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Gardening with Deer

Gardening in rural areas has its downsides.  For many gardeners, one of those disadvantages can be a resident herd of hungry deer. Lists of “Deer Resistant Plants” are numerous and popular.  Unfortunately, deer do not read these lists, and thus do not temper their appetites accordingly. As most gardeners find, there is no such thing as a completely deer-proof plant, and patterns of deer predation can vary dramatically from one area to another, and from one season to another.  While deer in Apple Valley Estates may avoid a plant, deer in Phoenix Lake Estates may munch it down as though it were a favored delicacy. The gardener must also remember that deer are “browsers”.  Deer want to taste anything new in the salad bar. A herd of 50 deer, each taking a sample bite, can do a lot of damage.  Deer resistance in plants is usually based on an assortment of characteristics such as taste, succulence (or lack thereof) and odor.  Almost all of these characteristics can be altered by the habits of the gardener. If a plant relies upon aromatic resins to bestow resistance upon it, the gardener can unwittingly dilute the plants resistance by giving it lots of water.  Plants grown hard are generally more resistant than plants with lots of new, soft, lush growth. New plantings are especially vulnerable, and new plants can literally ripped out of the ground by a curious deer on a taste test mission. Gardeners in deer prone areas may do well to protect new plantings with wire cages.

As a further guide to experimentation, many species of plants from the following genera have been found to be deer resistant by some gardeners. This list is meant only as guide to experimentation, and carries absolutely no guarantee that the deer will not munch your plant to the ground.  We are not able to test for deer resistance as our own gardens are surrounded by fences, (an environmentally incorrect solution that was necessitated by our resident huskies.)

Please do let us know your own experiences with deer tolerance and certain plants.

  • Acantholimon
  • Achillea
  • Cerastium
  • Digitalis
  • Erigeron
  • Erodium
  • Globularia
  • Heuchera
  • Iberis
  • Lamium
  • Lavendula
  • Limonium
  • Lupinus
  • Nepata
  • Origanum
  • Papaver
  • Pennisetum
  • Penstemon
  • Phlox
  • Rosmarinus
  • Salvia
  • Santolina
  • Stachys
  • Tagetes
  • Teucrium
  • Thyme
  • Veronica
  • Zauschneria
  • Zizaphora
  • Zinnias