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Do Deer Eat Hellebores? (Highly Deer Resistant)

Do Deer Eat Hellebores? (Highly Deer Resistant)

Hellebores are a variety of beautiful flowers with five petals. They’re also known as Christmas or Lenten roses though unrelated to roses. This plant grows and thrives in the winter, a period of scarcity when deer hunt. So, if you grow hellebores and live in an area with deer, you’ll ask the question, “do deer eat hellebores?”

This article tackles this question factually alongside other similar questions to clarify the subject matter. By the end of this read, you’ll have accurate knowledge about the synthesis between deer and hellebores. Thus, you will have a full understanding of catering for your hellebores.

Read: Do Deer Eat Azaleas?

Are Hellebores Deer Resistant?

All 22 species of hellebores that form the hellebores genus are highly deer resistant. Deer do not like woody shrubs, so ordinarily, they will avoid hellebores unless exceptions kick in. The exception is hunger, as a starving deer will eat any plant, be it deer resistant or not.

Hellebores are evergreen woody perennial shrubs that are deer resistant. The texture of its leaves isn’t quite enjoyable, so healthy, well-fed deer usually avoid them. They prefer to feed on lush foliage compared to woody shrubs, so eating this plant category is the last resort.

According to a rating scale, hellebore ranks severely damaged in relation to its edibility. Honestly, only a few plants ever make this rank. But considering that the consumption of hellebore is dangerous to mammals, it is no surprise.

But despite this, there have been surprising reports of deer eating hellebores. The truth is that no matter how deer-resistant a plant is, it can never be deer-proof. A hungry deer will eat anything to keep itself from starving.

There’s little a deer can do on an empty stomach. So, it will eat whatever comes its way until it can find a more luscious meal. So, you shouldn’t exhibit surprised when you see a deer eating hellebores.

Thus this proves that deer eat hellebores but not as a first choice. After all, they enjoy and love even azalea, which is a plant that’s highly toxic to them. So, how much more hellebore which is deer resistant?

Do Rabbits Eat Hellebores?

Rabbits eat hellebores and will nibble on any green plant that looks attractive to them. However, this is not to say that rabbits’ consumption of hellebores is safe, as the plant is toxic. While wild rabbits can detect toxic plants to a certain degree, pet rabbits can not. So, keeping your pet rabbits safe and away from hellebores is best.

Several garden plants are rabbit resistant. However, not all are harmful. But, some are dangerous to rabbits because of their toxic compounds. Unluckily, hellebores are one of the delicacies which rabbits and other mammals have to avoid.

Read: Do Deer Eat Heliopsis?

Now, the difficulty in this is that rabbits are naturally attracted to eating green plants. Therefore, they will always want to try out every plant they see, including hellebore. So, they can eat hellebores, even though the plant is highly dangerous for them.

It causes gross stomach ache, and ingesting even a few leaves can kill your rabbits. Its side effects include loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea.

If your pet rabbit(s) eats hellebore, the side effects may not manifest immediately until later. Unfortunately, when it does, it may be too late. Therefore, it is in your best interest to be strictly cautious of your rabbit’s meal intake. You must try as much as possible to keep your rabbit away from this plant.

Caring for Hellebores (Light, Soil, Water, Temperature, Pruning, Flowering, Fertilizer)

Hellebores are low-maintenance evergreen perennials that thrive best in partial shade. They can grow in about nine zones, survive through winter, and bloom in spring though the amount of sunlight received affects flowering. They require well-drained soil and are water efficient. This plant also requires a small quality of compost manure or mulch to grow perfectly.

All species of hellebores are low-maintenance woody perennial shrubs that bloom in sizes ranging from 1.5″ to 3″, with 5-20 petals. Let’s look at each factor/condition influencing the growth of hellebores individually.



This unique evergreen plant can withstand sun and shade but prefers partial or dry shade for optimal growth. Though hellebores love the shade, excess shade prevents the plant from blooming properly. However, the only exception to growth with full shade is if you grow your hellebores under a deciduous tree since sunlight can filter in when the leaves fall off.


With the right soil, you can plant hellebores at any time, and they will grow. The best soil for hellebores is one with a slightly acidic or neutral PH. The soil must also be fertile and well drained with less water retention capacity but higher moisture retention.


Hellebores can handle drought after the first planting season when grown in areas with perfect partial shade. However, the degree of its growth depends on whether or not it received enough water in the planting phase.

