Are Japanese Maples Deer Resistant? Learn The Truth!

Wondering if Japanese maples are deer resistant? Here’s a detailed answer to ‘are Japanese maples deer resistant’ and tips on how to keep deers away from your maple trees.

When you wish to grow a beautiful Japanese maple tree in your yard or garden, a question might arise in your mind: do deer eat maple trees?

Yes, it’s a matter of concern as no one wants their precious tree to be damaged anyway, right?

Since these trees are sometimes sold, said to be deer resistant, it makes people curious to learn the truth from a trusted source.

Japanese maples are generally considered to be deer-resistant, but this can depend on a number of factors, including the species of deer in your area, the availability of other food sources, and the size and location of your Japanese maple.

While deer may be less likely to eat Japanese maples than some other plants, they can still be susceptible to damage from browsing and rubbing, especially in areas with high deer populations.

To protect your Japanese maple from deer damage, you may want to consider using physical barriers, such as fencing or netting, or using deer repellents.

I have a few varieties of Japanese maple in my backyard, so I have had experience with these trees for a long time.

Therefore, I can help you learn the answer to the question: are Japanese maples deer resistant or edible?

Now, without any further ado, let’s find the answer.

Do Deer Eat Japanese Maples Or Not?

As soon as the spring season starts, Japanese maples turn into an excellent source of food for many animals.

But what about deer!

Among the hundreds of species, deer appear to love the forage of Sugar and Red maples the most. But, the thin branches and changing burgundy leaves of Japanese maples don’t seem to be a deer’s favorite.

Leaves of Japanese maple

Wait, wait, there’s a twist!

Deer aren’t picky eaters. Especially during winter, when foods are rare than in any other season, they eat any plant, including Japanese maple, if they can’t find anything better.

Deer eating

Generally, deer prefer those trees that bear fruits and nuts.

They mostly eat the moss, leaves, and branches during spring and summer, but they eat the bark or the fallen seeds in the fall and winter seasons.

Deer eating during winter season

Yet, experts couldn’t identify an exact pattern between favorites as it varies from season to season. They may love a tree in summer but hate it in winter.

Now, the question is, by any chance, can the Japanese maple be deer resistant.

Let’s know the answer in the next segment.

So, Can Japanese Maples Be Resistant to Deer?

No, not exactly. Even if the tree is sold as deer-resistant, there’s a chance that deer will damage your maple.

Deer-resistant plants are those that deer won’t choose to eat if there is a better option available.

Deer looking for food

Remember that Japanese maples aren’t deer’s first priority.

However, newly planted and young Japanese maples are the most vulnerable to deer predation, especially by curious fawns that are looking for new food sources. They love the heavily fertilized young shoots.

Young Japanese maple

Deer will chew the fresh leaves, which is enough for a young tree to defoliate. Also, they will try to get their hooves on your precious maple tree’s lowest tender branches.

I have both young and established maples in my yard, and only the young ones were the target of deer once. The older ones were left unharmed by them.

Japanese maple in the yard

So, I can say that they are mostly after the young maples.

But, recently, I came to know the fact that deer can damage older maple trees too but not by eating them down. They love the shade of the maple trees and sometimes spend time rubbing their antlers and forehead against the tree trunk.

Deer rubbing their antlers against tree trunk

This act can also cause significant damage to the tree, which could eventually kill it.

By the way, since there are different types of Japanese maples, from dwarf to tall ones, you may wonder if there are any deer-resistant varieties available.

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Therefore I have arranged a segment below to describe whether they are resistant or not, depending on different species.

Types of Maple Trees And Its Resistance Ability to Deer

First, I will explain whether deer eat dwarf Japanese maple, a popular species that gardeners choose to grow.

Dwarf Japanese Maples Are Resistant To Deer

Native to Japan, Acer palmatum (dwarf Japanese maple) isn’t a favorite meal of deer. It’s not common to see deer eating these maples, but it can happen.

