Deer eat pretty much every kind of vegetation, and they are certainly fond of munching on garden flowers. If you have a garden and live in an area with deer populations, you probably know how much. One thing you can do to deal with this problem is to plant flowers that deer don’t usually favor. So what about the Peony? Do deer eat peonies or will they pass them by so you can enjoy them?
Generally speaking, peonies are not a flower deer like to eat. They dislike the flavor and sap that is inside the stems, and they also don’t care for the fragrance of peony blooms. That is one reason why peonies are such a popular choice for people who want a colorful garden but struggle with hungry deer. The smell of peonies in bloom may deter deer from munching on nearby flowers they’d normally gobble up.
One important thing to remember is that deer tend to prefer young shoots. This is because they have more moisture than fully developed plants. It’s one reason they devour tulips every spring.
Your plants will often be most vulnerable to deer when they are just beginning to sprout. Deer must get approximately a third of the water they need from the plants they eat, so big leafy plants like hostas are right up their alley.
Tips and Tricks for a Deer-Free Garden
Since peonies are one of the flowers that deer usually dislike, planting them can make your garden less attractive to these animals.
However, if deer are having problems finding food and are starving as a result, they will certainly eat your peonies.
There are certain steps you can take to help keep deer away from your peonies. These include:
Include Plants that Deer Dislike in Your Garden
Deer tend to hate plants with strong scents and furry textures. Plant some of these plants near your peonies. Some plants that pair well with peonies (and will help keep away deer) include Russian sage, santolina, and lavender. It’s also a good idea to give your peonies the shelter of fragrant boxwoods and barberries. Chives, sage, lavender, thyme, and catmint are other fragrant plants that will keep deer away.
Fuzzy leaf plants (lamb’s ear is an example) and prickly leaf plants are also deer-resistant.
Examples of prickly leaf plants are barberries and evergreen hollies.
Some ornamental grasses may be sharp and painful on deer’s tongues, and can work well too.
Try to include deer-resistant trees, such as buckeyes, river birch, honey locust, pines, and spruce.
Incorporate some shrubs that deer usually dislike, such as blue mist shrub, several different spireas, evergreen hollies, junipers, and forsythia.
Avoid Planting Plants Deer Love
As much as you can, avoid having plants in your garden that attract deer. Stay away from woody plants that they like, such as hybrid tea roses, saucer magnolia, euonymus (burning bush), and yew. Flowers that you may want to avoid include impatiens, trillium, phlox, hostas, daylilies, and dahlias. Deer find these delicious.
Location, Location, Location
Plant your peonies as near to your house as possible. If deer in your area are hungry enough to eat your peonies, they are more likely to do so if they are far away from human activity. Even if deer bed down in your yard, they likely don’t sleep right next to your home.
Talk to Your Neighbors
Ask other homeowners in the neighborhood whether they have peonies and if your local deer population eat them. If so, ask them how they deal with the problem (if they have been successful in keeping the deer away).
What to Do if a Deer Has Eaten Your Peonies
Deer especially love young leaves, as they have high moisture content. If a deer eats most or all of your peony plant’s leaves, you probably won’t get any flowers that year.
This is because the leaves are what support (and provide the energy needed for) flower development and blooming.
If a deer eats a large number of your peony leaves, this is a sign that there is either a lack of food or an overpopulation of deer in the area. You should strongly consider installing fencing to surround your garden.
This should include not only your peonies but your other plants, too. If a deer has eaten your peony plants even though they don’t generally like it, just imagine what they will do to plants they do enjoy. They are certain to come back over and over again.
Why Do Deer Eat Flowers?
Deer are herbivores. This means that they eat vegetation, and must eat it in large amounts. Every type of deer will eat a variety of vegetation types, including flowering plants.
Whitetail deer like to live near human settlements so that they can access (and eat) what we grow. This may be a farmer’s crop, apples, or just your small garden filled with hydrangeas.
Types of Peonies
There are many different peony varieties, none of which are a favorite food for deer. While the animals will eat peonies if they are starving and cannot find another food source, penoies are much safer from deer than other plants (such as tulips, which they love).
Now you know peonies are a good addition to a (hopefully) deer-free garden, let’s take a look at the varieties of peony you can plant on your property. First, you should know there are three main categories of peony:
- tree peonies,
- herbaceous peonies, and
- Itoth (or intersectional) peonies.
Popular Deer-Resistant Peonies
Below are some specific peony species you might want to add to your deer-resistant garden:
- Big Ben: The Big Ben peony is remarkably persistent, appearing for multiple years. Also, it has a beautiful perfume.
- Coral Supreme: Coral Supreme has durable stems that are able to deal with a range of conditions. It has a striking coral color.
- Burning Bright: If a pinkish-red peony would fit your garden, take a look at the Burning Bright. This extraordinarily beautiful flower is always eye-catching.
- Blaze: The Blaze peony is another striking peony variety. It is bright red, so it’s always a showstopper.
- America: The America peony is another bright red peony variety. Like many other types of peony, it has strong stems that make it able to adapt to different conditions.
- Pillow Talk: If enormous pink blooms are what you are seeking, the Pillow Talk peony may be the perfect fit. Like other peonies, this flower has a gorgeous perfume.
- Prairie Moon: Prairie Moon peonies have a creamy ivory color, with a yellow tint. It has a lovely calming presence in your garden, and it has a lovely scent.
There are many other peony varieties, too. Look at all your options before deciding on the best one for you.
Peonies are a Great Addition to a Deer-Resistant Garden
Do deer eat peonies? Not usually. Peonies are the perfect choice if you want a flower that is big, bold, beautiful, and which deer are likely to ignore.