I see them almost every morning in the back yard, waiting for me to leave so they can continue to wander to the front yard and nibble around the Liquid Fence deer resistant spray I applied to my plants. Yes…that’s right, around the spray. If I covered half the leaf with the spray, they eat the other half. I guess I can’t complain that the spray doesn’t work. What the heck is going on? It’s not even winter yet. I bought two different deer repellers: Liquid Fence and Deer Scram. The jury is not completely in yet. We haven’t had a lot of continued damage, but there definitely has been interest. I know the cause is a combination of things. My neighbor had the tops of the flowers in his front garden removed by the teeth of the deer pack and he also has a whole slew of freshly fallen nuts on the ground in his backyard. We are definitely on the deer route.
I brought my neighbor’s attention to his damaged flowers yesterday, so maybe he will get some repellent and we will fight these mongrels together – as brothers. Also, I did some research, and the fact that I bought most of the tastiest plants, shrubs and flowers out there doesn’t help. So what to do? I dug a little deeper and here is what I found.
A Great Article on Deer Resistant Plants
It’s No Wonder That Deer Invade our yards and gardens to find nourishment. More than five million mule deer and 20 million white-tailed deer roam a continually shrinking habitat in North America.
Just how much your ornamentals are bothered by deer depends on many factors: the number of deer in your area, prolonged periods of heavy snow cover in winter, a summer drought or the loss of nearby browsing areas. These and other factors combine to limit the availability of wild plants.
However, there are several things you can do to prevent your prized plantings from being eaten by deer. Try deterring the deer either by hanging bars of soap or bags of hair around your yard; the smell is thought to keep deer away. Unfortunately, such deterrents are often limited in their effectiveness. Hunger may drive a deer to endure an unpleasant smell. Also, many gardeners find the soap and bags of hair a bit too unsightly.
There are several commercial repellent sprays available for deterring deer, but they do not afford 100 percent protection. To make the sprays as effective as possible, reapply them after every rainfall. In a rainy spring, or if you have a yard full of plants, that can be a lot of spraying.
By far the most effective way to protect your plantings from deer is with a fence. Deer are high jumpers, however, so to be effective the fence should be at least 8 feet tall. The cost of such a fence is no small consideration. Some municipalities have ordinances restricting the height of fences, and a few areas even ban fencing altogether. As for me, I like to invite wildlife in, not fence it out.
So what do you do? The best alternative is to learn to live with deer by planting your garden with them in mind. Take into consideration the following guidelines:
1) White-tailed deer are known to eat more than 600 kinds of plants; mule deer eat at least 780. Some of their favorite foods are yew, hemlock, willow, arrowwood, bearberry, red cedar, spindle tree, Japanese holly, American arborvitae, evergreen azaleas, phlox, crocus, hosta, tulips and violets. By avoiding these and other susceptible plants, you can minimize the amount of damage deer do to your landscape.
2) Gardeners know that many plants do better when they are well fertilized and grown in rich soil. But this same practice also makes the plants tastier and more nourishing to deer than wild plants. To help discourage deer, put your plants on a diet. Try growing more native plants, many of which will readily grow in poorer soils.
3) Don’t count on the thorns or spines of plants to protect them. Deer often eat thorny plants such as roses, firethorn and Russian olive.
4) No plant can be considered completely deer-proof. A ravenous deer will eat just about anything, including the somewhat toxic foliage of mountain laurel. They may also, for whatever reason, start feeding on plants that in previous years had gone untouched.
5) There are certain types of plants that deer normally won’t touch. They usually turn up their noses at toxic and medicinal plants, as well as those with sticky or hairy leaves and stems. They also dislike plants with fragrant foliage, especially those that smell lemony or minty.
6) Some plant families also seem to be more deer-resistant than others. Many of the plants in the mint (Labiatae), daisy (Compositae), poppy (Papaveraceae), buttercup (Ranunculaceae), snapdragon (Scrophulariaceae) and barberry (Berberidaceae) families often go untouched by deer.
7) Mule deer, for the most part, have tastes similar to those of white-tails, but there are some marked differences. For example, forsythia, mountain pine and Scotch pine are virtually ignored by white-tails, but mule deer find them very palatable.
8) Deer are creatures of habit, returning to the same area to feed day after day. Since it’s hard for deer to break this habit once it’s been established, it may take them a while to realize that any new deer-resistant plants in your yard are not on their menu. So be patient.
9) You don’t have to eliminate a plant just because deer like it. Quite often, a plant that was browsed during the winter will recover. Just like any pruning you might do, winter browsing promotes vigorous new spring growth, which continues on into summer. Plants that are especially well-adapted to recovering from “deer pruning” include the native serviceberry, chokecherry, hawthorn, currant, sumac, elder and rose. Evergreen conifers, however, are often permanently damaged.
Whether you choose to landscape your yard with plants that withstand being browsed, or opt for those that tend to be shunned, you can learn to live with deer.
The plants in this list can be used as a starting point for choosing your ornamentals. But be aware of the fact that deer in one part of the country may eat what the same kind of deer in another part of the country won’t touch. Don’t be afraid to experment with plants not on the list.
Trees and Shrubs
American holly (Ilex opaca) Barberry (Berberis species) Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) Blue spruce (Picea pungens) Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) Bridal wreath (Spiraea species) Butterfly bush (Buddleia species) Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) Japanese andromeda (Pieris japonica) Magnolia (Magnolia species) Pear (Pyrus communis) Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) Smoke tree (Cotinus species) Wax myrtle (Myrica species) Weeping birch (Betula pendula)
Annuals and Perennials
Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum) Astilbe (Astilbe species) Barrenwort (Epimedium species) Bleeding heart (Dicentra species) Buttercup (Ranunculus species) Columbine (Aquilegia species) Lavender (Lavandula species) Marigold (Targetes species) Mint (Mentha species) Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale) Rue anemone (Anemonella thalictroides) Sage (Salvia species) Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) Speedwell (Veronica species) Zinnia (Zinnia species)
Bulb and Climbers
Allium (Allium species) Clemantis (Clemantis species) Daffodil (Narcissus species) Iris (Iris species) Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) Tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium) Wisteria (Wisteria species)
I hope this helps. If anyone has any stories or more ideas, please don’t hesitate to share.