Oh, dear! You’ve got a problem. 

If you have unwelcome guests eating your garden plants you’re not along. Deer pose a serious problem to gardeners. While they are majestic and beautiful, they can be a real pain. Deer are often more difficult to deter than small bugs and critters because they can get through most barriers. 

The best way to eliminate deer is simply to plant the types of things they don’t typically like. There are certain deer-resistant plants, flowers, and shrubs to keep the herds away from your garden. It’s important to plan your strategy based on what they like, and what they don’t. 

Which plants do deer like?

Deer love narrow-leafed evergreens, especially arborvitae and fir, and show a particular preference for hostas, daylilies, and English ivy. Interestingly, several participants in a study in Rhode Island noted that deer seem to prefer plants that have been fertilized to those that haven’t.

Which plants do deer dislike?

It’s important to note that nothing is really off the table for Deer. If they are hungry enough, they’ll eat almost any kind of garden plant and shrub. Nevertheless, there are some plants that deer (usually) do not like to eat. 

·     Poisonous Plants: Not surprisingly, deer tend to stay away from poisonous plants including daffodils, foxgloves, and poppies. These make great options for a flower garden (keeping kids and pets in mind). 

·     Fragrant Plants: Deer also avoid fragrant plants with strong scents. Gardeners can use this to their advantage by planting herbs such as sages or lavender in their gardens. Flowers like peonies and bearded irises, are also “stinky” to deer. 

·     Textured Plants:Plants with a prickly texture are also not a deer’s first preference. If you feel small hairs on the leaves – whether bristly or soft – it’s probably a good plant choice for deer proof gardens. Lambs ear and other unique textures such as spirea or roses are usually passed over by deer. 

  • Grasses: Surprisingly, deer don’t like grass. They would much prefer flowering plants and woody shoots. The deer can’t survive on grasses alone, so they are naturally drawn to other options. 

It’s important to understand that each herd eats differently, so gardening with deer requires patience and experimentation in your area. Below is a list of plants that are generally considered to be deer resistant. 

  • Yarrow
  • Monkshood
  • Ageratum
  • Onion
  • Allegheny Serviceberry
  • Snapdragon
  • Horseradish
  • Tarragon
  • Silver Mound
  • Jack-in-the-pulpit
  • Wild Ginger
  • Asparagus
  • Aster
  • Astilbe
  • Barberry
  • Borage
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Common Boxwood
  • Lenten or Christmas Rose
  • Cactus
  • Pot Marigold
  • Blue Mist Shrub
  • Dusty Miller
  • Bachelor’s Buttons
  • Spider Flower
  • Autumn Crocus
  • Larkspur
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Threadleaf Coreopsis
  • Corydalis
  • Broom
  • Daphne
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Common Foxglove
  • Wood Fern
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Small Globe Thistle
  • Bluebell
  • Winer Aconite
  • Snow-on-the-Mountain
  • Spurge
  • Blue Fescue
  • Crown Imperial, Fritilia
  • Snowdrops
  • Baby’s Breath
  • Strawflower
  • Heliotrope
  • Hyssop
  • American Holly
  • Winterberry Holly
  • Iris
  • Juniper
  • Lantana
  • Lavender
  • Statice
  • Sweet Alyssum
  • Horehound
  • Lemon Balm
  • Mint
  • Bee Balm
  • Forget-Me-Not
  • Bayberry
  • Daffodil
  • Catmint
  • Basil
  • Fern
  • Pachysandra
  • Peony
  • Poppy
  • Russian Sage
  • Dwarf Alberta Spruce
  • Anise
  • Pine
  • Cinquefoil
  • Buttercup
  • Fragrant Sumac
  • Rosemary
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Rue
  • Willows
  • Garden Sage
  • Lamb’s Ear
  • Common Lilac
  • Common Tansy
  • Germander
  • Thyme
  • Yucca
  • Arrowwood Viburnum
  • Zinnia

When are deer nearby?

The heaviest browsing occurs from October through February, when food is naturally scarce. During this time, it is important to utilize as many deer resistant strategies you can. 

Deer resistant garden plans should complement the existing landscape and enhance the area. We want our gardens to be protected without looking like Fort Knox. In addition to altering your planting, there are a few other tips and tricks that seem to work well. You’ll likely need to combine two or more strategies to find something that works in your area. 

·     Deer Fencing:The only way to truly keep deer from eating your plants is to fence them out. However, because deer can easily jump an 8-foot fence, building one to keep them out it easier said than done. Putting up a proper deer fence is time consuming and expensive. You may want to consider options like a rock barrier that the deer can’t walk over, cattle guards which can be quite useful, or even electric fence option but not all areas allow them. 

·     Deer Repellants: Using these topicals religiously can make a huge difference in how many deer venture on to your property. There are dozens of effective deer repellents on the market, but they all work a little differently. You have to be very diligent about using them. Most deer repellents should be applied at least once a week without fail. The best deer repellents and deterrents stick to the leaves and use a combination of odor and teste to deter the deer. The consistency of using them is more important than which product you choose. They all work fairly well if you are diligent in applying it. 

·     Scare them away: One of the best ways to deter deer is simply to scare them away. Deer are naturally skittish, so any type of movement is a good one. One of the most effective methods is motion-activated sprinklers. Your garden gets a little extra watering and the deer are scared off to the next garden they can find. 

If the best defense is a good offense, then it makes sense to start by choosing deer-resistant plants. Just about every state has a university cooperative extension service that can provide a list of plants that are generally less popular with the local deer.  Once you have chosen your plants, keep other deer deterrent options on hand in case you need a little extra help managing those pesky pests. 

Deer resistant plants are so helpful with you are trying to keep your yard and landscape beautiful!
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