Protecting Hydrangeas From Deer And Rabbits

I’m focusing this week on protecting my hydrangeas from deer and rabbits for the winter. The new wood bloomers like ‘Annabelle’ and PGs are fair game which I let the wildlife “prune” for me. The big leaf hydrangeas are rebloomers which I no longer protect against the weather. I take a chance and depend on that second later-season bloom cycle. BUT, I do take pains to protect them from deer and rabbits  and prefer to work with bare stems for that job. So far, the leaves are hanging on, likely because of the prodigious rain we have had this fall.


I have been waiting somewhat impatiently for my to drop their leaves so I can complete their final winter preparations. I use this time to make sure there is enough mulch at their base to keep their roots nice and warm. Shredded leaves are good for that as is compost and any other organic mulch you have. Make sure to keep that mulch a good few inches away from the base of the main stems of the plants. If it’s too close it will soften and and weaken them. The mulch also works to keep the plants from drying out during the winter.


If your plants still have foliage, and you won’t be insulating with leaves and such, get things lined up for when those leaves drop. You may have to act fast to protect them from deer and rabbits. It’s a sure bet that wildlife will be roaming in search of their winter food supply. Your job is convince them early in their eating pattern that your plants are not part of their buffet. Depending on the size of your plants, you can do one of several things.


One way of protecting hydrangeas from deer and rabbits is by EXCLUSION. Erect a temporary fence with commercially available deer fence kits available at box stores and on line. Or use galvanized livestock panels from stores like Tractor Supply and other agricultural supply stores. They can be bent over your plants to protect them.

Cattle panels are one way to protect your hydrangeas.

Cattle panels are one way to protect your hydrangeas. Just bend them over your plant.

Or you can cover your plants with a nursery pot or burlap.

Nursery pot covering small hydrangea

Nursery pots can be used to cover and protect small hydrangeas in winter.

A lot will depend on how much you need to protect, the size of your plant, where your plant is and your tolerance for ugliness in the landscape. So gather your materials, place your orders, etc. Time will be short to tackle this job usually during unpleasant outdoor conditions.


I prefer to use the repellent approach via either a spray or granules. There are many very effective and reasonably priced harmless products on the market that get sprayed directly on your plants that are extremely unpalatable to wildlife. I am a big fan of Deer Defeat.

Deer Defeat protects your hydrangeas

Deer Defeat protects hydrangeas from deer and other wildlife

It’s my favorite repellent. I have found it lasts longer than any other spray and it smells the worst to the deer and rabbits which is a good thing. Trust me: I have trialed many of them side-by-side and this one works! Not only that, but it comes from a small woman-owned company that I am especially interested to support. Of course, you need a day above freezing to apply it. The first season I used it was the first spring I saw my tulips! Their website has information on availability including ordering it directly from the manufacturer. Make sure you are upwind when you spray and be ready to hold your nose if the wind changes direction on you. Your clothes will need to immediately go into the washing machine.



Protecting my hydrangeas from deer and rabbits during periods of below freezing temps needs a different approach. I resort to Milorganite, a granular organic fertilizer which deer do not like.

Milorganite fertilizer is an effective deer repellent

Use Milorganite to repel deer, especially in the winter

You sprinkle it at the base of the plants you want to protect until temps warm up and you can use a spray. If you already have frozen ground and snow, don’t let that stop you. That is exactly when Milorganite is best for deer repellent purposes. It will do the job. Although it does have a distinct smell, I wouldn’t call it offensive. Again, the website is your best source of info re availability.

In my neck of the woods, our plants are slowly hardening off even as the rain continues. Another inch or two is expected this week and possibly some light snow toward the end of the week. My bare stems might be a few weeks away, but I’m getting my arsenal ready. You should too.


If you haven’t heard or read about it, Amazon has announced they will suspend shipping charges this holiday season. That means if you want to order an unsigned copy of my 5-star rated Success With Hydrangeas, A Gardener’s Guide from Amazon, you can save those shipping charges and still get your book in time for Christmas.

Of course, you can get a signed copy when you order your book directly from me via my website HERE. If you want a special note, you can request that by using the “Contact me” form on the site.


Lastly, how about asking your local library to order my book? Reviewers agree it’s a great reference work.


My best wishes to you for a joyous and grateful Thanksgiving!

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