March 28, 2014

How to Keep Deer from Eating Your Landscape

Deer have adapted so well to suburbia that they have become a nuisance and are destroying our landscape. Yes, they are beautiful and we sometimes enjoy watching them but who can afford to replace expensive landscapes because the deer have eaten it to the ground? One year they ate all my mature Hosta that I had painstakingly moved from my former home. I planted Anise Hyssop around my beds and discovered that the deer hated it! Now I have beautiful hosta and no deer! Below is a list of plants that deer will avoid. It came from my favorite gardener Mike McGroarty and his daughter, Amber with a few additions  from me.

Here’s what we know about deer dining habits:

  • As much as 90% of their water requirements are met by munching on lush greens and tender young, plant growth. 
  • Deer prefer high protein crops such as peas, soybeans, turnips, alfalfa and corn.
  • They like trail mix. Fruit, nuts and seeds are especially important when the green vegetation starts to dwindle. Corn that you may put out for birds attract deer too.
  • There are very few animals that can resist the sweet smell of apples. Deer are one of them.
  • They will happily rip off the bark of maples, aspens and dogwoods. They get water from their bark and it sits heavily in their four-chambered stomachs, keeping them full longer.
  •  Now what do they avoid?
  • Deer are sensitive to smells and most strong scents can drive them away (unless that smell is apples!)
  • Like small children, deer don’t like strange textures in their food. They prefer not to eat things that are fuzzy, prickly or thorny. (They do like roses though. I guess in their case, the thorns are worth the taste of the delicious flower.)
  • Deer avoid plants with milky sap and other plants that will upset their stomachs or give them heartburn.
  • Deer prefer not to walk through sharp ornamental grasses or thorny brush to get to food.
  • Deer avoid the prickly center of zinnia flowers

Okay, now what do they NOT like to eat.
There are a variety of beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees that we can plant in our yard that deer are unlikely to do much damage to. This list is based on information collected from searching educational web sites, retail and wholesale suppliers’ recommendations, public forums and personal experience.
These are divided into two categories: one: plants that deer generally dislike eating and two: plants that deer really dislike eating

Generally Dislike Eating
Bee balm
Buckthorn (Rhamnus)
Calla Lily
Coral Bells (Heuchera)
Echinacea (Coneflower)
English Lavender
Evening Primrose
Lily Turf
Oriental Poppy
Rose of Sharon
Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan)
Sage (Salvia)

Really Dislike Eating
American Holly
Anise Hyssop
Arrowwood Viburnum
Bleeding Heart
Blue Fescue
Butterfly Bush
Common Boxwood
Dwarf Alberta Spruce
Hummingbird Mint
Japanese Blood Grass
Lamb’s Ear
Lily of the Valley
Maiden Grass
most herbs
Poppy (note: Oriental Poppy fit in category one)
Purple Moor Grass
Red Hot Poker
River birch
Russian Olive
Russian Sage
Snap Dragon

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