The Q&A Archives: Deer Damage to Rhododendron

Question: In January when the snow was 3 ' deer ate all the leaves and buds off of the exposed portions of my rhododendrons. Approximately the top 1/2 of the plants are without foliage. Is it better to remove all branches without leaves or let the plant alone and see what it will recover. The plants are 8 years old and 4-5 ft in diameter white flower.

Answer: Rhododendrons are able to resprout from old wood, so since they are well established shrubs they should recover eventually; if they are generally healthy the damage may be almost unnoticeable by next year. All you need to do to help them grow vigorously this year is make sure they are well mulched and receive adequate water should there be any dry spells. You might also consider using a slow release fertilizer intended for acid-loving plants such as Hollytone according to the label instructions, but do not exceed the suggested amount. Since browsing is stressfull for the plants you might wish to take steps to protect them next winter, and in fact, if the deer have discovered your yard, you may need to protect other plants this summer as well.

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