If you’ve ever grown snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus), you know how rewarding their spires of colorful blooms can be in the garden. But deer may see your snapdragons as a tasty treat as well. So do deer eat snapdragons? And if so, how can you keep “Bambi” from turning your flowering spikes into a snack bar?
Deer may sample snapdragons, but generally, they are considered a deer-resistant flower that does not top the list of preferred deer foods. Here’s what you need to know about growing snapdragons in areas with a robust deer population.
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Do Deer Eat Snapdragons?
No, because snapdragons contain bitter, astringent compounds that make them unpalatable to deer and other wildlife. While deer may take an exploratory nibble, they typically move on to tastier options nearby.
Researchers who study deer grazing habits agree that snapdragons rank low on the list of favored deer foods. In fact, in testing by Rutgers University, snapdragons earned a “rarely damaged” rating on a scale that ranges from “rarely damaged” to “frequently severely damaged.”
So while deer likely will not devour a whole patch of snapdragons overnight, they may sample a few flowers or leaves here and there. But overall, deer tend to leave snapdragons alone in favor of more delectable options.
Snapdragons Can Recover From Minor Damage
Deer are creatures of habit. If they find a tasty plant in your yard one day, they will return looking for more. So even if snapdragons are not a preferred food source, deer may nibble them occasionally out of curiosity or if hungry enough.
Fortunately, snapdragons are resilient flowers. If deer snip a few leaves or flowers, the plants will likely keep growing and blooming. Simply prune back any damaged stems to just above a leaf node. New flowering stems will grow to replace those that were grazed.
Plant Snapdragon Varieties With Thick Leaves and Flowers
Some snapdragon varieties are more deer resistant than others. Look for cultivars with thick, leathery leaves and large blooms. Snapdragon foliage has a slightly bitter taste that deer dislike. Plants with fleshy leaves and flowers contain more bitter compounds.
Good deer-resistant snapdragon varieties include:
- Rocket Mix – Sturdy spikes up to 3 feet tall with thick blooms in red, pink, yellow, white, or orange.
- Montego Mix – Large, showy blooms on 2- to 3-foot stems.
- Floral Carpet Mix – Low-growing at 12 inches, making it harder for deer to nibble.
How To Keep Deer Away From Snapdragons
In areas with high deer populations, snapdragons may need some extra protection. Deer are notorious for sampling plants, even if they contain bitter or toxic compounds.
1. Install Tall Deer Fencing
The most effective physical barrier against deer is tall fencing, at least 8 feet high. Shorter fences offer a little challenge for nimble deer, allowing them to effortlessly leap over with their impressive jumping abilities. Use sturdy posts and bury the fence perimeter at least 6 inches underground to prevent deer from crawling underneath.
2. Cover Plants with Protective Netting
Another option is to cover snapdragon beds with plastic deer netting or fabric row covers. Drape the material over hoops or frames to keep it from resting on the plants. Secure the edges with stakes or rocks. Make sure there are no openings where deer can access the plants.
3. Elevate Containers Out of Reach
For potted snapdragons, place containers on porches, patios, or balconies that are too high for deer to reach. You can also mount window boxes or hanging baskets well above the heads of deer. Elevating containers will protect snapdragons and eliminate the need for fencing or netting.
4. Use Motion-Activated Sprinklers
Deer dislike being sprayed with water. Safeguard your garden by installing motion-activated sprinkler deterrents that activate upon the intrusion of deer, effectively creating an unwelcome and unexpected watery surprise. The sudden blast of water startles them and trains them to avoid the area. Place sprinklers near any in-ground plantings of snapdragons.
5. Apply Pungent Repellents
The strong smell of garlic, peppers, or predator urine applied around plants may make deer think twice about taking a bite. Reapply repellents frequently, especially after rain or watering. Popular options include garlic oil, hot pepper wax, and coyote or wolf urine.
6. Add Lighting and Noisemakers
Deer are wary of humans and dislike sudden noises. Place lighting on motion sensors and add wind chimes, clanging pans, or deer whistles to startle deer away from your snapdragons.
Ultrasonic devices are also very effective to deter deer and other wildlife.
7. Interplant With Herbs and Flowers Deer Dislike
You can make your entire garden less appealing by filling it with plants deer tend to avoid. Strongly scented herbs like lavender, sage, mint, oregano, and thyme are excellent choices. Deer also dislike spiny plants like barberry, roses, and succulents.
Here are some great annuals and perennials to interplant with snapdragons:
For a more extensive list of deer resistant perennials check out my other blog post!
Do deer eat snapdragons? Although no plant is 100% deer-proof, snapdragons are considered relatively resistant to deer grazing. Their bitter taste and thick foliage make them less appetizing than many other flowers.
Minor nibbling by deer may occur on snapdragons, especially in areas with high deer populations and limited food sources. But the plants typically recover well from light damage. Using fencing, repellents, and strategic plantings can further protect snapdragons and make your garden less enticing to hungry deer.