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Are There Really Deer Proof Plants?

We’re frequently asked if there are really any deer proof plants. The answer is no. When a deer is really hungry, it will eat any plant that’s available. However, deer are no different from other animals. They have their favorites, others that are OK and those that will do in a pinch. So, there are deer resistant plants.

Our landscape designers have lists of plants that deer favor and those they aren’t so fond of. There are also lists on the internet for the DIYer. Be careful of the one you select. There are deer in all areas of the country and their preferred diet varies with area.
One public list I found that is very complete was published by the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Warren County. The site lists woody ornamental, annual/biennial and perennial plants as rarely, occasionally, seldom and frequently damaged by deer.

Only one woody ornamental is listed under rarely damaged. That is spruce. No doubt the sharp needles scratch on the way down. Twenty-three annuals/biennials are listed and include such favorites as marigold, dalia and wax begonia. There are 81 perennials on the list. Including bleeding hearts, daffodils, hellebores and purple coneflowers.

The site lists 19 woody ornamentals that deer seldom damage and171 that they occasionally damage and another 19 that they frequently damage. Among herbaceous plants, they occasionally damage parsley and sunflowers and frequently damage impatiens and hollyhocks. Seven species made the list of occasionally damaged perennials and nine the frequently damaged list.

There are folk remedies like putting human hair on a plant to repel deer. Fences may be a deterrent but you need one at least eight feet tall. That’s why plants that deer don’t like are my most effective enticement for them to go elsewhere for dinner.

Click Here If you’d like to check out the complete list on the Warren County Cooperative Extension website.

One comment on “Are There Really Deer Proof Plants?

  1. Goodness! Rhododendrons had been growing on the farm since 1974, but no damage from deer had ever been observed. They certainly eat camellias though, so we know they come through. The deer are obviously too satisfied with what they get from the surrounding forest to bother with something that they do not like, although they like camellias.
    Strangely, in the landscapes at work, deer bother nothing. No one know why, but they do not come into the area.

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