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Deer-Resistant Plants: Home

Photo of a deer in a suburban front yard; courtesy of Flickr cc/Ryan Claussen
photo courtesy of Flickr cc/Ryan Claussen
 

Deer are lovely, graceful creatures best admired from a distance, but definitely not appreciated in the backyard, munching on one's shrubbery and flowerbeds. Unfortunately, as their natural habitat disappears they encroach upon our suburban and exurban neighborhoods, seeking the food proffered by our plantings. Some municipalities may have programs for thinning the deer population, but we as individuals can take steps to minimize the damage posed by this wildlife.

First and foremost, fencing is the best line of defense. It can enclose groupings of plantings, or it can be erected around the property where the deer gain entry. The problem with the first tactic is that it results in unattractively "caged" plantings. Of course, one wishes to view an unencumbered landscape, so the second option is really the way to go. There are many different kinds of deer fencing and it is worth getting professional advice and installation. Fencing could even comprise two parallel fences, with a space in between. For additional assistance contact your local cooperative extension office.(You can find your local cooperative extension by using this map on the USDA website).

Secondly, there are deer repellents which are marketed as effective against browsing. These are generally sprayed on plants. It may be beneficial to switch between products with different active ingredients during the growing season.

And lastly, you can plant deer-resistant plants, keeping in mind that no plant is deer-proof and that you will be limited in your choices. A list compiled by the Plant Information staff follows. You can also find information on the Rutgers website (use the link in the column to the right). This list has been drawn up with input from local gardening professionals and indicates plants that are rarely damaged or seldom severely damaged. In general they are plants that deer despise.

Annuals

Botanical Name

Common Name

Ageratum spp.
ageratum, floss flower
Antirrhinum spp.
snapdragon
Calendula spp.
pot marigold
Catharanthus spp.
annual vinca
Centaurea cineraria
dusty miller
Cleome spp.
spider plant
Heliotropium spp.
heliotrope
Lantana spp.
lantana
Mirabilis spp.
four o'clocks
Nicotiana spp.
flowering tobacco
Salvia spp.
salvia
Tagetes spp.
French marigold
Tropaeolum spp.
nasturtium
Verbena spp.
verbena
Zinnia spp.
zinnia

Perennials

Botanical Name

Common Name

Aconitum spp.
monkshood
Actaea spp.
bugbane
Achillea spp.
yarrow
Agastache spp.
anise hyssop
Alchemilla spp.
lady's mantle
Amsonia spp.
blue star
Anemone x hybrid
Japanese anemone
Aquilegia spp.
columbine
Astilbe spp.
astilbe
Baptisia spp.
false blue indigo
Dicentra spp.
bleeding hearts
Digitalis spp.
foxglove
Euphorbia spp.
spurge
ferns
 
Geranium spp.
hardy geranium
grasses
 
Helleborus spp.
hellebores
Iris sibirica
Siberian iris
Lavandula spp.
lavender
Ligularia spp.
ligularia
Monarda spp.
bee balm
Nepeta spp.
cat mint
Paeonia spp.
peony
Perovskia spp.
Russian sage
Salvia spp.
sage
Stachys spp.
lamb's ear

Ornamental Grasses

Botanical Name

Common Name

Fargesia rufa
clumping bamboo
Festuca glauca
blue fescue
Hakonechloa macra
golden Hakone grass
Helictotrichon sempervirens
blue oat grass
Imperata cylindrica
blood grass
Juncus effusus
common rush
Leymus arenarius glaucus
blue lyme grass
Miscanthus sinensis
maiden grass
Molinia caerulea
purple moor grass
Ophiopogon japonicus
mondo grass
Panicum virgatum
switchgrass
Pennisetum alopecuroides
fountain grass
Pennisetum orientale
oriental fountain grass
Phalaris aruninaceae
reed canary grass
Phyllostachys aurea
golden bamboo
Schizachyrium scoparium
little blue grass
Scirpus lacustris
sedge
Sorghastrum nutans
indiangrass

Shrubs

Botanical Name

Common Name

Abelia x grandiflora
glossy abelia
Buddleia spp.
butterfly bush
Buxus sempervirens
common boxwood
Calycanthus floridus
Carolina allspice or common sweetshrub
Caryopteris x clandonensis
blue mist shrub
Clethra
summersweet
Cornus sericea
red osier dogwood
Cotinus coggygria
smokebush
Cotoneaster spp.
cotoneaster
Enkianthus campanulatus
redvein enkianthus
Forsythia
forsythia
Ilex glabra
inkberry
Ilex verticillata
winterberry
Itea virginica
Virginia sweetspire
Kolkwitzia amabilis
beautybush
Leucothoe fontanesiana
drooping leucothoe
Pieris japonica
Japanese andromeda
Spiraea spp.
spiraea
Syringa vullgaris
common lilac
Viburnum spp.
viburnum

Trees

Botanical Name

Common Name

Acer griseum
paperbark maple
Acer palmatum
Japanese maple
Acer rubrum
red maple
Acer saccharum
sugar maple
Aesculus parviflora
bottlebrush buckeye
Amelanchier
Allegheny serviceberry
Betula nigra 'Heritage'
heritage maple
Cercidiphyllum japonicum
Katsura tree
Cornus kousa
kousa dogwood
Fagus sylvatica
European beech
Ilex opaca
American holly
Liriodendron tulipifera
tuliptree
Picea abies
Norway spruce
Picea glauca
white spruce
Picea pungens
Colorado blue spruce
Pinus nigra
Austrian pine
Pseudotsuga menziesii
Douglas fir
Quercus rubra
red oak

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