Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Deer Country: Were Repellex Systemic Tablets Effective?

Repellent-treated hostas, July 24

Our local deer, including frisky fawns, have been venturing recently from their early-summer hideaways.   Monday night they dined in our front yard perennial gardens and there expressed their opinion about hostas flavored by the new Repellex Systemic tablet that claims to repel all sorts of critters—including deer.

Their decision: Yummy!

Repellex cleverly advertises “Hosta la vista, baby,” but our deer replied, “Thanks for the salad!”

In short, the new high-tech tablets failed to protect our hostas from our local deer.  The deer ate nearly every leaf from the four hostas I used as an experiment and left untouched the untreated “control” hosta a dozen feet away.  Perhaps the deer reserved that plant for dessert some future night.

The same repellent-treated hostas, June 27
When I wrote in April about starting the experiment, I expressed concern about how many tablets to use.  Directions with the tablets seemed simple, but I thought that perhaps the tangled root mass and many crowns of hostas called for special treatment.  I talked then with a company representative who said early feedback indicated I should add extra tablets.  I did.

But, still, this week the bambits dined on the hostas and left us mostly leafless stems.

I had an informative exchange of emails with the Repellex Company while I was writing this story.  When I outlined my hosta problem, a company spokesperson said that “customer feedback has been focused on issues with hostas” and that the company is working on a solution.

“The typical application pattern as listed on the label is accelerated with the doubling of a hosta plant with new growth away from the treated part,” the company representative explained.  “Therefore retreatment is required more frequently on hostas.  Stay tuned.  We are working on a granular application that will be similar to using some tablets above ground around the plants.”

Does that potbelly contain hosta leaves?
That makes sense to me—a granular systemic repellent that you can sprinkle around tricky plants such as hostas.  I hope it works.  I’ll probably buy a sample when it comes on market so I can do a follow-up experiment.  The systemic idea is a good one, and I really want to enjoy our hostas spring, summer, and autumn as I relax on our front-porch glider.

Where does this experiment leave me as I contemplate our perennial gardens in Deer Country?

I’ll continue to plant deer-resistant plants.  I’ll regularly apply a repellent spray to our deer-favorite plants.  I’ll continue using strong fencing when I want to keep deer out of a specific area.  And I’ll probably do a second experiment on our hostas when the granular Repellex Systemic product becomes available. 

If you want to read my August 2011 posting with additional background about Repellex Systemic tablets, CLICK HERE.

If you want to read my posting about my successful 2011 experiment with Deer Out, the mint-based repellent spray, CLICK HERE

Update, July 26: The bambits returned last night and chowed down on the "control" hosta.  Five hostas, four treated, five heavily browsed.


  1. And when all else fails, you can always call in the big deer repellent.....


  2. Thanks! always interested in more deer subterfuge information. My poor hostas have struggled on for 15 years despite having been chewed to the ground each year for their first 12 years. I have a 2 year old 10 ft fence and have seen blooms the last 2 years. If I were those hostas, I would have given up many years ago! I also happen to find granular milorganite works well (and fertilizes too!) and, I also cook up my own liquid repellant, both of which are effective. Of course, the fickle deer will change their route and their taste at any time, so the exclosure is the best way. and my bowhunter is a crucial part of my arsenal!

  3. am hoping that deer tummy is pregnant not overfull!

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  5. Grumble. Grumble. Grumble. Was hoping these would be the answer. My neighbor tried last summer and last the battle. I don't see the granular option yet available. I wonder if taking a hammer to the tablet might work. I have my hostas guarded by a homemade "Deer Blaster" system ... motion detector attached to a light and a water hose. The only problem is that the paper delivery fellow and pizza delivery fellow don't like it too much.

  6. I have a severe deer problem in northern NJ and tried the tablets in my front yard this spring with little luck; they chewed up my astilbes just as they were getting ready to bloom, sedum completely destroyed etc. .Since multiple tablets are required for even moderate size plants, it can get expwnsive also.

  7. Would you be interested in trying the new Natura Plant Saver tablets? The oily repellent in Repellex is not as water soluble as the Denatonium Benzoate, the most bitter chemical compound known, which is in Natura. Natura also contains Mycorrhizal fungi that help the repellent and fertilizer be readily absorbed through the roots. See my website and call me.