Deer are a stinging problem in gardens around North America and beyond. One day your garden is lush with fruits, vegetables, and other plants. But the next day, all your hard work might be destroyed by a herd of local deer.
Do deer eat sunflowers?
When it comes to deer meal options, the sunflower is not the only plant that comes to mind. However, when food sources are scarce or too hungry, deer will invade and eat any plant in your garden, including sunflowers.
Research has been completed on plants and their deer resistance. The Rutgers Cooperative Extension lists a rating of the many different plants based on their ability to resist vandalism. The ratings are: rarely damaged, seldom severely damaged, occasionally severely damaged, and frequently severely damage. Sunflower (Helianthus sp.) is rated as occasionally severely damaged by Rutgers.
We also refer to the Michigan State University Extension as another source for data on deer damage to sunflowers. Their ratings are as follows: rarely damaged, seldom severely damaged, occasionally damaged, and often damaged. According to the Michigan State University Extension, like the deer-loving hostas, sunflowers are rated frequently damaged by deer.
Based on the two university extensions, it is clear that sunflowers are among the top plants on deer’s favorite food list. So don’t expect your sunflower plant to be safe from damage, especially in environments with many deer.
Which part of a sunflower will deer eat?
Deer are particularly interested in leaves and young plants several feet tall. Sunflower seeds and, therefore, the immature head are also popular choices.
How to prevent deer from sunflowers?
Here are some specific solutions to keep your sunflowers from harming.
1. Protective fences
Deer can jump up to 8 feet, so your fence will be at least equal to that height. According to the University of Vermont, it may be shorter (e.g., about 6 feet), but it’ll have to be slanted outward at approximately a 45° angle. The deer will walk up to the fence and think it’s much higher due to the illusion from the angle. The protective fence looming over the body of the deer is enough to repel them.
We should also consider an electric fence. The deer will be electrocuted when it reaches the fence. If the shock is strong enough, it will stop the deer from coming back.
2. Repellent Sprays
Deer repellents such as Bobbex are preferred. These sprays will stop deer by the unpleasant smell and taste they create on the plant.
We must strictly follow the instructions on these sprays for the best results. Many of us forget to spray as directed or do not follow the principle that leads to undesirable effects.
Keep in mind these sprays are not always designed for each plant type. Be sure to read the instructions before use. That is true for edible plants.
Using dogs to patrol the garden is also a great way to prevent unwanted deer encroachment. The barking is the key to scaring deer. The problem, however, is that the dogs are not always present when the deer encroach on your sunflower. Furthermore, your dogs may also be in danger (e.g., lost or injured) in the event of an aggressive pursuit of the deer.
4. Motion-Activated Sprinklers
This type of sprinkler is activated by the motion of anything that walks in front of it. When placed in front of sunflowers, the sprinkler will startle the deer with the noise and spray of water.
It will be best if you don’t plant sunflowers in places where deer are found unless either you are ready to take the risk that deer might destroy them or you know how to keep them safe. Keep in mind that sunflowers’ harvest days go up to 60 days, so there are plenty of opportunities for deer to have a sumptuous feast if they stumble across your sunflowers.
You should consider only growing sunflowers in areas with low to medium deer traffic, and the cost of damage to gardeners should not be too high in the event of any damage. I hope you get lucky and be able to enjoy the beauty of your sunflower garden after all.