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Plants Not Favored by Deer

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Few things are more frustrating to a gardener than having deer dine on much-cherished plants. Even if you are prepared to tolerate deer damage because you think these animals are picturesque, take heed. Deer are creatures of habit. Once they perceive your garden as a safe and delectable haven, they will visit regularly.

An increase in white-tailed deer populations and a decrease in their natural habitats have set up a situation in home landscapes near woodlands where palatable ornamental plants become alternative food sources for deer. When winter approaches and food sources become less available, feeding on leaves, stems, and buds of woody plants becomes more apparent. Male deer also cause damage by rutting or rubbing their antlers along the stems or trunks of trees and stripping off bark.

Deer should be discouraged immediately when they first appear. Young trees and shrubs can suffer permanent damage from deer browsing. Deer damage is usually identified by the torn or jagged appearance of branches or twigs compared to the clean-cut feeding damage caused by rabbits and squirrels.

There are several ways to discourage deer from viewing your yard or garden as a source of food and refuge. While fencing, repellents, and predators may work, what you plant can also help keep these herbivores away.

Fencing. You can physically restrict deer by enclosing your entire yard or garden in fencing at least 6 feet tall. If you only have a few trees or shrubs to protect, you can put barrier fencing around these individual plants. Cost and aesthetics are the major drawbacks to this option.

Repellents. Homemade and commercial repellents are common control methods to discourage deer, but their efficacy and success are based on several factors. Most have a bitter taste or foul odor, which discourages deer from feeding. Snow and rainfall can dissipate some materials so reapplication is frequently needed. Some repellents simply do not weather well even without rain. If food sources are scarce, deer may simply ignore the repellents, despite the taste or odor.

Predators. A large, noisy dog is a good deer deterrent. If you don’t have a dog, you can hang shiny tape or strips from branches, or place inflated balls, whirligigs, or other moving objects in the yard to startle deer with sudden movement. You’ll have to rotate these frequently, however, or deer will soon realize that they are not in danger from these objects.

Deer-resistant plants. If they are starving and food is scarce enough, deer will eat almost anything. There are a number of plants, however, that deer don’t find especially palatable. Using these plants in your landscape is often the most cost-effective, least time-consuming, and most aesthetically pleasing solution.

Common Name (Scientific Name)

Bald-cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Beech (Fagus spp.)
Birch (Betula spp.)
Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Catalpa (Catalpa spp.)
Chestnut (Castanea spp.)
Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
Giant arborvitae (Thuja plicata)
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
Honey-locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)
Ironwood (Ostrya virginiana)
Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata)
Larch (Larix spp.)
Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
Smoke tree (Cotinus spp.)
Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)
Sweet-gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Spruce (Picea spp.)
Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Common Name (Scientific Name)

Boxwood (Buxus spp.)
Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus)
Coralberry “Snowberry” (Symphoricarpos spp.)
Forsythia (Forsythia spp.)
Panicled hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)
Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica)
Leatherwood (Dirca palustris)
Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
Oregon grape-holly (Mahonia aquifolium)
Smoke bush (Cotinus spp.)
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
Spirea (Spiraea spp.)
Witch hazel (Hamamelis spp.)

Common Name (Scientific Name)

Barren strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides)
Bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia)
Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii)
Epimedium (Epimedium spp.)
Ferns (numerous species)
Hens and chicks (Sempervivum spp.)
Juniper (Juniperus spp.)
Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis)
Lamium (Lamium spp.)
Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis)
Lily turf (Liriope spicata)
Lungwort (Pulmonaria spp.)
Mosses (numerous species)
Pachysandra (Pachysandra spp.)
Potentilla (Potentilla spp.)
Sedum (Sedum spp.)
Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum)
Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum)
Vinca (Vinca minor)
Violet (Viola spp.)
Wild ginger (Asarum canadense)
Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp.)

Common Name (Scientific Name)

Akebia (Akebia quinata)
Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens)
Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)
Clematis (Clematis spp.)
Grape (Vitis coignetiae)
Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.)
Silver lace vine (Polygonum aubertii)
Trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans)
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis)




Common Name (Scientific Name)

Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum)
Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)
Forget-me-not (Myosotis spp.)
Four o’clock (Mirabilis jalapa)
Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens)
Larkspur (Delphinium spp.)
Lobelia (Lobelia spp.)
Marigold (Tagetes spp.)
Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)
Mimulus (Mimulus spp.)
Moonflower (Ipomoea spp.)
Morning glory (Ipomoea spp.)
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
Petunia (Petunia spp.)
Poppy (Papaver spp.)
Salvia/sage (Salvia spp.)
Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)
Stocks (Matthiola spp.)
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
Sweet William (Dianthus spp.)

Common Name (Scientific Name)

Anemone (Anemone spp.)
Artemisia (Artemisia spp.)
Astilbe (Astilbe spp.)
Bee balm (Monarda spp.)
Bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia)
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Columbine (Aquilegia spp.)
Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.)
Cranesbill (Geranium spp.)
Fleabane daisy (Erigeron x hybridus)
Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia)
Gentian (Gentiana spp.)
Geum (Geum spp.)
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
Hellebore (Helleborus nigra)
Hens and chicks (Sempervivum spp.)
Hibiscus (Hibiscus spp.)
Iris (Iris spp.)
Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium caeruleum)
Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)
Meadow rue (Thalictrum spp.)
Meadowsweet (Filipendula spp.)
Monkshood (Aconitum spp.)
Peony (Paeonia spp.)
Phlox (Phlox divaricata)
Pinks (Dianthus spp.)
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Rock cress (Arabis caucasica)
Rose campion (Lychnis coronaria)
Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Salvia/sage (Salvia spp.)
Sedum (Sedum spp.)
Shasta daisy (Chrysanthemum)
Snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum)
Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale)
Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum)
Speedwell (Veronica spp.)
Toadflax (Linaria spp.)
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Violet (Viola spp.)
Yarrow (Achillea spp.)


Common Name (Scientific Name)

Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
Artemisia (Artemisia absinthum)
Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Borage (Borago officinalis)
Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii)
Chamomile (Matricaria spp.)
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
Comfrey (Symphytum x rubrum)
Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys)
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
Lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
Mint (Mentha spp.)
Mullein (Verbascum spp.)
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Parsley (Petroselinum spp.)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rue (Ruta graveolens)
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Savory (Satureja montana)
Tansy (Tanacetum coccineum)
Thyme (Thymus spp.)

Common Name (Scientific Name)

Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnalis)
Crown imperial (Fritillaria imperialis)
Daffodil (Narcissus spp.)
Glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa luciliae)
Grape hyacinth (Muscari spp.)
Ornamental onion (Allium spp.)
Siberian scilla (Scilla sibirica)
Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)
Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)