Do Deer Eat Privet Hedges? 5 Things To Know

Privet hedges are a popular way to section off your property and keep it beautiful without an ugly fence. However, for people with wildlife in and around their property, keeping their hedges from becoming food is a real worry. Deer, in particular, can be very annoying since they eat almost anything green and could leave unsightly holes in your hedge.

Deer will eat privet hedges if they are starving. However, this practice is not very common since deer usually prefer leafier plants. There is no such thing as an entirely ‘deer-proof’ plant, but privet hedges are one of the most resistant. 

Growing and maintaining a hedge to the height and build you want can be stressful and sometimes pretty expensive. The last thing you’ll want is a deer turning your hard work into food! This article will cover a few things you need to know about privet and deer to keep your hedge looking as good as possible.

Things To Know To Keep Your Privet Hedge Safe From Deer

Privet hedges are trendy as they require much less effort than other hedges. When it comes to deer, one significant upside is that privets are pretty deer-resistant since these animals usually prefer more evergreen plants.

However, deer-resistant does not mean deer-proof. In fact, almost no plant is deer-proof since deer will eat anything when times get tough, especially in the dead of winter.

Thankfully, all is not lost! You do not have to sit back and watch your hedge get constantly decimated by your local deer population. Here are a few things to consider to keep your hedges protected as much as possible:

1. Privet Hedges Are Pretty Deer-Resistant

If you’ve had a privet hedge installed before and are now scouring the internet for information on how to protect it, then I have good news for you! I’ve already touched on it a few times, but privet hedges are exceptionally deer resistant.

Deer are very opportunistic eaters when they’re hungry, but for the most part, they steer clear of most non-evergreen or deciduous plants. Your hedge safety may vary depending on your privet species, but the most commonly used privet shrub— the Amur Privet— is relatively safe from deer attention.

You’ll also want to be careful when choosing the species of privet you want. While this isn’t common to all species, some can be somewhat toxic to humans and animals. Of course, you’re not planning to eat your hedges — I hope!— but if you have a pet that you usually let roam free, it could be something to keep in mind.

The good thing is that this toxicity can make your privet hedge even more unappealing to deer. So if you or your pets are not at risk, using one of these variants of privet can give you some desirable results. 

If you’re worried about the deer’s life, a bright spot is that while it is toxic to animals, it won’t kill them. It will, however, give them a heads up not to try eating your hedges again.

2. Consider Adding a Deer-Repellent Shrub

Deer repellent shrubs are great if you don’t mind adding a secondary shrub within your privets. Repellent shrubs are similar to deer-resistant shrubs but a cut above. While purely resistant shrubs like the privet are simply not appealing to deer, repellent shrubs give off smells, tastes or sport shapes that deer actively avoid. 

An excellent example of this is Arrowwood Viburnum. It is one of the most deer repellent shrubs, so having enough of it mixed in with your privet could deter deer from coming near your hedge.

Another upside of this method is that mixed shrubs look good if done right. Mixing shrubs could give you a nice, colorful hedge if you have a good eye for aesthetics.

However, remember that using different shrubs could potentially increase their maintenance. While privet only needs to be trimmed about once or twice a year, adding a second or third hedge might require significantly more upkeep. 

Because of this, if your main reason for using privet was how easy it is to take care of, you might want to consider another method on this list.

3. Use a Fence for Added Protection

One of the main problems with depending on the breed of your shrub is that results can vary. You could get the right breed, but different types of deer might react differently. Even within the same species, hunger or the environment could push them to take a bite out of your hedge when they wouldn’t usually do so.

A fence around your hedge is a good cure-all solution. If you don’t mind a slightly unsightly fence ruining the aesthetic, it can be a good option. 

There are multiple options you can go for here. An electric fence, while costly, can be a good option if you want something that will keep off deer and other wildlife. However, the downside here is that you will have to factor in the cost of installation. You also have to ensure to keep any other wildlife you may have or your children away from the fence. 

A regular fence will get the job done just fine. While it isn’t as flashy as an electric fence, it has the added benefit of being significantly cheaper. With a regular fence, there are also multiple options available:

  • Mesh fence: Mesh fences usually consist of a type of mesh or wire strung between multiple supports in the ground. The mesh forms a border around your property that can effectively keep out deer. They are usually cheaper than solid fences but can sometimes be more expensive if you go for options like electric and black mesh wire fences.
  • Solid fence: Solid fences are usually made from less flexible materials like wood, metal, and brick. Although they are pricier, they are also more effective against deer. The main reason is that deer usually won’t jump over a fence if they can’t see the other side.

Regardless of your choice, you’ll need to ensure that your fence is at least 7 feet (2.13 m) high. Deer have quite the vertical jump, and anything below 6-7ft (1.83-2.13m) will do little to stop them.  

Remember to trim the hedges back at least once or twice a year to keep them behind the fence. It’d be pretty counterproductive to go through all the stress and cost of putting up a fence just to have leaves sticking out and the deer eating them anyway. 

Thankfully, shrubs do not grow too quickly, and a regular trim should keep them in check. On the other hand, some people let their shrubs grow through the fence, essentially allowing the deer to prune them.

If you’d like to learn more on how to make a garden fence, you could check this article out: How to Make a Garden Fence (Ultimate Guide)

4. Consider Deer-Repellent

Deer repellent is far from the first thing I’d recommend, but it’s a good last-ditch option if all else has failed. Deer hate strong odors. This is one of the most important things to remember when controlling your local deer population, as anything from strong-smelling flowers to rotten eggs usually keeps them away. 

The main problem with deer repellent is that, unlike all the other options on this list, it’s an ongoing cost. The smell, while effective at deterring deer, will only last for so long. 

After a while, it usually wears off, so you’ll have to re-apply it at least every week. Although most repellents aren’t too expensive, buying a new can every other week will eventually start to add up.

Because of this, I only recommend it as a short-term option while you fit a fence or find another more permanent solution. However, in the meantime, it’s a great option for keeping deer at bay.

5. If Deer Get to Your Privet Hedges, They Will Regrow

Despite your best intentions, deer could eventually get to your hedges. The damage can be unsightly and can understandably leave you pretty bummed. 

Well, all is not lost! The good thing about privet is that, like many other plants and trees, they will regrow with time. As long as they aren’t eaten down to their roots, privet shrubs grow quite quickly.

In the worst-case scenario, where they are entirely decimated, they will gain about 4-5 inches (10.16- 12.7cm) of growth back over the growing season.

Best Shrubs for Hedges

Privets are an excellent choice for a hedge; very few shrubs are as deer resistant. However, if you want the best of the best, some options are more deer resistant and could provide some added protection from deer.

Here are some of the best privets to use for your hedges:

  • English holly
  • Boxwood Shrubs
  • Golden Holly Privet
  • Japanese Pieris
  • Arrowwood Viburnum

Conclusion

Deer will eat almost any plant when they’re hungry, and privet hedges are no different. However, this behavior is not particularly common unless they can’t find other food sources. 

There are multiple ways to get around this, but installing a fence to block access to your hedge is best.

Installing a fence could take a few days, so if you need some protection in the meantime, consider using a liquid deer repellent. 

You can read my other article on how to keep deer from eating your flower buds here: How to Keep Deer from Eating Your Flower Buds

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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