High populations and disappearing woodland habitat are forcing deer to seek food in our backyards and gardens. One of the easiest ways to minimize deer damage in your yard is to landscape with plants deer prefer not to eat. While no plant is deer proof, there are many good landscape plants for this area that deer find less palatable — a solution that is both effective and relatively low-cost, once you know which plants to choose.
Deer-resistant trees and shrubs
Like goats, deer are browsers who feed on a variety of plants, including trees and shrubs. Large trees tend to be spared simply because they are too tall for deer to reach all but the lowest branches, leaving small trees and shrubs to bear the brunt of the damage, especially in winter. There are several trees and shrubs that have withstood the test of time and proven to be deer resistant. This does not mean deer will not eat them if it comes down to a choice between eating something they don’t like and starving to death. But most of the time these are varieties deer will pass over in favor of other plants.
Deer-resistant small and medium size trees include river birch, crape myrtle,
In shady sites try Japanese plum yew, available in both low growing and upright varieties, or dwarf palmetto or needle palm, both of which are hardy shrub forming palms. In fact, palms as a group are rarely damaged by deer. Other hardy palms for our area include the trunk forming Chinese windmill palm, which appreciates a little shade, and the stouter, more sun tolerant palmetto palm.
Unpalatable perennials and grasses
Though flowers are a deer favorite, there are several perennials they find less tasty and are less likely to damage. These include drought tolerant, sun loving perennials like the silver leaved ‘Powis Castle’ artemisia, colorful lantana, spring blooming false indigo (Baptisia) and Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrichtii), summer blooming purple coneflowers, cestrum and gaura, and summer and fall flowering perennial salvias like Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), Texas sage (Salvia greggii), and ‘Black and Blue’ anise sage (Salvia guaranitica).
On the whole, deer generally avoid eating ornamental grasses, which is great for gardeners since this group includes many tough, attractive and low maintenance options. There are lots of ornamental grasses available. Some of the most dependable for our area include the many varieties of Miscanthus, muhly grass, panic grass (Panicum virgatum) and hardy fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuriodes).
Another group of plants deer dislike is ferns, which are great for moist shady sites. Reliable perennial ferns for
Many of the plants mentioned here will be featured at the Pender Extension Master Gardener Spring Plant Sale, April 11, 12 and 13 at the
A list of deer resistant plants recommended for southeastern NC is available from Pender County Cooperative Extension online at pender.ces.ncsu.edu (click on the lawn & garden link and scroll down to the section titled ‘Recommended Plants’).
For more gardening advice visit ces.ncsu.edu, where you can post your questions to be answered through the ‘Ask an Expert’ link, or contact your local extension office. If you live in