By Steve Jones, The Plant Man –

I think we’d all agree that deer are hungry critters. However much you enjoy wildlife, you can be disheartened, or even outraged, to find your prized shrubs chewed down to the stumps with tell-tale hoof prints in the surrounding soil.

In the previous Plant Man column, I described ways to determine if deer are the real culprits, and I took a look at some deer repellent products, both commercial and home-made. If you missed that column, you can find it at my Web site www.landsteward.org

Today, we’ll take a look at some deer resistant plants. As far as I know, there are no “deer-repellent” plants; the kind that would send deer scurrying away in panic. No such luck. So your best bet, if deer are a potential problem, is to select plants that hold the least possible attraction to deer. Unfortunately, in times of scarcity, deer will eat almost anything green, but you can put the odds in your favor so they will ignore your landscape in search of greener – and tastier – pastures.

Do a little homework and you’ll quickly discover which plants attract deer and which plants they find less desirable. A good place to start is http://njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/ a Web site hosted by Rutgers University.

That Web site consists of a long chart of alphabetically-listed plant names, color-coded to indicate which are rarely damaged, seldom severely damaged, occasionally severely damaged or frequently severely damaged.

Using the Rutgers chart, you can determine if a plant on your wish list might be better replaced with a less deer-yummy one. Although it’s a long list, I can think of other plants that you could select when deer are a potential problem. Here are some to consider:

boxwood evergreenBoxwood Wintergreen (Buxus microphylla)

 

I’ve found that deer don’t particularly care for the taste or aroma of boxwoods under normal circumstances. This popular low growing evergreen shrub is commonly seen as a low hedge or border defining the edges of formal and informal gardens. The Wintergreen Boxwood offers dark green lustrous leaves and creates a striking hedge with year round color, holding its green color all winter long. Suitable for USDA zones 5 – 9.

Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia Goldsturm)

Black Eyed Susans are true perennials, returning larger each year. They are great for mass plantings and provide wonderful contrasting colors when paired with ornamental grasses, Shasta daisies, Russian sage or dianthus. Black Eyed Susan should be deadheaded regularly for continued blooms. They are a native North American wildflower as well as being deer and rabbit resistant yet attracting butterflies. Zones 4 – 9.

Barberry Rose Glow  Barberry Rose Glow (Berberis thunbergii)

 

This is an eye catching form of Japanese Barberry, emerging with early foliage that is a rosy glowing pink color that turns a crimson burgundy as it matures. Full sun produces the best foliage, looking good as foundation, border or mass planting. Barberry Rose Glow needs a well drained area and can tolerate some drought in zones 4 through 7.

American Holly (Ilex opaca)

American Holly (Ilex opaca) probably wouldn’t relish eating holly and, as a rule, neither do deer. Left untrimmed, American Holly can reach a height of
30 feet or more with a spread of 18 to 30 feet. Bear in mind you will need at least one of each sex to produce berries that will attract birds and butterflies but not deer. Hardy in zones 5 to 9.

 

Bamboo Sunset Glow (Fargesia rufa)

A favorite of the Giant Panda but not that attractive to deer. This is a clumping (non-running) variety. Growing to 8 feet in height, the orange-red sheaths and deep green leaves will provide a nice hedge or screen at maturity when planted in groups. USDA zones 6 – 9.

 

 

Sage, Thyme and Chives

Deer don’t particularly care for these herbs but humans do, so they’re not a bad choice as attractive groundcover and as a great, fresh addition to many home-cooked dishes.

Again, no plant is 100% deer-resistant. But when you select plants that are less attractive to deer and employ some of the deterrents we discussed in the previous column, you should find that deer will generally look elsewhere for their salad buffet.

The Plant Man,
Steve Jones, is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to [email protected] and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve’s free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org

LandSteward.org is based on the concept that our goal should be to leave the land better than the way we found it. Or at the very least, to do it no harm.

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Steve Jones

Steve Jones, The Plantman, is a professional gardener and landscaper. His advice is based on the concept that our goal should be to leave the land better than the way we found it. Or at the very least, to do it no harm.

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