Deer are beautiful creatures that occasionally wander into our yards and bless us with their graceful presence. Until garden season. Then they’re pests who sneak into our yards when we least expect it and chow down on everything we hold dear (pun intended).
No plant is deer proof with the exception, perhaps, of some types of cactus species. Deer will almost literally eat anything organic if they’re hungry enough. So the most successful deer defense tactics will involve deterrents rather than plants.
A tall fence (8 feet or more) will keep out most deer. At least for a while. They always seem to find a way around it if it’s not well built. Some sprays, such as commercial wolf and predator sprays, can also create a barrier. A barking dog is another great deterrent.
A more clever and often successful tactic is to create “distraction gardens” of succulent grasses and grains that deer love. You can grow them or buy feed at the local feed and grain store and spread it in an area far away from your actual garden. This can get expensive and deer have a way of letting their friends know where to find free handouts, so this is likely only to be a temporary solution.
Deer Resistant Plants
Unless you’re guarding a specific garden of edibles, landscaping plants that are native to your area can often be the right thing to keep the deer out of your yard. Think of it this way: if your yard has the same stuff the deer can get anywhere and your neighbor’s has new spinach plants.. where would you go?
Most trees that are indigenous to your area are a good choice. Temporary fences can be erected around the saplings and expanded until the tree is old enough to fend for itself – these are usually called “tree protectors” or “sapling guards.” Beech, birch, maples and most evergreens are common choices that deer will generally leave alone once past the sapling stage.
Many local shrub types are also good choices. The thicker and bramblier the better. Deer may eat the leaves from the more succulent types and will probably gnaw on the flowers of some too, but most heavy shrubs like Bayberry and Arrowood are good choices. In fact, a thick shrub wall that is relatively high can be a great decorative fence to keep the deer out.
Many perennial flowers are not big on the deer’s chosen menu. These will largely be ignored by all but the hungriest of four leggers: Anenome, Big-root Geranium, ferns, Ironweed, Wild ginger and other regional plants for your area.
For those growing vegetable gardens, you may not have much choice but to put up a fence or spend your nights on guard. Nearly everything that we humans prefer to eat, deer do as well. This includes fruit on low-lying branches.
Just don’t tell your kids that deer like brussels sprouts…
Here are some landscaping plants that may help to keep deer disinterested in your property:
- Boxleaf Euonymus
- Bush Germander
- Prostrate Rosemary
- Texas Sage
- Upright Rosemary
- Yucca (nearly all types)