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It’s a question that plagues many gardeners when trying to create a beautiful floral garden – do deer eat roses? And if they do, is there a way to stop them? After spending money and time working to have beautiful blooms, losing them to foraging deer is very frustrating.

Deer will eat the new green growth, buds, blooms, and leaves of roses and can also eat the thornier hardwood. Strong-scented organic repellents can be an effective control but must be applied regularly. Electric fences and the presence of dogs work very well to protect roses from deer.

While many of us love to see deer, we’re much happier if they’re grazing on wild plant foods rather than nibbling their way through our garden plants! We’ll look at ways to naturally discourage deer from eating roses and plants and suggest some deer-resistant rose varieties.

Do Deer Eat Roses?

Do deer eat roses? Yes, deer definitely eat roses, just look at this herd of deer!
A herd of deer eating rose bushes in a California garden.

Deer will happily graze on rose buds, leaves, and the flowers of your rose bush. While they might avoid older, hard growth with lots of thorns, they will browse new rose shoots when they are still tender and green.

But don’t assume the old growth is safe – deer can and will eat thorny hardwood stems and tear branches off your rose bushes if hungry.

Whether you’re growing heritage rose bushes or other varieties, deers will often make a snack of your glorious blooms before they even get the chance to bud.

There are a few ways to discourage deer from grazing on your roses, but you might want to switch to more resistant plants if the deer continue to be a problem in your garden.

Deer usually feed between dusk and dawn, but there are certain signs to look for to determine if deer are damaging your rose bushes. 

  • Leaves, new shoots, and flower buds were stripped overnight.
  • Ragged ends on woody plants where the deer has torn the stem. The deer will bite through as much of the hard stem as possible, then tear the rest free.
  • New plantings are heavily damaged.

Do Deer Eat Miniature Roses?

do deer eat miniature roses? Yes, deer eat miniature roses, include thorny ones.

Deer are herbivorous mammals that feed on many garden plants, including thorny ones and those poisonous to sheep and cattle. They also enjoy eating berries and fruits, such as the hips on your rose plants.

They will eat miniature roses as they are not bothered by the small thorns on these varieties and will quickly strip and eat every part of your miniature rose bushes.

Do Deer Eat Climbing Roses?

do deer eat climbing roses? Yes, unfortunately your climbing roses aren't safe from deer!

With their heavy sprays of blooms, your sprawling climbers are sadly not exempt from your local deer’s diet. Yes, they will snack away on even the thorny canes of climbing roses, causing significant destruction to your rose arbors or wall trellises.

Since a single deer can eat 5-15lbs of leaves, buds, and shoots in a day, you can imagine the damage even a small herd can do to your climbing roses.

How to Keep Deer From Eating Rose Bushes

mesh fencing to keep deer from eating rose bushes

Protecting our plants from deer became a small obsession after they devastated our garden and left our rose bushes completely stripped.

What we wanted to do was learn how we could use companion planting and repellents to keep the local herd from destroying our roses. While we love our garden, we also didn’t want to use any cruel methods that would hurt the deer.

Here are the things we’ve found that you can use to help keep the deer from eating your rose bushes:

  • Spray your roses weekly with an organic deer repellent
  • Fencing your garden with high, heavy-duty wire mesh fencing or hedges
  • Electric fences are particularly effective against deer, though some people may prefer not to use this method
  • Stake and mesh newly planted rose bushes
  • Choosing rose and plant varieties that deer dislike
  • Allowing your dog the run of the garden.

Deer can become acclimatized to one form of repellent after a while, so we find rotating the different forms of repellent and adding new tricks such as wind chimes and different scented sprays helps to keep the deer at bay.

What Is the Best Deer Repellent for Roses

There are several options to take with deer repellents. You can use a natural repellent like Nature’s MACE or make a homemade deer repellent for roses. Many organic and natural repellents use strong smells like rotten eggs and garlic, but some will use strong smells that are pleasant, like spices and mint.

Deer, thanks to their excellent sense of smell, will usually avoid strongly scented plants like marigolds, lemon verbena, garlic chives, and mints, so consider companion planting these among your roses for an extra bit of protection.

We also add our used coffee grounds to the bed around the roses. While it’s not 100% effective, it helps deter deer and improves the soil.

Commercial sprays and homemade ones will need to be applied weekly on average, and the homemade ones will need to be reapplied after it rains, as they usually don’t have the staying power of the commercial varieties.

Homemade Deer Repellent for Roses

Here’s our recipe for an effective deer repellent for roses:

  • Three eggs
  • Three tablespoons of garlic powder (You can use crushed garlic cloves for more intensity)
  • Three tablespoons of cayenne pepper
  • Three tablespoons of milk
  1. Blend these ingredients with a cup of warm water until they are thoroughly mixed.
  2. Strain the mixture and add it to a one-gallon jug.
  3. Fill the jug with warm water.
  4. Leave the jug overnight to develop the scent. The longer this garlic, egg, and cayenne mixture sits, the more potent the smell will become and the more effective it will be against deer.
  5. I decant my mixture into a spray bottle, head out after the dew has dried and the plants aren’t wet, and spray my roses thoroughly with this potent mix.

You’ll need to start spraying in spring and continue to spray weekly throughout the growing season for the spray to be effective. Remember to reapply the mixture after a rain shower, as it is easily washed away.

Deer Resistant Rose Varieties

Swamp Rose (Rosa Palustris) growing along the Mattaponi River
Swamp Rose (Rosa Palustris) growing along the Mattaponi River

While deer are partial to roses and can cause extensive damage, a few varieties seem to be more deer-resistant. Consider adding Swamp Rose, Virginia rose, or Pasture rose to your garden.

Some other roses deer don’t like ones like the hybrid rugosas with a strong clove-like scent and leathery leaves. We’re especially fond of the vibrant color of the Oso Easy Hot Parika rose, which has a spicy scent that deers avoid and produces masses of blooms.

Of all varieties of roses, deer will head for the rugosas last. If you want deer-resistant climbing roses or deer-resistant carpet roses, look for hybrid varieties rather than English heritage types, which are more likely to be eaten by deer,

Even if you plant hardy roses, you may need to spray them thoroughly with deer repellent rather than trust that the deer won’t eat them.

Do Roses Grow Back If Deer Eat Them?

Deer might prefer the soft shots of your roses, but they can strip your bush right down if given a chance.

The best thing you can do for roses damaged by deer is to prune them back down to below where the deer have eaten them. If they have not been too badly destroyed, they should grow back.

While it’s tempting to encourage regrowth by applying a lot of fertilizer to the damaged plant, avoid doing this as it could cause a die-off in your already stressed rose bush.

Verdict: Are Roses Deer Resistant?

Generally, roses are not deer resistant, and even the hardier specimens can fall victim to deer. You can combat this by putting up fencing, protecting new plants by staking and meshing them, and applying an organic deer repellent.

If you have a dog, allowing them the run of the garden will keep deer away from your plants. Choose native, hardy roses or modern hybrid rugosas as these tend to survive the deer better than the sweet-scented heritage roses.

Keep reading!

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