The size of the dwarf maple, which is also known as Wilson’s Pink Dwarf, can be appealing to deer as they can easily access these trees. They only grow 2 to 4 feet tall, and that’s why deer won’t even need to jump or struggle to reach their branches or higher young branches.

Dwarf Japanese maple

In short, dwarf Japanese maples can be damaged by deer more than any other maple variety because of their reachable size.

Deer Don’t Prefer Autumn Blaze Maple Leaves

Okay, be prepared to read the whole thing cause I am gonna share some important information.

First of all, autumn blaze maple is sold, saying that they are resistant to deer.

And it’s mostly true!

These trees attract bees but not deer. Also, their leaves are toxic if eaten.

Autumn Blaze Maple

Here comes the exception. Suppose a deer is excessively hungry and there is no other food option around, as well as it doesn’t know that these trees aren’t for eating; it may end up damaging your young autumn blaze maple tree, not the grown one.

Young autumn blaze maple tree leaves

But it’s pretty rare to happen. And once the deers learn that these trees aren’t edible for them, they will never attack them again.

Crimson Queen Japanese Maple May Not Be Deer-resistant

Crimson Queen is a low-branching dwarf tree that has a delicate and weeping form. Because of their low height, deer can easily access the shoots.

Crimson Queen low branching Japanese maple

So, yes, there is a high possibility that your local deer will eat the maple’s buds during the winter season.

Aconitifolium (Full Moon Maple) May Not Be Deer-resistant

Earlier, I mentioned that the deer attacked my maple trees only once.

So, here it is. A deer ate a couple of branches from my newly planted Aconitifolium. After buying this tree, I grew it in a pot for the first year.

And then I planted it late last winter. Shortly thereafter, a deer came and took some bites from this tree.

Full moon maple tree

However, they haven’t bothered my Japanese maples since then. Hence, I guess that deer was looking for food in the cold winter and ended up damaging my tree without knowing its taste.

Shortly, Acontifolium is deer-resistant but not proof. And when any of the maple trees are young, you have to take care of them.

Therefore, I will guide you on how to keep deer away from your maple trees.

How to Protect Japanese Maple from Deer

There are several ways of protecting your plant from deer. And the very first one is installing a fence.

Install Fence Around The Plant Area To Restrict The Deers

Setting up a fence is one of the most reliable ways to keep deer away from your tree. Usually, deer won’t go through much trouble just to get their food unless needed.

Garden fence

You may not consider it an aesthetic solution, but it’s definitely the most effective one.

You can get a chicken or heavy wire fence around but far away from the tree. This obstacle will make them struggle and search for food somewhere else.

Remember that your fence should be at least 8 feet tall and not have gaps bigger than 6×6 inches.

Tall fence around garden

Moreover, fencing around your Japanese maple tree will also protect your tree from deer rubbing.

Use Protective Netting Around Your Maple Trees To Protect Them From Deers

Another way of plant protection from deer is using plastic or mesh netting around the young maple tree. The wire netting you will use must be strong enough to prevent deer from pushing on it.

Strong wire mesh net

You can also consider using chicken wire cages. However, make sure to keep enough space for your maples to grow so that you don’t have to change them now and then.

Plant Trees or Plants on The Outer Part of the Garden That Deer Dislike

You may plant things that deer don’t like to eat on the outer side of your garden. This method will reduce the chances of the deer entering inside.

Generally, deer don’t like toxic, highly fragrant, or prickly plants. Trees like rosemary, large lavenders, and fragrant herbs effectively discourage deer from entering your garden.

Large lavenders at the outer part of the garden

You may plant a deer resistant viburnum, such as arrowwood viburnum, which deer don’t like at all.

Aside from growing fragrant plants, it’s also a good idea to choose ones that are a little taller to decrease visibility into your garden, which may contain more appealing plants.

I have several Thuja Green Giant, which is a fast growing deer resistant tree. As they grow pretty tall and provide almost no visibility inside, you can also choose to plant these on the outer part of your garden.

Thuja green around garden

On the contrary, it’s always best to plant anything they may like to eat near your house since your day-to-day activities will somewhat limit their access to the garden.

