Key Points

  • The joy of wildlife can quickly turn into frustration as deer and other animals munch on your prized
  • There is no black and white list of plants that deer like or dislike. One day they will eat a plant and won’t touch it the
  • Repellants and fencing are worth trying but expect varying
  • Deer tend to avoid plants that are thorny or prickly, have thick leathery leaves, or a strong aroma, such as marigolds and geraniums.

The joys of living in rural areas are the peace and quiet, clear air, open spaces and wildlife. With this joy often comes the frustration of watching wildlife eat prized plants. As deer browse they carefully select only their favorite plants, leaving other less desirable plants alone. It is far easier to plant ornamentals that are on the less desirable list than to try and protect the choice ones. However, even the plants on the least favored list are often damaged as deer have taste buds which vary from year to year and from season to season. Unfortunately deer haven’t read this list either.

Repellents

There are many repellants on the market, some of which have been reported to be successful in deterring deer. Many products demonstrate limited success at times and no effect at others. They should be tried to test their effectiveness. Products such as Milorganite spread over the garden at one half rate will double as a fertilizer and as a fairly effective deer repellant. Fish emulsion works in a similar manner. Expect some odor from these types of repellants. Other products that have shown success are Liquid Fence, Shake Away, Plantskydd, and Shot Gun Repels-All. Apply early in the season and repeat according to the directions.

Fencing

Fencing is also difficult and often proves to be ineffective given deer’s ability to step or jump over a normal six-foot fence or they simply walk up the driveway. To increase the effectiveness, use a solid fence that will impede deer’s ability to see through the fence. Deer will not jump over something they can’t see through. You can also plant shrubs and vines to soften the appearance of a solid wood fence.

Reports indicate a fence can be constructed using two parallel strands of wire placed 28 inches above the ground and spaced 36 inches apart. Deer cannot understand they need to hop over both wire strands and appear to be intimidated by this wide barrier. Fencing around each individual tree works as well.

Plant Selection

Regardless of repellants, fencing or dogs, we eventually revert to using plants with the least likelihood of being bothered by deer. Remember that what is not eaten today may be on the deer menu tomorrow. The following plants appear to be ones that deer usually don’t eat and share the same characteristics mentioned in key points.

Trees

Ash
Honeylocust
Catalpa
Japanese Maple
Cedar
Liquidambar
Colorado Spruce
Oak
Cypress
Redbud
Firs
Redwood
Gingko
Smoketree
Hackberry
Sycamore
Hawthorn
Vine Maple

Shrubs

Arborvitae
Juniper
Sumac
Barberry
Lilac
Boxwood
Oregon Grape
Butterfly Bush
Potentilla
Coralberry
Pyracantha
Cotoneaster
Quince
Currant
Smoke Bush
Forsythia
Snowberry
Holly
Spiraea

Perennials

Artemisia
Coreopsis
Monkshood
Salvia
Aster
Daylily Penstemon
Santolina
Astilbe Ferns
Peony
Sedum
Basket of Gold
Foxglove
Phlox
Shasta Daisy
Begonia – Tuberous
HeatherIris
Pinks
Snow-in-Summer
Bergenia
Hellebore
Poppy
Speedwell
Black-eyed Susan
Hens and Chicks
Lupine
Sweet William
Bleeding Heart
Herbs (except Basil)
Monkshood
Violet
Candytuft
Catmint
Columbine
Coneflower
Iris
Larkspur
Lupine
Penstemon
Red Hot Poker
Russian Sage
Wallflower

Annuals

Ageratum
Petunia
Alyssum
Four O’Clocks
Lobelia
Marigold
Nasturtium
Salvia
Snapdragon
Stock
Sunflower
Zinnia

Vines

Vines
Bittersweet
Silverlace Vine
Boston Ivy
Clematis
English Ivy
Grape
Honeysuckle
Virginia Creeper

Bulbs

Bulbs
Allium
Frittilaria
Autumn Crocus
Colchicum
Daffodil
Grape Hyacinth
Scilia

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