Do Deer Eat Dahlias? (Not Favorites)

With their bright and large flowers, dahlias attract many pests. Grasshoppers, snails, and slugs are examples of common garden critters that will nibble on your dahlia’s leaves and can damage plant seedlings. If you live in an area where deer are commonly found in your garden, you might worry that they’ll attack your flowers. Do deer eat dahlias?

Deer can eat dahlias, even though these plants aren’t their favorite to eat. If a deer is hungry, it will eat dahlias, especially if it doesn’t see plants nearby that it prefers to eat instead.

Some home gardeners state that deer don’t bother their dahlias, while others do, so it also depends on the deer’s preferences and the time of year in which deer are hunting for food. 

Read: Do Deer Eat Tulips? (Of Course!)

Are Dahlias Deer Resistant?

Dahlias aren’t deer-resistant. Although deer might not be bothered by deer, they aren’t flowering plants that deer will always ignore in favor of other plants. When deer need food, such as if their resources are limited, they will eat the leaves and buds on the dahlia plant.  

Rutgers University has a scale with which they rate how much damage plants will experience from deer. On a scale from ‘Rarely damaged’ to ‘Frequently severely damaged,’ dahlias are rated as ‘Occasionally severely damaged.’

So, when will deer eat your dahlias?

  • Deer will eat dahlia plants if there aren’t any other food sources around. 
  • Deer mothers are the biggest danger to your dahlias after they’ve given birth. This is because they need to find food for their fawns. Although your dahlias won’t be their first choice for nutrition, if they’re struggling to find food for themselves and their fawns they will be drawn to your dahlias. 

It’s therefore, essential to protect your dahlia plants if you have deer that frequent your garden. They might be browsing around looking for a food source, which could be your dahlias.


Do Deer Eat Dahlia Flowers?

Deer can eat the flowers that appear on the dahlia plant, but this is because they are drawn to fertilized flowering plants that provide nutrients. Generally, dahlia flowers aren’t a top food choice for deer unless they are experiencing a food shortage.

  • Deer usually try to find tender green plants, like hosta and lettuce. 
  • They usually consume spring and early-summer plants, like roses and tulips. 
  • That said, deer do like young plants with soft stems and leaves, so if you’ve recently planted dahlias in your garden, they might be appealing to deer.

Dahlia are usually planted in early spring, with their tubers being planted underground. The good thing about this is that the dahlias will bloom in the middle of summer. Plants that bloom earlier in spring are more attractive to deer as they search for food after a harsh winter and will settle for whatever they can find. 

Do Deer Eat Dahlia Leaves?

Although deer might eat some dahlia leaves, this won’t be something they do regularly. Dahlias aren’t their first choice, as they will prefer lettuce and other tender plants. However, dahlias tend to have tender leaves when they’re growing, which will be appealing to deer.

If deer in your region aren’t getting their preferred produce and they’re hungry, they will eat dahlia leaves. You can tell that deer have been eating your dahlias by checking for these signs:

  • Rough or scraggly clipped leaves. Note that other animals, such as rabbits, will make a clean cut when eating plant leaves, whereas deer rip off leaves, leaving behind rough edges. 
  • Missing leaves. Sometimes deer will completely tear off leaves on the plant, so your plants will be missing leaves if they’ve been attacked by deer. 
  • Hoof prints in the soil around your dahlia plants. 
  • Mounds of deer droppings around the plant. Deer droppings are the size of raisins that are dark brown or black in color. 

If your dahlias are thriving and have many leaves on the plant, this will be an easy food source for deer looking for a snack. If you don’t have fences around your plants, the deer will easily walk up to your dahlias and eat their leaves. 

Do Deer Eat Dahlia Bulbs?

Dahlias are flowers that grow from tubers. These are the bulbs that grow underground.

Although deer won’t usually target your dahlia bulbs, they might do so if they’re short on food. In this situation, they will dig up your garden in search of tubers and bulbs.

