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12 Animals That Eat Hydrangeas (Pictures)

Hydrangeas, with their colorful blooms, are cherished by garden enthusiasts around the world. Yet, there’s a lesser-known side to these popular plants – they often catch the attention of various animals, becoming an unexpected part of their diet. In this article, we explore 12 examples of animals that eat hydrangeas, shedding light on their behaviors and how gardeners can protect their plants.

12 Animals that eat hydrangeas

While hydrangeas are a popular plant for gardeners with their clusters of brightly colored flowers, they also capture the interest of a diverse range of hungry animals. There are a few common culprits on this list, including white-tailed deer and cottontail rabbits, but what other unexpected animals eat hydrangeas? 

1. White-tailed deer

White-tailed Deer female
White-tailed Deer female | image by Florida Fish and Wildlife via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Odocoileus virginianus

White-tailed deer are well-known animals that unfortunately often find their way into gardens in search of a snack. Their dietary preferences stretch to the tender shoots and leaves of hydrangeas. These relatively large animals can cause significant damage to hydrangea plants, particularly during times when other food sources are scarce.

To safeguard your precious plants, consider installing deer-resistant fencing around your garden or using natural repellents that deter these gentle giants without causing them harm.

2. Eastern cottontail rabbits

Eastern Cottontail
Eastern cottontail rabbit | image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region via Flickr

Scientific name: Sylvilagus floridanus

The adorable Eastern cottontail rabbit is a common garden visitor, and its love for hydrangeas can sometimes lead to frustration for gardeners. These rabbits are especially fond of tender hydrangea foliage, particularly during the growing season when new shoots and leaves are abundant.

Their feeding habits can result in unsightly damage and hinder the plant’s growth. To discourage cottontails from indulging in your hydrangeas, consider planting them in raised beds or erecting a fence to stop the rabbits from getting to them. There are also some natural repellents that might do the trick at keeping them away.

3. Groundhogs

Groundhog in tree branch
Groundhog up a tree | image by ~Sage~ via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Marmota monax

Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are skilled burrowers that can cause more than just issues with their digging habits. These rodents have a reputation for devouring various garden plants, and hydrangeas are not exempt from their diet.

The combination of munching on leaves and stems along with their burrowing can lead to significant damage. Protecting hydrangeas from groundhogs might involve using mesh barriers around your plants and sealing off potential burrow sites to prevent them from making a home in your garden.

4. Snails and slugs

Slugs
Slug | Image by Michel van der Vegt from Pixabay

Scientific name: Gastropoda

Snails and slugs are notorious nighttime garden pests, leaving behind telltale holes and damage on hydrangea foliage. Their insatiable appetite for soft, succulent leaves can turn a lush hydrangea into a tattered mess.

Slugs, in particular, can have a detrimental effect on hydrangeas and are easiest to find and spot at night. Effective management strategies include handpicking these pests, spraying the plant with mildly soapy water, laying slug/snail traps, or setting up beer traps to lure them away.

5. Japanese beetles

Japanese beetle insect
Japanese beetle | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Popillia japonica

The iridescent green and coppery Japanese beetles are a common sight during the warm months, and their voracious appetite extends to hydrangeas. These beetles feed on the leaves and flowers, causing a distinctive skeletonizing effect that diminishes the plant’s vitality and aesthetics.

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Gardeners can employ a variety of methods to manage Japanese beetle populations, such as hand-picking them, applying neem oil, or using specially designed traps that attract and capture these pests.

6. Squirrels

Female squirrel on tree stump
Female squirrel on tree stump | image by Peter Trimming via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Sciuridae

Squirrels are often associated with pilfering bird feeders, but they can also develop an interest in hydrangeas. These curious creatures may chew on hydrangea shoots, stems, or buds, causing damage that can affect the plant’s overall health.

Physical barriers like netting or wire mesh can help prevent squirrels from accessing your hydrangeas, and providing alternative sources of food, such as squirrel feeders filled with nuts, can help divert their attention away from your blooms.

7. Goats

Goats
Goat eats fresh grass | Image by svklimkin from Pixabay

Scientific name: Capra aegagrus hircus

In rural areas where hydrangeas grow wild or are used as ornamentals, goats have been known to include these plants in their diet. Their broad-ranging appetite can encompass a variety of vegetation, making hydrangeas just another item on their menu.

If you live in such an area where goats roam freely, protecting your hydrangeas may require more robust measures, such as erecting sturdy fencing or using deterrents that keep these curious animals at bay.

8. Voles

water voles eating green plants
Water voles eating green plants | image by Peter Trimming via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Cricetidae

Voles are known to gnaw on roots, potentially harming hydrangea plants from beneath the soil. This makes it harder to identify when a hydrangea has fallen victim to them. Plant stems that are leaning over too much, have fallen over completely, or just look unhealthy may be signs of vole damage underground.

Combining protective measures above and below ground can help deter these animals. If you decide to put a fence around your plants, make sure to bury it a few feet if possible.

9. Aphids

Aphid on leaf
Aphid on leaf

Scientific name: Aphidoidea

Aphids, small sap-sucking insects, can infest hydrangea leaves and buds, causing damage and stunting growth. Spraying a strong jet of water onto the plants can push those pesky aphids right off of the plant, but failing that an aphid-specific insecticide or soapy water solution can be applied to the leaves, stems, and new growth to help deter them. 

10. Spider Mites

Spider mite
Spider mite | image by Conall via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Tetranychidae

Spider mites are minuscule arachnids that can damage hydrangea leaves by piercing and sucking plant juices. Although they are pretty much invisible to the human eye, they reside underneath the leaves of hydrangeas and build silky webs which can be a tell-tale sign that they are the problem. Ladybugs are natural predators of spider mites, so finding ways to increase ladybugs in the garden will help control spider mite pests. 

11. Chipmunks

Least Chipmunk eating plants
Least Chipmunk eating plants | image by USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Tamias

These small, lively rodents may not cause as much damage as their larger counterparts, but chipmunks have been observed nibbling on hydrangea buds and flowers on occasion. Their feeding habits are generally less destructive, but if their numbers increase, they can contribute to overall plant stress. If chipmunks are a problem in your garden, consider an ultrasonic device to keep them away. 

12. Raccoons

Raccoons on the tree
Raccoons on the tree

Scientific name: Procyon lotor

Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores that might explore various food sources, including hydrangeas. While they are not typically a primary threat to these plants, their curious nature might lead them to investigate your garden, which could potentially result in some major damage to hydrangeas.

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There are typically plenty of other food sources that raccoons will explore before turning to hydrangeas though, and they are not often a concern for gardeners. You might want to consider natural repellents to keep them away or install motion-activated lights and alarms to deter them.