Deer can sometimes be a nuisance. When their numbers are up, hunting licenses get issued, and it’s no wonder – left unchecked, they’ll eat everything in sight! You may have heard that they will leave arborvitae alone, but is this true? Is arborvitae deer resistant?
Well, yes and no. When there are plenty of other things to eat, then deer will leave certain types of arborvitaes alone – especially western varieties. When they are hungry enough, they will definitely eat twigs and buds from arborvitae, and even with plenty of food, some types such as ‘emerald green’ actually attract them.
Today we’re going to take a closer look at the problem to give you a better idea of the reality of the relationship between deer and arborvitae – read on and we’ll give you the facts!
What Type of Arborvitae Do Deer Not Eat?
When it comes to deer and arborvitae there is no such thing as ‘deer proof’, but there are ‘deer resistant’ varieties. For instance, Western Red Cedar, also known as ‘Can-Can’, is one variety of arborvitae that deer will leave alone unless they are very, very hungry.
Two other varieties of Western Red Cedar also fit the bill for ‘deer resistant’ foliage, those being the ‘Zebrina’ red cedar variety and the ‘Spring Grove’ arborvitae. Finally, Thuja ‘Green Giant’ is also one of a deer’s least favorite arborvitae.
Also known as ‘Needled Evergreen’, this arborvitae grows up quickly enough that once it’s established, it can resist even the nibbling of hungry deer but even though they find it undesirable, if the winter is bleak enough and there is nothing else to eat, then deer will certainly eat it to survive.
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What Type of Arborvitae Do Deer Eat?
While deer don’t like Green Giant Thuja (T. standishii x plicata), there is another type of Thuja that they like called Thuja occidentalis, also known as ‘Northern White Cedar’. They absolutely love the stuff and will chew the twigs, buds, and even strip the bark of these arborvitae wherever they find them.
Incidentally, Thuja occidentalis also comes in an ‘emerald green’ (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’) variety that will suffer the same fate in winter as Northern White Cedar – deer absolutely love it. As a general rule, the western varieties are going to be more deer resistant than the eastern ones.
Other types of arborvitaes that deer enjoy include ‘Dwarf Golden’ arborvitae (Thuja orientalis ‘Aurea Nana’), ‘Golden Globe’ Thuja occidentalis, and ‘North Pole’ Thuja, aka ‘Thuja occidentalis ‘Art Boe’.
How Do I Keep Deer From Eating My Arborvitae?
Keeping deer and rabbits away from your arborvitaes can be an uphill battle, but there are definitely some things that you can do to help minimize and possibly eliminate the risk. There are main strategies for this, that basically break down into the following:
- Install mesh netting
- Employ deer repellant and other deterrents
- Replace eastern arborvitaes with hardy, deer-resistant western varieties
Let’s take a closer look at each of these strategies.
To check the current price and availability of Deer Fence Netting, click here to view the listing on Amazon.
Install Mesh Netting
While it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing choice, you can wrap up your arborvitae in protective mesh and this will act as a largely-effective deterrent in regards to the deer. You can do this with mesh and other close-knit netting, or you could even go with burlap – though this is the least attractive.
To employ this measure, the most effective way to do it is to wrap the tree, starting at the base, and ensure that you have covered it to a height of 8 feet. This will prevent larger deer from standing on their hind legs and taking a nibble higher up on the tree, so it’s important that you make the barrier a high one.
This is highly effective, but it is very time consuming and not everyone is fond of the finished look. That said, if the deer and rabbit are normally quite destructive, installing netting is certainly an effective option and you’ll still have most of your arborvitae left to enjoy after the winter.
Employ Deer Repellant and Other Deterrents
Deer repellant is another option, although it’s not always pleasant if you happen to be close downwind. You can make a DIY repellant by mixing garlic powder, eggs, and water, or you can go with a more pleasant repellant by strategically hanging dryer sheets from the tree, as deer don’t like that scent either!
If you go with the DIY option, then you should apply it on a schedule of every 4-8 weeks or immediately after any rains or snows. The only caveat to this method is that if you live in an area where it gets extremely cold, then it’s simply not going to be as effective.
With milder winters, however, this can work very well, and drive the deer away from your arborvitae in search of something less ‘smelly’ to eat.
Replace Eastern Arborvitaes With Hardy, Deer-Resistant Western Varieties
While it’s the most time-consuming method, one of the best is still to simply take the time to plant western varieties of arborvitae that are naturally more deer-resistant. Thuja ‘Green Giant’ is one of the best and if you like privacy on your land, this option grows very fast and strong.
Deer will typically leave it alone unless there are no other options, but if you don’t like the look of this evergreen, then other varieties such as ‘Spring Grove’ or ‘Steeplechase’ are also good options.
What Is the Most Deer Resistant Arborvitae?
Probably the most resistant would be the Thuja ‘Green Giant’ arborvitae. Aside from being considered the ‘Brussel sprouts’ of arborvitaes where deer and rabbits are concerned, they simply grow too quickly for deer to do too much damage.
They are quite dense, as well, providing quite a lot of shade and cover and if you are replacing eastern arborvitae, then they will fill in the vacant areas much more quickly than most other western arborvitaes.
So, there you have it! Today we’ve answered the questions ‘is arborvitae deer resistant’ and the answer is that the western varieties are, but the eastern ones are not. If you are trying to keep deer away from your own arborvitae, then strategies such as mesh wrapping, deer repellants, or simply replacing your arborvitae with more resistant varieties should be able to help.
We recommend ‘Green Giant’ Thuja as one of the best, as deer definitely don’t like the taste and it really grows up like gangbusters. With a little careful planning, you should be able to minimize or even eliminate winter damage from hungry deer, you’ll just need to decide which strategy you like best and apply it.
With a little luck and a lot of patience, your efforts should be well-rewarded!