They can do this quickly. You might walk into your garden in the morning only to find that your dahlia tubers have been nibbled on by deer overnight! If your dahlia tubers are planted in a secluded area of the garden to which deer have access, this further encourages them to dig them up because they won’t be disturbed.

Will Dahlias Come Back After Deer Eat Them?

Dahlias can come back after deer have eaten them, as long as not much damage has been done to the plants. If deer haven’t eaten your dahlia tubers but have chewed off its flowers and only some of its leaves, the plant will recover. 

Although you might feel disheartened when you see that deer have destroyed your dahlias, there are ways to salvage them. These flowers grow from tubers that are planted underground, so if deer have eaten the above-ground plants, the tubers can still be saved.

However, you have to follow some important tips. 

  • Dig up whatever remains of the tubers. Do this carefully so you don’t damage them further. 
  • Remove any excess plant material and clean them with water to remove excess soil. 
  • Place the dahlia tubers somewhere they can dry so that water doesn’t promote mold. 
  • Store the dry tubers in a dark, cool place throughout the winter.
  • Wait until the following growing season, which is when you can plant them. 

Read: Do Deer Eat Zinnias? (No. They Won’t)


How To Keep Deer From Eating Dahlias?

  • Install a fence around your dahlia plants to keep deer away. Make sure it’s about eight feet (2.4m) tall, so that deer won’t be able to jump over it to get to your plants.
  • Install motion-sensitive sprinklers or lights. These can surprise or scare deer at night.
  • Plant companion plants that will naturally deter deer. Examples of companion plants for dahlias include mexican oregano, lavender, or lady’s mantle. These plants have strong odors or chemicals that are unpleasant for deer, so they won’t continue walking through your flower beds. 
  • Spray a liquid that smells unpleasant. Mix one egg with one cup of milk and one tablespoon of dish soap. Put the ingredients in a spray bottle, and fill it to the top with water. This has a strong, unpleasant smell that will put off deer. Spray it every day around your flower beds. Although it smells bad, it won’t be harmful to your dahlias and other plants. 
  • Plant things that deer like to eat. To keep deer away from dahlias, give them plants that they actually want to eat as they’ll choose these before even thinking of attacking your dahlias. Examples include roses and strawberries. Consider planting dahlias far away from these plants in the garden. 
  • Use netting for your plants. Cover your plants with garden netting, which has the added benefit of keeping birds away. Black deer netting is recommended for keeping deer away because it’s transparent and won’t block out garden views. Choose a product that’s at least eight feet (2.4m) in height so that deer won’t be able to access your plants. 
  • Don’t rely on only one when using scented products to deter deer. There are many homemade recipes and store-bought products to deter deer, but if you’re only using one formula deer will become used to it so that it doesn’t bother them anymore. 
  • Don’t be tempted to feed deer with other food. This will encourage them to keep returning to your property!


Do dahlias have a strong scent? 

Dahlias don’t have a strong or overwhelming scent. This is why they don’t smell unpleasant to deer. Different dahlia varieties can smell a bit sweet or floral, but this isn’t as strong as what you’ll find in flowers like roses, which deer love.  

Will vinegar keep deer away? 

Vinegar that’s sprayed around your dahlias and garden might keep deer away because of its strong scent, but these animals can become accustomed to it over time, which will prevent the vinegar from working to repel deer.

Do all dahlias produce tubers? 

All varieties of dahlia plants produce tubers, even dwarf dahlias. These tubers grow below the soil surface and they store the plant’s energy so that their growth can be accelerated during the following spring when they need to grow. 

What is the most deer-resistant plant?

Deer-resistant plants are those that have strong scents, are prickly, or are poisonous to deer. Strong-smelling plants include herbs like lavender and sage. Prickly plants like lamb’s ear are difficult for deer to eat, so they’ll avoid them. Similarly, deer avoid toxic plants, such as poppies.

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.