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Oh, Deer! What to Do About Bambi?

When the deer are this cute, it's hard to imagine they'll grow up to be Gardeners Enemy Number 1.

When the deer are this cute, it’s hard to imagine they’ll grow up to be Gardeners Enemy Number 1.

This is a bit off topic for a lawn care blog, but I get so many people asking me this question, I thought I’d pass along my best shot an at answer.

If you think the issue of deer in the garden is getting worse lately, it’s not your imagination. Since most natural predators of deer have declined in populations, and most of us don’t hunt for our food, deer populations have grown to more than 25 million in the United States. That’s up from 10 million only 20 years ago, and up from less than one half million in the early 1900s.

The issue is especially difficult in suburban communities that combine what’s left of the forest with tidy back yards. Deer view those developed spaces — complete with tulips, yews, arborvitaes, hostas etc. — as an open invitation to a buffet. And even if they’re not invited, they’ll do everything they can to crash the party.

All sorts of companies sell myriad products to repel deer. Some are organic; others are not. Some seem to work sometimes; others appear to be a mere gimmick.

My approach is more oriented toward plants than products. In other words, I try to grow stuff deer don’t generally like to eat. That, of course, comes with the caveat that deer will eat just about anything if they are hungry enough.

What follows is my personal list of plants that seem relatively deer proof (most of these are cold hardy plants that may, or may not, grow in warmer climates). If you have other deer-proof species, send along the suggestions.

Allegheny Spurge – Pachysandra procumbens

Andromeda – Pieris (all)

Andromeda polifolia – Bog-Rosemary

Aucuba japonica – Goldust Plant

Bayberry – Myrica pensylvanica

Beautyberry – Callicarpa (all)

Boxwood – Buxus (all)

Broom – Cytisus (all)

Broom – Genista (all)

Buddleja davidii – Butterfly Bush

Callicarpa (all) – Beautyberry

Callistemon citrinus – Bottlebrush

Camellia all – Camellia

Caragana arborescens – Siberian Peashrub

Cephalotaxus harringtonia – Japanese Plum Yew

Cherry Laurel – Prunus laurocerasus

Cornelian Cherry Dogwood – Cornus mas

Cornus alba – Red Twigged Dogwood

Crape Myrtle – Lagerstroemia (all)

Creeping Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis

Cytisus (all) – Broom

Daphne (all) – Mezereon

Dog-Hobble – Leucothoe (all)

Genista (all) – Broom

Goldust Plant – Aucuba japonica

Hamamelis (all) – Witch Hazel

Heath – Erica carnea

Heather – Calluna vulgaris

Heavenly Bamboo – Nandina domestica

Hollywood Juniper – Juniperus chinensis

Honeysuckle – Lonicera (all)

Hypericum (all) – St. John’s Wort

Ilex glabra – Inkberry Holly

Japanese Plum Yew – Cephalotaxus harringtonia

Juniperus chinensis – Hollywood Juniper

Juniperus procumbins – Japanese Garden Juniper

Juniperus scopulorum – Moonglow Juniper

Kalmia latifolia – Mountain Laurel

Lagerstroemia (all) – Crape Myrtle

Leucothoe (all) – Dog-Hobble

Lilac – Syringa (all)

Lily Of The Valley Shrub – Pieris japonica

Lindera benzoin – Spice Bush

Mahonia aquifolium – Oregon Grapeholly

Mezereon – Daphne (all)

Microbiota decussata – Russian Cypress

Moonglow Juniper – Juniperus scopulorum

Mountain Laurel – Kalmia latifolia

Mountain Peris – Pieris floribunda

Myrica cerifera – Wax Myrtle

Myrica pensylvanica – Bayberry

Nandina domestica – Heavenly Bamboo

Nerium oleander – Oleander

Picea pungens – Spruce

Pieris (all) – Andromeda

Potentilla fruticosa – Shrubby Cinquefoil

Privet – Ligustrum (all)

Prunus laurocerasus – Cherry Laurel

Red Twigged Dogwood – Cornus alba

Rosa rugosa – Rugosa Rose

Rosmarinus officinalis – Creeping Rosemary

Russian Cypress – Microbiota decussata

Shrubby Cinquefoil – Potentilla fruticosa

Siberian Peashrub – Caragana arborescens

Spiraea – Spiraea bumalda

St. John’s Wort – Hypericum (all)

Viburnum (all) – Viburnum

Wax Myrtle – Myrica cerifera

Weigela – Weigela florida

Witch Hazel – Hamamelis (all)

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
  • Paul

    if you are looking for more detailed information on USDA plant hardiness zones, there is an interactive USDA plant hardiness zone map at which will allow you to locate your USDA zone based on zipcode or city.

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