Deer have some serious appetites and while they have their favorites, they will eat almost any plant they encounter.
Unfortunately for gardeners, petunias and sunflowers are some of a deers favorite things to eat.
Do Deer Eat Petunias?
Deer are grazers and will eat lots of varieties of food. And unfortunately, deer do like to eat petunias, occasionally severely damaging the plants.
Petunias are like deer candy, they will absolutely take a bite if they are hungry enough and nearby. Deer like to eat moist plants, or plants with higher water content, as they not only taste good but will provide them with a good bit of water.
Will Deer Eat the Whole Petunia Plant?
Hungry deer visit your backyard or garden beds and will eat a large portion of the plant. Since petunias only get to be around 36 inches at their tallest, it’s easy for a deer eating them to consume the whole plant.
The flower buds and leaves are no match for a white-tailed deer.
What Do Deer Generally Eat?
Deer love to eat leafy foliage and many types of flowers. Unfortunately, since petunias have both of those, they are often a good target for deer.
Petunias are one type of flower that deer enjoy eating, but they eat many others including pansies, roses, hydrangeas, marigolds, geraniums, and more.
How to Keep Deer From Eating Your Petunias
While it can be difficult to keep deer away, there are several ways to protect your petunias from being eaten by deer.
1. Motion-Activated Sprinkler
Deer can be skittish, so hearing loud noises and seeing a lot of movement can scare them away. A motion-activated sprinkler can absolutely do the trick.
Make sure you set up a trail cam to watch all the animals run as fast as they can away from your garden 🙂
A motion activated sprinkler works wonders for keeping animals (and people!) out of your yard. It sprays intermittently as it detects continuous motion so animals won't get used to the timing of it.
This works great in my backyard as I’ve added one this season. Here is a video of it in action pointed towards my raised bed:
While it doesn’t work well for birds, deer, and squirrels definitely aren’t fans of this setup.
2. Red Cat Eyes
These fake red eyes are great for keeping nocturnal animals out of the garden, and while deer aren’t fully nocturnal, these work for keeping them from eating petunia plants.
3. Garden or Deer Netting
It’s not called deer netting to keep out rabbits. 🙂
If the netting is set up the right way, it can keep deer out. Unfortunately, this isn’t a solution you’ll likely want to use because it will cover up the beautiful flowers. But if you’re using petunias as a companion plant (they help keep a LOT of unwanted pests away), then this could be an option.
4. Deer Repellent Sprays
This stuff is pretty gross, and no wonder rotten eggs work to repel deer. The main ingredient in this popular spray is a whole egg, followed by garlic and cloves which are fragrant plants. Those pungent smells are ones that deer tend to stay away from.
5. Companion Planting
You can also use an age-old method of companion planting, which is essentially planting petunias near certain plants and vegetables that act as deer deterrents.
Some deer-resistant plants include:
- Herbs like sage, rosemary, and dill
Deer avoid strong smells, and that’s exactly what garlic offers.
Fend Off Sticks have a strong garlic odor which is great as deer repellents
Here are some other deer-resistant plants to try out including flowers, vegetables, and perennials.
6. Nylon Stockings with Soap
Got some extra Irish Spring soap laying around? Add it inside a nylon stocking and hang it from a nearby tree branch. This scent is quite good at keeping deer out of the area.
7. Plastic Owl or Scarecrow
Placing a fake predator nearby can help keep the deer at least mindful of where they are. While this alone isn’t going to stop them from eating petunias, it will help along with red cat eyes or strong odors.
One of the best ways to protect your plants is to put up a fence around them. This will keep the deer out and allow the plants to grow without being eaten.
Deer can easily jump short fences, so if you’re going to go this route, you’ll want to put up a wire fence that is at least 7-8 feet tall.
You can also invest in an electric fence to help keep your vegetable garden and precious petunia blooms safe.
Fences also help keep out animals like rabbits, raccoons, and more.
9. Human Hair or Animal Hair
If a deer comes across your garden or backyard and smells a predator or human scent, this can help deter deer away from your plants. Although some people have limited success with this, you can try animal urine as well.
10. Hot Pepper Spray
Similar to the deer repellent above, hot pepper sprays are great for keeping them out of the petunia patch.
11. Get Rid of the Bird Bath
If you have a birdbath in your backyard or garden, deer can use it as a water source. Once they’re nearby, they’ll realize there is some free food nearby. Take away the water, and you can help ease some of the destruction.
Will Petunias Grow Back if Eaten by Deer?
If a deer has gotten ahold of your petunia plant, there probably isn’t much left. Unless they’ve only taken a bite or two (which is rare), you might need to start growing another one.
Are Petunias Deer Resistant?
Most petunia species are a great snack for a deer and don’t offer much in terms of deer resistance. While they won’t attract deer by themselves, petunia flowers might be just the snack they’re looking for.
You can protect plants with strong scents, a tall fence, and even some deer netting.
But without a fence at least 8 feet tall, the most dedicated deer will go after your petunias if you aren’t utilizing some of these methods.