A Guide to Deer Resistant Plants and Shrubs
By Tammie Jo
, last updated August 23, 2011
No plant is deer-proof, but there are plant and shrubs that tend to be deer-resistant. If you live in an area where deer roam freely through your landscape, you understand that respect and awe for this beautiful wild creature can soon diminish when they start treating your yard like their own personal salad bar. If building a 10-foot high deer fence to protect your shrubs and flowers isn’t practical, then planting deer-resistant specimens in combination with other deer-repelling practices may be enough to protect your yard and garden from destructive grazing.
You can decrease deer grazing in your yard by avoiding overwatering and over fertilizing. Plants that are overwatered and over fertilized are more likely to be plump, moist and tender – exactly what deer most prefer.
Deer typically dislike plants with thorns, prickly, hairy or thick leaves, strong scents, are poisonous or those that produce thick sap. However, in the spring when leaves are new and tender some usually deer-resistant plants may get nibbled. Protect emerging plants with liquid and solid deer repellents. When purchasing new specimens in the spring, select the largest plants you can afford. Deer and samplers and will try almost anything once. Mature plants have a better chance of surviving random sampling.
Some deer-resistant vines recommended by the North Carolina State University are bugleweed, star jasmine, vinca minor and vinca major. The list of deer-resistant perennial flowers and herbs includes yarrow, cast iron plant, coreopsis, lantana, bee balm, catmint, blanket flower, lamb’s ear and butterfly weed. Some annual flowers that are seldom damaged by deer are snapdragons, coleus, marigold and zinnias. Suggested shrubs include century plant, boxwood, yew, holly, rosemary, yucca, spirea and Russian sage.
Be aware that hungry deer will eat any food that is available, and deer are highly adaptable. What deters deer in one area may be eaten in a zone where there are fewer grazing options.