Do Deer Eat Zinnias?

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Zinnias are flowering plants that belong to the Asteraceae family. They are often grown in suburban gardens for their colorful blooms and because they are low-maintenance plants. They aren’t generally considered to be typical food for deer. 

Zinnias are usually considered to be deer-resistant plants because they have a strong smell and bitter taste that deer don’t like. But, in reality, deer do eat zinnias sometimes, particularly if they can’t find other food. Luckily though, zinnia plants seldom undergo any type of severe damage. 

What are zinnias?

Zinnias are native to North, Central, and South America and are widely cultivated for their attractive and vibrant blooms. They make popular garden flowers because of their wide range of colors that include shades of red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, and white. 

Zinnia flowers often have a daisy-like appearance with single or double rows of petals surrounding a central disk. But the flowers can also be dahlia-like or pom-pom shaped with flat or slightly domed heads.

Annual plants that are relatively easy to grow, zinnias are well-suited to sunny locations. They prefer well-draining soil and thrive in warm climates. 

Zinnias are often planted in flower beds, borders, and containers, and they attract butterflies and pollinators, making them a favorite among gardeners. They come in various sizes, ranging from dwarf varieties that reach around 6 inches (15 cm) in height to taller varieties that can grow up to 3 feet (90 cm) or more. 

The plants have a branching habit and produce numerous flowers throughout the summer and into the fall. The Chicago Botanic Garden calls zinnias “the hardest working flower in the summer garden.”

But are deer likely to eat your zinnias? While they might, you need to look at all the possible culprits. 

What is eating my zinnias?

There are several pests that might eat or damage your zinnias. Here are some common culprits to consider if you notice your zinnias are being eaten:

  • Slugs and snails
  • Japanese beetles
  • Caterpillars
  • Grasshoppers
  • Rabbits

The only animal other than deer that is likely to eat zinnia plants is rabbits. Typically, they eat the tender leaves and zinnia flowers, leaving behind a clean, angled cut. 

Japanese beetles skeletonize the leaves by consuming the tissue between the veins, leaving a lacy appearance. These metallic green beetles are known to feed on a variety of plants, including, but not exclusively, zinnias.

Various caterpillar species, including the cabbage looper or the yellow wooly bear caterpillar, may eat zinnia leaves. They often chew irregular holes or create visible feeding damage.

Grasshoppers are voracious insects that can devour zinnia leaves and flowers very quickly. Look for chewed edges or missing sections of leaves.

Slimy slugs and snails are nocturnal and they commonly feed on the leaves and flowers of zinnias and other garden plants. They leave behind irregularly shaped holes or chewed edges. You may also spot their slimy trails on the foliage.

Are zinnias deer resistant?

Zinnias are low-maintenance plants that are generally considered to be resistant to deer. Deer tend to avoid zinnias due to their strong fragrance and bitter taste, which makes them less appealing as a food source for deer.

However, deer behavior can vary depending on factors such as food availability, population density, and local conditions. When food is scarce or when preferred food sources are limited, deer may be more likely to browse plants they would typically avoid, including zinnias.

So, when you ask are zinnias deer resistant, you also need to realize that different deer populations may exhibit different browsing behavior. 

How to protect your zinnias against deer

The measures you take to protect your zinnias from deer are basically the same as those you will take to protect any of your garden plants. Deer eat all kinds of plants that aren’t on their regular menus, so it’s wise to be prepared. 

These are the typical measures you need to make zinnias deer resistant:

Try Companion Planting

Companion planting is an environmentally friendly approach that can work incredibly well. It’s a very simple concept that works amazingly well, though you need to focus on the plants that deer species don’t like.  

Basically, some plants have strong scents or tastes that deer find unappealing. Deer-resistant plants include lavender, rosemary, marigolds, salvia, and yarrow. 

Interplanting these with your zinnias can help deter deer. It’s basically the same approach you use when planting to either attract or deter plants.


Plant zinnias bloom later in the season when other natural food sources for deer are more readily available. This may reduce the likelihood of deer browsing on your zinnias out of hunger.

Deer Resistant Fencing and Barriers

You don’t necessarily need to fence your entire property. But if you are concerned that deer will eat zinnias or other plants, fence those areas. 

Any fence should be at least 8 feet tall to prevent deer from jumping over. Use materials like wire mesh or deer netting that are difficult for deer to penetrate.

If you don’t want to fence, you can surround your zinnia beds with plants that deer typically avoid. For example, thorny or prickly plants like roses or barberry can act as a physical barrier and discourage deer from entering the area.

Scare Tactics

Remarkably simple, scare tactics are effective in startling and deterring deer from eating plants of all kinds. Options include motion-activated sprinklers, devices like wind chimes that are noisy, and even hanging reflective objects like aluminum foil strips or old CDs around the garden. 

The unexpected movements or sounds can discourage deer from approaching your zinnias.

Deer Repellants

Use deterrents to make your zinnia plants deer resistant and less attractive to deer. There are various types available, including scent-based repellents and taste-based repellents. 

Apply them according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Just keep in mind that repellents may need to be reapplied regularly, especially after it rains.

What are the best flowers that deer do not eat?

While no plant can be guaranteed to be completely deer-proof, certain flowers are generally considered to be less appealing to deer due to their scent, taste, or texture. It is important to remember that the effectiveness of deer resistance can vary depending on factors such as local deer populations, food availability, and environmental conditions. 

Rutgers, the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, has compiled a list of landscape plants rated by deer resistance. Zinnias are ranked amongst the many that are seldom severely damaged. 


When there are wild animals like deer able to access our properties, it’s important to know what damage they may, potentially, cause. In this post, we have assessed the likelihood of deer damaging your zinnia plants.

Deer don’t favor zinnias, though they might eat them if there is any other available food. Rather than deer, rabbits are much more likely to feast on zinnias. 

Even if deer eat zinnias flowers and plants, they are likely to do little harm in the long term.

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