Most people love the sight of a deer at the side of the road, docilely chewing on some grass, but if you’ve ever had your garden eaten down to the roots, you might be more frustrated with our ruminant friends. Fortunately, you can plant certain trees, shrubs and grasses that are less likely to be eaten.
There is no such thing as a 100% deer-resistant plant, since their dietary habits change frequently mostly impacted by the change in weather. It also depends on time of year, what else is available for the deer to eat and more. What’s deer-resistant to me, could be the deer in your neighborhood’s favorite plant!
And don’t forget that deer get hungry and thirsty in the late summer and will eat almost anything with any moisture in the leaves making your beautifully irrigated and fertilized plants absolutely irresistible!
Features of Deer Resistant Native Plants
- Prickly: plants like American Holly, Blackberry and Black Locust have spiky thorns, spiny branches and spiky fruits. Deer will want to avoid eating these painful plants.
- Aromatic: plants like Bayberry and Spicebush a have a resinous aromatic coating on their leaves which is pleasant to us but which deer dislike.
- Leathery: plants like Vibranum and Beech are attractive to us to look at, but are not attractive to deer as the leaves are too tough to chew and digest properly.
There are other things you can do to keep deer out of your garden, as well:
- Don’t feed the deer! Many humans feel that they are being nice by feeding deer, but that motivates the deer to wander into suburban areas and yards, and they are inclined to keep coming back. Keep nature in nature!
- Consider a fence. An 8 to 10 foot barrier may be needed to keep the high-jumping deer out, but this is something of a last resort.
- Motion controlled ‘scarecrow sprinklers’ exist to frighten the deer, but these protect a limited area as the deer quickly figure out the spray pattern and avoid it. Use this in a corner or up against the house.
- And of course, there are deer repellents, but they need to be applied frequently and the deer become sensitized to them over time.
Here are some good deer resistant, native plants you can use:
- Trees: Redbud, River Birch and Sweetbay Magnolia
- Shrubs: Red Twig Dogwood, Serviceberry, Spicebush, Winterberry (both male and female) and Witchhazel
- Flowers: Bee Balm, Goldenrod, Orange Coneflower, Swamp Rose Mallow Hibiscus and Wild Ginger