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Is Bamboo Deer Resistant?

A beautiful and graceful animal walking through your gardens in the sunrise. Sounds like a charming scene. But is it really?

Deer can be a huge problem for many gardeners. They eat a wide variety of plants and are clever enough to pass barriers that stand between them and their favorite lunch spots.

Do deer eat bamboo?

In most cases  – no. Generally, deer don`t like bamboo and will choose other plants to eat. However, there is no guarantee. Each deer have their personal taste preferences.

If you live in the Southeastern US, there is a bigger chance that deer will choose bamboo as a food source than in other parts of America. The bamboo is native there so it`s more likely that deer have acquired a taste for it.

Sometimes they will discover the new shoots and eat a few, but, for the most part, it should not become a huge problem.

However, an important fact about deer is that they will eat any plant if they are hungry enough.

You could find endless lists spelling out plants deer love and plants deer hate. Surprisingly, some of the same plants appear on each list. Evidently, deer in one region happily eat things that deer elsewhere don’t.

There is no such thing as a deer-proof plant but there definitely are deer resistant ones. They usually don`t bother plants with hairy, smelly, waxy, dense, or highly textured foliage.

Young deer vs mature deer

Young deer will try and eat pretty much anything. Mature deer already have developed their taste preferences and are a lot more picky.

Unfortunately, even mature deer can change their eating habits. For years, a certain plant in your garden can be safe, until a day comes when deer start grazing it down.

Deer behavior

Deer like plants that will give them moisture, protein, minerals, and salts. They usually prefer new growth and may be attracted by certain smells.

Unfortunately, you have no way of knowing what smells appeal to your local deer.

In order to protect your garden from deer, it helps to be aware of common behaviors they show. There are 3 main ones to remember.

1 – They almost always eat any new plant when it first shoots up even if they hate it.

It`s a good idea to protect new plants when you first put them into the ground.

2 Fresh growth is more tempting to deer than old growth.
When they start eating a plant, they will come back to continue to snack on all the fresh growth when a plant tries to grow back its parts.

This means that when the deer start eating something, they are likely to continue eating it. To protect your plants – ensure they can`t start eating it right when you plant it.

3 Deer are creatures of habit. If they find plants they like in one spot (for example, your garden) they will start walking through there every day. They will continue that even after the plants they originally liked there have all been eaten.

Then, because they are already there, they will start eating other plants.

It helps if you avoid mixing in plants that deer like to eat with the rest of your garden. Because if deer have eaten all the plants they like on their path, they may start eating typically deer-resistant plants as well.

After a long winter when tasty food has been scarce,  most deer will eat anything green. To some plants, the damage they cause may be relatively minor, while other plants will get eaten to the ground.

How to keep deer away from your bamboo

You are considering planting bamboo in your garden. But the area is densely populated by deer and you are not sure whether they tend to like bamboo where you live.

What to do?

I would say, the first step is – ask around. Ask your neighbors for their experience. The closer their property is to yours the more likely it is that the deer will have similar preferences.

However, it is possible that you don`t have people in close proximity to your garden growing bamboo. Then you can just be the pioneer and see the results for yourself.

And you will probably be fine. As I already mentioned before in most cases, deer won`t eat bamboo. But we also know, that no plant is deer-proof.

What makes deer avoid your garden

If you are starting a brand new garden and know that you must protect it from deer, that is the best scenario. Because then you can plan ahead and make sure deer don`t include your property in their daily route.

Because deer are creatures of habit and keep their routes quite consistent, if you make sure your garden is unappealing to them from the start, they will not bother coming back later.

The easiest plan is to start with planting things deer avoid like prickly plants and trees. Good examples are spruce, holly, juniper, pine, and fir trees.

If you want to include some softer plants or just want to be extra sure, you can get deer repellent on Amazon and spray the plants that need the most protection and especially the ones on the direction with the deer could come from.

It should be enough if you spay it for the first season. Or repeat if the deer appear in your territory.

If you want to specifically plant bamboo not just incorporate it in your garden then it is a little different.

Fencing would be advisable for the first couple of years of a new bamboo planting until the plant gets established well in the area.

If you have an already established garden that deer love to visit you may want to put up an electric fence for a while, deer are known to stay away from those.

If that is not an option for you, spraying a deer repellent should work.

A great quality of bamboo is that it generally grows faster than the deer can eat it. So if you experience damage but then succeed to repel the deer from your property, it will regrow fast.

Heavenly bamboo (Nandina Domestica)

Nandina Domestica is a popular evergreen shrub. It is commonly known by a name of Heavenly Bamboo despite the fact that it is not a bamboo at all.

However, if we do talk about this plant, the good news is – it is deer resistant.

Nandina is a multi-stemmed shrub with small evergreen leaves that can turn reddish in fall and winter.  They have small white flowers in late spring and very colorful bunches of red berries during winter (the berries are also long lasting when cut and make nice decorations at Christmas time).

Conclusion – bamboo is generally deer resistant

In general, deer avoid ornamental grasses and bamboo is a large ornamental grass even if it sometimes looks like a shrub.

Many bamboo growers report that deer avoid bamboo in their gardens.

However, the deer will eat anything if hungry. And young deer will try everything before acquiring a taste for their favorite plants.

Featured image by: jans canon, Flickr, CC BY 2.0