There aren’t any completely deer-proof plants. Deer eat almost anything when food is scarce, or their population is high. Like humans, deer have food preferences, even when they have many options to choose from. Depending on deer pressure, here is a selection of plants that we have found to be more and less susceptible to deer browse.
HIGHLY SUSCEPTIBLE TO DEER BROWSE
Deer love to graze on many types of groundcovers, especially the tender new growth in the spring. If you have deer on your property, we recommend avoiding the following plants as they are more prone to deer browsing and can be severely damaged:
- Some Rhododendrons
- Evergreen Azaleas
Deer seem to prefer plants which have been fertilized over those which have not.
LESS SUSCEPTIBLE TO DEER BROWSE
Deer tend to avoid fragrant plants with strong scents or highly aromatic flowers, and plants which have leathery, fuzzy, hairy, or prickly foliage. In our experience, the following plants are rarely damaged by deer:
- Nepeta (Catmint)
- Achillea (Yarrow)
- Perennial Grasses & Ferns
- Pieris (Andromeda)
- Lambs Ear
- Dusty Miller
- Allium (Ornamental Onion)
- River Birch
GARDENING WITH DEER-RESISTANT PLANTS
While gardening can be challenging in areas with high deer pressure, there are a wide variety of plants with beautiful flowers and fragrant foliage that are less susceptible to deer browse also attract bees and butterflies.
Deer are especially hungry in the spring, so consider filling your spring garden with deer-resistant plants or aromatic perennial herbs. Even resistant plants are more vulnerable in the first few weeks after planting; to eliminate temptation consider a strong-smelling deer repellant or plan for additional fencing or barriers for protection.
If you’re experiencing problems with unwanted deer on your property or are looking to plan ahead before it becomes a problem, we recommend talking with our experienced staff. We’ll help you select the right plants for your landscape, plan for additional protection such as the use of fencing or recommend deer repellant products which are available at our Garden Center.