties may be damaged occasionally, particularly when food is scarce.
Most deer species do not like the flower’s strong smell or taste. The slightly fuzzy petals, leaves, and stems will often be enough to convince deer to munch elsewhere, but not always. In fact, many geranium species are commonly planted as deer repellent plants to protect the garden.
Are Deer Attracted to Geraniums?
While geraniums are not a deer’s favorite flower, they do like to eat geraniums under certain circumstances. The geraniums are fair game if food is scant or the flowers are mixed with plants appealing to deer.
One specific variety, the Hardy Geranium (G. endressii), is a favorite among deer and it may be wise to steer away from this particular variety as it is one geranium that deer do eat.
Do Deer Eat Geranium Plants or Just the Flowers?
Deer are opportunistic mammals that munch on grass, shrubs, and most flowers. But not all deer like the same thing. Most deer like narrow-leafed evergreens, such as fir and arborvitae.
Deer also prefer hostas, English ivy, and daylilies, according to University of Rhode Island researchers — studying white-tailed deer nursery damage.
Interestingly, in the same study, researchers noticed that deer had a preference for fertilized rather than unfertilized plants.
Deer food preferences also vary by season. Cervids will eat fresh and tasty perennials and shrub foliage during the growing season. They get less picky when it gets hot and dry, eating just about anything they find. The entire plant is at risk – flower, stem, leaves, thorns, and all.
What Geraniums Are Deer Resistant?
Do deer eat geraniums of all varieties? No, they most certainly have a preference for certain types. Here are some of our favorite (and mostly) deer resistant geraniums.
Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)
The Wild Geranium is a hardy wildflower and as a groundcover – naturalizing and spreading in the right growing conditions. This small plant prefers average fertility soils and is tolerant of rabbits and deer. The taste and smell of the different varieties affect their ranking on the deer’s menu.
Scented Geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum)
Geranium macrorrhizum (Scented geranium) Note: “A very handy ground cover. Dense, weedproof, long season of good foliage. I’ve sometimes had decent plants to show people in December. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be invasive.” (Kathleen Nelson, Connecticut nursery owner).Soderstrom, Neil. Deer-Resistant Landscaping (p. 240). Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.
Bloody Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum)
Both Geranium sanguineum and Geranium cantabrigiense are listed as deer resistant geraniums in Carolyn Singer’s book Deer In My Garden.
As you can see in these photos, it’s possible to create a gorgeous deer resistant garden overflowing with flowers!
Geranium x cantabrigiense
“Geranium macrorrhizum (Scented geranium) is a good deer-resistant groundcover, almost evergreen in CT. Fragrant, dense, weed resistant. G. × cantabrigiense is a hybrid of this, slightly less fragrant, shorter, but also a good plant. G. sanguineum is, too.”Soderstrom, Neil. Deer-Resistant Landscaping (p. 247). Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.
Rozanne Geranium (G. ‘Gerwat’ rozanne)
Most stores sell varieties of geraniums resistant to deer, such as Rozanne geraniums. Rozanne has fuzzy, fragrant leaves that, while not poisonous to deer, are not a favorite of the animal. Rozanne is an easy plant to grow and will keep deer away.
If you are looking for a science-backed list, Rutgers University has a deer-resistant plant list that is a good resource. The list states that deer rarely eat Geranium macrorrhizum, only occasionally munch on Geranium sanguineum and Geranium cantabrigiense, but find Geranium endressiin quite delicious.
How to Keep Deer From Eating Geraniums?
No deer repellent method is 100% guaranteed, but there are quite a few things you can try to discourage deer from making a meal of your flower beds. And by carefully selecting the variety and season, you can also avoid hungry deer.
1. Protect the Geraniums With Distasteful Plants
There are numerous garden plants that will reduce a deer’s interest in your geraniums. Some plants like the daffodil and foxglove are outright toxic to deer. Lamb’s Ear has a texture that deer do not like.
And Yarrow, a native North American plant, is number one on the Farmer’s Almanac List of deer-deterring plants. Yarrow, an aromatic herb, is also thought to relieve sunburns, anxiety, and stress.
The Farmer’s Almanac also suggests planting salvia, sweet alyssum, and snapdragons. And deer are likelier to pass on plants with strong scents, such as sage, basil, mint, onion, and even lavender. The Russian cypress is one plant that deer rarely bother.
Since deer avoid strongly smelling foliage, many believe that bitter coffee grounds sprinkled liberally in the garden will deter deer.
2. Install a Fence
Fencing isn’t for everyone. And deer can easily jump a six-foot fence. But it is a practical, although costly, way of warding off deer.
The most popular type of fencing you have likely seen is wire-mesh fencing. Specially made deer fences, a combination of metal and polypropylene mesh, are nearly invisible and quite effective.
Another option, instead of fencing, is to plant your geraniums high up where deer are less likely to get them.
3. Make Your Yard Less Appealing
If a deer feels unsafe in an area, it will move on. Don’t create actual risk, just the appearance of danger. Ensure your dog sits by the garden or place some fur around the area. Or, if you don’t have a dog, find a friendly neighbor with a Labrador.
Another way to make the yard less appealing is to vary the landscape – adding levels, steps, or slopes. Use a sprinkler to give wandering deer a bath. Think of it as a giant spray bottle for deer.
And if you have an adjacent fruit or vegetable garden, harvest your crop quickly, or they may be deer dessert.
DIY Deer Repellent Recipe
There are several natural animal repellants to protect a garden.
One option is to make your repellent mixture.
Here is an easy-to-make and use.
- Combine two eggs into a bowl with 2 cups of water.
- Blend the eggs and the water.
- Add the mixture to a gallon of water.
- Let the mixture sit for 24 hours.
- Apply the repellent to the area surrounding your flowers.
If repelling deer from the garden doesn’t work, geraniums may still survive the onslaught.
Do Geraniums Grow Back If Deer Eat Them?
Many geranium species will likely recover from the destruction caused by deer or other browsing creatures. Pelargoniums can withstand severe trimming – benefiting from regular deadheading or pruning.
Verdict: Are Geraniums Deer Resistant?
Geraniums are generally deer resistant due to taste, smell, and texture. Deer are incredibly picky eaters. But if food is scarce, then the geraniums are fair game.