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Ask Mr Burger – The deer in my neighborhood seem to be eating everything in sight. What can I plant that the deer won’t eat and how can I keep them out of my garden?

Ask Mr. Burger – The deer in my neighborhood seem to be eating everything in sight. What can I plant that the deer won’t eat and how can I keep them out of my garden?

Its easy to get discouraged when you spend good hard earned money and spend precious time to beautify your home and garden with plants and flowers to wake up the next morning and find that the deer have decided that the prior night was a good time to graze at the “salad bar” you just planted for them. So frustrating! There really is no simple guaranteed answer unless your dog stands guard outdoor each night, you live on an island surrounded by piranha or have your yard “locked down” like Fort Knox; but there are some preventative measures that one can take to help reduce the possibility of deer from eating your plants.

First of all, there are some commercial granular products and foliar sprays available like “Deer Scram”, “Liquid Fence” and “Deer Off” that can be placed on and around your plants to help deter deer from eating those protected plants. But these products must be continually reapplied per the manufacturer’s directions and especially after any period of rain to maintain their effectiveness. There is also a technical/mechanical product, “Scarecrow”, that is a motion activated water sprayer that can be used to keep deer away. Just don’t forget to turn the water on!

Another option is to plant plants and flowers that deer don’t tend to like. Following is a list of deer resistant plants and comments taken from “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” website.

First, what is deer candy? Deer love narrow-leaf evergreens, especially arborvitae and fir, and show a preference for hostas, daylilies, and English ivy, according to researchers in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, who have studied white tailed deer damage to nurseries in the Northeast and report heaviest browsing from October through February. And several growers who participated in the study noted that deer seem to prefer plants that have been fertilized.

Which plants do deer dislike? Not surprisingly, deer stay away from poisonous plants! Daffodils, foxgloves, and poppies are common flowers that have a toxicity that deer avoid. Deer also turn their noses up at fragrant plants with strong scents. Herbs such as sages, ornamental salvias, lavenders, peonies, and bearded irises are just “stinky” to deer. Would you want to eat something prickly? Neither do deer (unless they’re desperate). Plants such as lamb’s ear are not on their preferred menu. Our favorite deer-resistant perennials are bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis). They are popular with us, but not deer!

Keeping in mind that the first rule in deer proofing is that there really are no deer-proof plants! Here is a chart however with some plants that deer rarely or seldom severely damage:

Top Deer-Resistant Plants

Botanical name                       Common name
Achillea filipendulina            Yarrow
Aconitum sp.                           Monkshood
Ageratum houstonianum     Ageratum
Allium sp.                                Onion
Amelanchier laevis                Allegheny Serviceberry
Antirrhinum majus               Snapdragon
Armoracia rusticana             Horseradish
Artemisia dracunculus         Tarragon
Artemisia sp.                          Silver Mound
Arisaema triphylum             Jack-in-the-pulpit
Asarum canadense               Wild Ginger
Asparagus officinalis            Asparagus
Aster sp.                                  Aster
Astilbe sp.                               Astilbe
Berberis sp.                            Barberry
Borage officinalis                  Borage
Buddleia sp.                           Butterfly Bush
Buxus sempervirens             Common Boxwood
Helleborus sp.                        Lenten or Christmas Rose
Cactaceae sp.                          Cactus
Calendula sp.                          Pot Marigold
Caryopteris clandonensis    Blue Mist Shrub
Centaurea cineraria              Dusty Miller
Centaurea cyanus                  Bacherlor’s Buttons
Cleome sp.                              Spider Flower
Colchicum sp.                        Autumn Crocus
Consolida ambigua               Larkspur
Convallaris majalis               Lily of the Valley
Coreopsis verticillata           Threadleaf Coreopsis
Corydalis sp.                         Corydalis
Cytisus sp.                             Broom
Daphne sp.                            Daphne
Dicentra spectabilis             Bleeding Heart
Digitalis purpurea                Common Foxglove
Dryopteris marginalis         Wood Fern
Echinacea purpurea            Purple Coneflower
Echinops ritro                      Small Globe Thistle
Endymion sp.                       Bluebell
Eranthus hyemalis              Winer Aconite
Euphorbia marginata         Snow-on-the-Mountain
Euphorbia sp.                      Spurge
Festuca glauca                     Blue Fescue
Fritilaria imperialis            Crown Imperial, Fritilia
Galanthus nivalis                Snowdrops
Gypsophila sp.                     Baby’s Breath
Helichrysum                         Strawflower
Heliorope arborescens       Heliotrope
Hyssopus officinalis           Hyssop
Ilex opaca                             American Holly
Ilex verticillata                    Winterberry Holly
Iris sp.                                   Iris
Juniperus                             Juniper
Lantana sp.                          Lantana
Lavandula sp.                      Lavender
Limonium latifolium         Statice
Lobularia maritima           Sweet Alyssum
Marrubium vulgare           Horehound
Melissa officinalis              Lemon Balm
Mentha sp.                          Mint
Monarda didyma               Beebalm
Myosotis sp.                        Forget-Me-Not
Myrica pensylvanica         Bayberry
Narcissus sp.                      Daffodil
Nepeta sp.                           Catmint
Ocimum basilicum            Basil
Osmunda                             Fern
Pachysandra terminalis    Pachysandra
Paeonia sp.                          Peony
Papaver                                Poppy
Perovskio atriplicifolia     Russian Sage
Picea glauca ‘Conica’         Dwarf Alberta Spruce
Pimpinalla anisum            Anise
Pinus                                    Pine
Potentilla                            Cinquefoil
Ranunculus sp.                  Buttercup
Rhus aromatica                 Fragrant Sumac
Rosmarinus officinalis     Rosemary
Rudbeckia sp.                    Black-Eyed Susan
Ruta sp.                              Rue
Salix                                    Willows
Salvia officinalis               Garden Sage
Stachys byzantina             Lamb’s Ear
Syringa vulgaris                Common Lilac
Tanacetum vulgare          Common Tansy
Teucrium chamaedrys    Germander
Thumus sp.                       Thyme
Yucca                                  Yucca
Viburnum dentatum       Arrowwood Viburnum
Zinnia                                 Zinnia

List courtesy of “Outwitting Deer” by Bill Adler Jr.