Use a Deer Repellent

Odor deterrents can keep deer away from the gardens. There are several options available in the market, but I will suggest you buy those that don’t contain too many chemicals.

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After all, we don’t want to harm the innocent animal or our tree, right?

Well, you can also try a homemade repellent such as garlic or rotten fish heads, fabric softener, etc.

However, these kinds of solutions need constant usage as the effect will last only a few days. Studies show that the most effective deer repellents work only for about 10 to 12 weeks before the deer become accustomed to the smell and continue their normal feeding habits.

So, I recommend that you purchase at least two different types of deer repellents that can be used alternating throughout the year to lower the chances of the deer becoming acclimatized to the scent.

You may consider buying “Deer Out” and “Plantskydd,” as they are made from various types of ingredients and have a distinct scent.

Use A Mechanical Repellent

Mechanical repellents also come in a range of many forms, such as ultrasonic devices and motion-activated sprinkler systems. Another device that is also effective is called predator eyes, which mimic the appearance of a predator’s eyes at night.

The motion-activated sprinkler is the most efficient one among all of these devices. But, just like the chemical repellents, deer can become habituated to these systems too.

Therefore, you need to regularly move the sprinklers’ position and occasionally turn them on and off to ensure that the deer don’t become accustomed to their presence.

Use Sounds That Might Scare Away The Deers

Deer can be easily scared by sounds. You can use an object with high-pitched sounds like whistles, wind chimes, radios, or electric wires.

So far, you have come to know some methods of how to keep deer away from trees. But, what are you gonna do if a deer already ate or damaged your Japanese maple trees?

Don’t worry. I will also provide a guideline on this matter.

Take a look at the following segment.

Signs of Deer Damage On Japanese Maple Trees

Deer can cause a variety of damage to Japanese maple trees, including browsing on the leaves and bark, rubbing their antlers against the trunk, and even eating the twigs and branches. Here are some telltale signs of deer damage to look out for:

Browsing damage

Deer may eat the leaves, shoots, and buds of the Japanese maple, leaving behind ragged or torn foliage. They may also leave behind small, hoof-shaped prints in the soil.

Rubbing damage

Bucks may rub their antlers against the trunk of the Japanese maple, causing scrapes and wounds on the bark. This can lead to the bark peeling away and exposing the wood underneath.

Broken branches

If deer eat the twigs and branches of the Japanese maple, it can weaken the tree and cause branches to break or snap off.

Stunted growth

If the Japanese maple is repeatedly damaged by deer, it may not grow as well as it should, and may have stunted growth or a distorted shape.

Missing bark

In severe cases, deer may strip the bark from the Japanese maple, causing significant damage and potentially killing the tree.

If you suspect that your Japanese maple has been damaged by deer, it’s important to take action to protect the tree from further harm. This may involve using physical barriers or deer repellents to deter deer from approaching the tree.

What naturally keeps deer away from plants?

There are several natural methods that can be used to keep deer away from plants:

Plant deer-resistant varieties

There are certain plants that deer tend to avoid, such as lavender, sage, and ornamental grasses. By incorporating these into your garden, you can make it less attractive to deer.

Use strong-smelling plants

 Deer have a strong sense of smell, so planting herbs or flowers with a strong scent, such as mint or marigolds, can deter them from approaching.

Install physical barriers

Fencing is a reliable method to keep deer out of your garden. Electric fences or netting can also be effective.

Use deer repellents

There are many commercial deer repellents available that use natural ingredients such as peppermint, garlic, and hot pepper. These can be sprayed on plants or placed around the garden to deter deer.

Create distractions

Deer may be less likely to damage plants if there are other food sources available. Consider planting a separate area with deer-friendly plants to draw their attention away from your garden.

It’s important to note that no method is completely foolproof, and deer may still find ways to access your plants. A combination of methods may be necessary for the best results.

Direction on What to Do If Deer Ate Or Damaged Your Japanese Maple

First of all, don’t be too concerned about your Japanese maples. They are quite resistant to deer, and even when damaged, they make it through and survive most of the time.

