This rhododendron is growing in Aurora Ontario and has lots of buds on it but something is eating the buds. What can I do to prevent more damage?
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners concerning your Rhododendrons.
There are a number of culprits which could be responsible for the removal of your flower buds. Deer, rabbits and even desperately hungry squirrels have all been know to make a feast on the juicy Rhododendron buds. We often field questions regarding rodents and deer eating blooms and unfortunately there is not one simple solution, there is no commercially available repellent that has been proved to be effective on very hungry desperate animals.
The following is a list of treatments you may wish to try:
Smell: Sprinkling blood meal around your plant, blood meal contains high levels of nitrogen and ammonia. The smell may drive squirrels away;
Predator scent: There are products that mimic the smell of coyote urine. The theory is that this will scare squirrels and rabbits away. The smell is strong and awful for at least 48 hours. I have personally tried this product with minimal success. It should be noted that the product has to be reapplied around the plant after a rainfall.
Taste: Commercial product such as Skoot is distasteful but harmless to rabbits, mice and deer. This product discourages feeding on the plants, however it should be noted that if an animal is hungry enough it will eat anything. it is imprtant to read and follow directions on the label.
Mechanical:Lastely, you may wish to cover your Rhododendron with netting for the winter and/or during the evening when animal activity is the highest.
The University of Washington website has a number of frequently asked questions on Rhododendron care. Lastely, the Rhododendron Society is an excellent resource and has a wealth of information on the care and growing requirements of Rhododendrons.
Good Luck with your Rhododendron.
April 9, 2021