Do Deer Eat Hostas?

Explore ways to deter deer from eating your hostas.
By: Julie A Martens

Do deer eat hostas? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. For deer, hosta plants are like candy. Some hostas are marketed as containing a degree of deer resistance, but as with all deer resistant plants, when these critters are hungry enough, they’ll eat anything. So no hosta is truly safe. Your best bet is learning how to keep deer away from hostas.

Before exploring how to keep deer away from hostas, it’s important to learn how to recognize the signs of deer feasting. When a deer devours a hosta, it tears the leaves from stems and lets the stems remain. You wind up with what looks like spiky celery stalks poking up out of a hosta mound.

You may also spot deer hoof prints in soil—they look like an upside down heart. In mulched beds or moist soil, a deer’s foot sinks, so you might see what appear to be deep cylindrical holes. Or you may spy piles of deer droppings, which resemble small black pebbles.

The first step in learning how to keep deer away from hostas is to understand a little about deer behavior. Deer are skittish and become alarmed when things are different than normal. They are amazing jumpers and can leap to great heights (up to 12 feet when scared) and across large distances. They are also afraid of predators, like wolves—or a relative, like your own family pup.

The surest way to keep deer from eating your hosta plants is fencing your yard. Aim for at least an 8-foot fence, but double-check with the local extension office to confirm what kind of deer are in your area and how high they can jump. Many gardeners rely on an electric fence with several strands of wire, while others prefer a heavy plastic mesh. Deer can’t see the mesh but instead run into it, which keeps them unsettled and more prone to avoid an area.

Anything that interrupts the take-off and landing zones can also deter deer because they can’t jump both high and wide. A double fence row is effective at keeping deer out. Simply place an inner fence 3 to 5 feet from the outer one. When you use a double fence, reduce the height to 5 or 6 feet. You can also replace one of the fences with shrubs, stakes or pickets.

Exploit a deer’s skittish nature by rotating repellant sprays. Usually anti-deer sprays are based on formulas using dried blood, garlic, red pepper, rotten eggs—or combinations of these items. You can whip up home brews, or rely on manufactured sprays. The bottom line with sprays is to follow directions carefully, reapply as needed and rotate. Otherwise deer can become used to one particular scent.

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