Stop Deer Damage With Deer-Resistant Plants

Have you ever woken up to find that the neighborhood hungry deer have cut a wide swath through your beautiful gardens? After all your investment of time and money, this can be a devastating happening. How can you deter deer from destroying your gardens and landscaping?

You can find several different methods in books and on the internet, from setting up motion activated sprinklers to hanging bars of fragrant soap in your trees, and spraying your plants with stinky concoctions of hot pepper sauce mixed with eggs and other stuff. Others suggest the only sure way is surrounding your yard and garden with a fence no lower than seven feet. Some of these may work… for a while. However, one of the best ways to deter voracious deer is to choose deer resistant plants.

Notice I said ‘resistant.’ Nothing (not even a fence) is truly deer-proof. When they are hungry enough, deer will eat anything; even plants they have previously turned up their noses at. Deer resistant plants are usually avoided by deer, but there are always some deer that will eat some of them, regardless of how palatable they are.

Spring is the time when you need to protect your plants most carefully. All new plants are tender and juicy, and deer are hungry after a long winter. Also, it’s fawning time, and deer need more nourishment. You can put temporary fencing around vulnerable plants, but if there are lots of deer, you are better off to just plant deer resistant species.

Deer are a bit picky, just like children. They don’t like strange textures. Prickly and fuzzy foliage are usually avoided, as are plants that are aromatic or that have a strong milky sap. Sometimes you can plant these deer-resistant plants to surround ones that deer like. The deer may bypass them, and find a meal that is easier to reach. You might try surrounding vulnerable plants like hostas and daylilies with a wide border of aromatic thyme or artemesia.

Many herbs are great additions to your ornamental gardens. They are useful, beautiful, and generally ignored by deer because of their aromatic foliage. Members of the mint family, rosemary, alliums, lavender, bee balm, sage and oregano can be attractive, culinary and deer-resistant. All of these have family members with lovely blooms, so are doubly desirable in the garden. Other scented foliage plants the deer avoid are tansy, yarrow, santolina, wormwood and artemesia.

Prickly plants are almost always avoided by munching deer. The one major exception to this is roses. Deer seem to consider roses a delicacy, and will ignore the thorns just to get at the leaves and blossoms. However, other prickly or thorny shrubs such as barberry and pyracantha are deer resistant. A few other shrubs that deer avoid most of the time are butterfly bush, spirea, weigela, viburnum, California lilac and Russian sage.

Deer don’t seem to like foliage with a rough texture, or with cutting edges. Ornamental grasses fit into this deer resistant category. Spiky-centered flowers such as coneflowers, gaillardia, and echinops or globe thistle are also avoided. They will also usually ignore broad-leafed perennial shrubs such as rhododendrons, boxwood, privet and laurels.

Fuzzy textured plants also tend to be deer resistant. These include rose campion, mulleins, lambs ears, celosia, some poppies and Joe Pye weed. Other fuzzy or textured foliage plants they avoid are curry plant, artemesias, and helianthus.

Some plants deer will really avoid like the plague are ones that upset their digestive systems, either with a milky sap like butterflyweed or spurge, or that just don’t agree with them. Morning glories, daffodils, foxgloves, snowdrops, hellebores, peonies and monkshood all fit into this category, so are good choices for a deer-proof garden.

If you live in an area that has a lot of deer traffic, keep these deer-resistant plants in mind when designing any gardens that you can’t surround with an eight foot fence. Research online for lists of all types of plants that are deer resistant. It is possible to have attractive yards and beautiful gardens, despite the deer. By choosing plants that ar spiky, fuzzy, and  smelly and chances are the deer will stay away… most of the time.

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