This plant requires moisture but not water because too much water will lead to root rot.


The evergreen and beautiful Christmas roses are resilient and can withstand all elements of weather. Hence, they survive even the hottest summer and the chilliest winter, only needing protection from strong wind. The hardiness level, however, varies depending on the plant species, but most can tolerate zone three to nine USDA cold hardiness.


Pruning encourages growth and displays the best part of plants. Therefore, gardeners can nip off tattered or withering leaves outside to showcase the new fresh ones. It’s best to prune hellebores in late winter so new leaves can sprout.

You can also prune your hellebores in late winter or early spring when new flowers and stems begin to spring.


Hellebores produce dainty flowers with mild colors but what’s interesting is the length of time in which this plant blooms. Hellebores blossom for 3-4 months every year and are also one of the first flowers of spring.


Gardeners cultivating hellebores should spread at most 2 inches of mulch or compost manure around the plant. Doing this once a year enhances the plant’s growth. If you apply too much fertilizer to the plant, the nitrogen in the soil will become excess, causing lush foliage but little to no bloom.

Are Hellebores Poisonous to Dogs?

Yes, hellebores are highly toxic and poisonous to all mammals, including dogs. Luckily, their foul taste often deters dogs from eating them. So although they brighten up gardens during winter, they are dangerous when consumed. So, your dogs should avoid the entire plant (hellebore leaves, flowers, and stems.)

Hellebore leaves are fatal to dogs’ health when consumed because they contain harmful toxins. This plant contains cardiac glycosides like hellebores, helleborine, and hellebrin. It also contains saponosides and protoanemonin.

Hence, all parts of the plant are poisonous; therefore, if your dog ingests any part, it may fall ill instantly. Several symptoms may occur if your dog eats this plant. They include:

  • Lethargy.
  • Extreme salivation.
  • Depression.
  • Nausea.
  • Serious thirst.
  • Weakness.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Abnormality of heart rate (palpitation and contraction.)
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Paralysis.
  • Mouth pawing.
  • Seizures.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Death.

So if you love your dog, by all means, do ensure that it doesn’t go close to any garden containing hellebores.

How to Keep Deer Away From Hellebore?

There are several effective methods to keep deer away from your hellebore plants. But the best include building a fence and using scented deterrents and deer repellents.

Naturally, deer will avoid hellebore unless in situations of extreme hunger. So, if hungry deer are damaging your hellebore, you can use these measures to keep them away.

Read: Do Deer Eat Begonias?

You should form a hedge around your hellebore by building a fence to keep away the deer. That way, a hungry deer wouldn’t be able to invade. Scented deterrents also work well, as deer are sensitive to strong and pungent odors. You could hang bar soaps around or disperse garlic between your hellebore plants.

Additionally, you can buy a deer repellent and spray it all over your plant weekly. If you don’t want to incur extra costs by buying repellent, you could make a homemade deer repellent from daily kitchen ingredients like egg and garlic.

Will Hellebore Come Back After Deer Eat Them?

Your hellebores will grow back after being eaten by deer so long as the crown is intact. But if the deer eats the part of the hellebore where the stem meets the root, there will be no hope for regrowth.

Whether or not your hellebore will grow back after a deer eats it is dependent on the extent of damage done to the plant. It takes a hungry deer to devour an entire hellebore, given that this shrub isn’t their best. If the deer eats only the leaves and a few stalls, you can be sure that your hellebore will grow back healthily once again.

But, you should note that if deer damage extends to the flower buds, the plant will grow back but won’t bloom. However, this is only temporary, as blooming will commence the next year when new flower buds develop.

The crown is important because it is the part of the plant where the stem and roots merge. The crown is vital for transporting nutrients from the root to the shoots.

So, once consumption has affected the crown, this damage is irreversible, meaning that your hellebore won’t be able to survive.

If the crown suffers deer damage, there is no way nutrients can spread to facilitate growth. Hence, your hellebore won’t grow again unless you plant new seeds.


Hellebores are beautiful but highly toxic and unsafe for consumption by deer, rabbits, dogs, and other mammals. But though the plant is deer resistant, this doesn’t guarantee its safety; deer can still snack on it under certain conditions.

Therefore, it is important to protect your hellebores not only from deer but from your home pets for their safety as well. With this, the safety of your plant from deer damage will be guaranteed, and your pets’ health will be assured.