It can sometimes seem that nothing you plant is safe from deer. Deer can and will eat practically anything and everything in their sight if they are hungry enough. So while no plant is completely “deer-proof”, and deer will eat rhubarb if they are hungry enough, rhubarb is definitely one of the more deer-resistant plants that you can grow.
Why Deer Might Avoid Rhubarb
Rhubarb is one of the better plants to grow if you have problems with deer because it can cause them problems. Rhubarb leaves and stalks contain high levels of oxalic acid that are toxic to both humans and deer.
If consumed in small amounts, deer are unlikely to suffer any severe consequences. But if eaten right down to the stalk, which deer have been known to do, they might experience diarrhea, vomiting, extreme salivation, trembling and kidney failure that can result in eventual death.
Why Deer Eat Rhubarb Leaves
Deer won’t seek out rhubarb and don’t like to eat it as a tasty treat as they do with other plants. The only time that deer might eat rhubarb is if their normal food supplies are low and they are very hungry, similar to another deer-resistant plant, asparagus.
Due to the deer’s natural habitat having being disturbed with the construction and expansion of neighborhoods and suburbs, in addition to predators like wolves and coyotes having been killed or driven out from urban areas, the deer population has increased.
This has resulted in less grazing land for deer, which means that they are more likely to consume plants they otherwise wouldn’t eat like rhubarb just to survive.
How to Protect Rhubarb From Deer
If you want to protect rhubarb plants from deer you have a few options.
Devices that use flashing lights or loud noises can be effective in frightening deer, especially as deer are very nervous animals. After some time, there’s a possibility that deer will get used to the effects, though, which means that these devices aren’t necessarily a great long-term solution. The same can be said of odor repellants too.
You also have the option of hunting deer depending on your state laws and restrictions on hunting permits, though this isn’t a road many want to go down.
Putting up a tall, sturdy fence, especially an electric one, can be a great long-term solution and is our recommendation. A physical barrier might not necessarily be the most inexpensive or simplest option but it will definitely be effective.