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Still, if you suspect that deer have harmed your tree, follow the below methods to identify and take the necessary steps.

1. Evaluate The Damage

The first thing you’ve to do is to examine the damage. Sometimes, the damage is caused by an insect or an illness rather than by deer. So, inspect the leaves.

If a deer eats your tree, the leaves will most likely be chewed whole or in halves, and the stems will be left untouched. On the other hand, most insects will eat only the corners of the leaves or make holes in them.

Maple tree leaves

After being assured that deer cause the damage, the next phase will be determined by how badly the leaves, bark, or roots have been harmed.

Trees will most likely recover from any harm, but they may require some assistance.

2. Remove Them

You shouldn’t be concerned if the deer left some buds behind.

Remove the chewed areas of the leaves. They will turn brown and die anyway and eventually recover naturally. Trim damaged branches if you see any and let nature do the rest of the job.

Trimming Japanese maple

3. Protect from Further Damage

After you have taken care of the damage, you should protect your Japanese maple with a fence, chemicals, or homemade remedies, whatever protection method you prefer that I have already mentioned before.

4. Wounds

Now besides eating, deer can also cause damage by rubbing themselves against the tree.

Male deer replace their old antlers with new velvet-coated antlers as the warm seasons begin.

Male deer antlers

This coat will dry out and begin to itch by fall. So deer will need to scrape it off, which they will most likely do by rubbing against tree bark. And the damage to some trunks can be irreversible.

If the damage is not severe, it may take a few years, but the tree will survive and recover from its wounds.

Japanese maple tree trunk

But, sometimes, the tree will die or become so fragile that it eventually will break off.

By the way, deer aren’t the only threat to your Japanese maple trees. And I think you should know about which other animal causes harm to this beautiful tree.

Other Animals That Eat Japanese Maples

Actually, the cute deers aren’t the main villain that attacks the maple trees. As you know, they are less likely to harm these trees.

You should be concerned more about mice, rabbits, and voles that eat the bark and can be pretty destructive. Squirrels enjoy chewing or pruning Japanese maples with their teeth, and they often break the branches off to mark their territory.

Squirrel in maple tree

Insects are another threat. And one of the renowned pests is the Japanese beetle which is a culprit in creating problems for maples and cherry trees.

There is a shiny green beetle that loves to eat Acer platinum. These bugs come in the summer and can be a nightmare since they consume large groupings of leaves, leaving only the skeleton behind. They also nibble at the tree roots, decreasing water flow.

Japanese beetle nibbling tree leaves

Do Deer Eat Regular Maple Trees? (Not Japanese Ones}

Yes, there are some maple species that are loved by deer.

Silver maple, sugar maple, and red maple are the top favorite meals for deer among all the maple tree varieties.

Silver maple leaves

And the Japanese varieties are something that deer choose when there is a lack of food.

Okay, as I am at the edge of my writing, it’s time to say goodbye.

Are green Japanese maples deer resistant?

Green Japanese maples are generally considered to be deer-resistant, but as with any plant, this can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the species of deer in your area, the availability of other food sources, and the size and location of your Japanese maple.

While deer may be less likely to eat green Japanese maples than some other plants, they can still be susceptible to damage from browsing and rubbing, especially in areas with high deer populations. It’s important to monitor your green Japanese maple for signs of deer damage and take steps to protect it if necessary.

Where not to plant Japanese maple?

To ensure your Japanese maple thrives, avoid planting it in areas with full sun exposure, heavy clay or poorly-draining soil, high winds, and proximity to buildings or other structures. Japanese maples are also susceptible to pests and diseases, so it’s important to choose a location free from these issues or take steps to control them if necessary.


Now tell me, are Japanese maples deer resistant?

Hopefully, you got your desired answer with some other necessary information.

In short, the taste of Japanese maples isn’t preferred by deer. Only the exception will occur based on the population of the deer and their extreme hunger during the dry season.

A hungry deer might quickly develop a liking for a tree that previously appeared to be resistant.

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