Deer Resistant Plants
Deer Resistant Plants > Deer-Resistant Gardening
By: Common Name | Scientific Name | Growth HabitWhite-tailed deer are graceful and elegant animals, but to home landscapers and gardeners they can be destructive pests and annoyances, causing extensive damage to landscape and garden plants.
Deer are often the cause of destruction to a home's garden, trees, and ornamental shrubs. This damage has become more prevalent due to increasing deer population, real estate development, and human population shifting from cities to suburban living. Restrictions on hunting and a lack of natural predators due to increased population density have exacerbated this problem.
Deer browsing damage is usually the most pronounced from late fall through early spring, and the most severe in winters that are very cold and have snow cover for long periods. The larger the deer population in a given area, the more competition there will be for food. This may cause deer to range outside of their usual feeding areas in search of sustenance. Deer may eat plants that they normally would avoid, including newly planted saplings and tree bark.
Although one of the best insurances against deer damage is a fence, fences that are high enough to prevent deer from jumping over are often banned due to local ordinances. The more aesthetically pleasing alternative is to landscape with deer-resistant plants. There are several reasons a plant can be deer resistant. Many of them are poisonous at some point during their growth stage; some of the most deer resistant plants are poisonous at all times. Tastes, preferences, and digestibility also vary with plant age, growth stage, and season. When planning landscapes with trees, perennials and ornamental shrubs, it is important to research their palatability to deer in order to avoid browsing damage when the cold season strikes.
No plant is entirely deer resistant. However, some plants are less attractive to deer than others. Deer-Resistant-Plants.com features several tables of plants that agricultural and horticultural researchers have found to be less susceptible to deer damage than average. We have synthesized these tables from information produced by academic, government, and private researchers located in different parts of North America. Our primary academic sources include New Jersey-based Rutgers University and West Virginia University. Additional deer resistant plant information sources include the Conservation Commission of Missouri, Country Mile Gardens, and the authors' personal gardening and landscaping experience. Many of the plant names and growth habits have been verified using the USDA Plants Database and the Royal Horticultural Society Plant Selector.
Our plant tables list approximately six hundred (600) plants that one or more researchers has found to resist the ravages of deer. Some scientific plant names on these tables identify only the genus while others identify both the genus and the species. This is due to the mode in which various researchers have presented their findings. In addition, many plants have climate-dependent growth patterns. For instance, a cold-climate shrub may grow taller in warmer climates and a cold-climate annual may grow as a shrub in warmer climates. Lastly, some exotic plants may grow so well as to be considered invasive in certain climates. So do consider this factor as well when you design your landscape or garden.
Because deer have fickle appetites, gardeners and landscapers may have to consider other methods besides plant selection to keep deer at bay. Visit our deer-resistant gardening and landscaping ideas page for additional deer control techniques and strategies.
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