Plants labeled as “Deer Resistant” is a very misleading term. The label leads one to believe that deer are not interested in eating a particular type of plant or shrub.
The “Deer Resistant” Label
Yea Right! I was burned by believing this label and it made me really mad! Our landscaper removed all the old “non deer resistant” scrubs and replaced them with so called “deer resistant” plants and shrubs. You know what? More than half of the so called “deer resistant” shrubs and plants that were installed have been eaten by hungry deer. I call BULLSH*T on the term “deer resistant”!
Can Plants Really Be “Deer Resistant”?
Over this landscaping process, I have learned that there are no plants that are 100% “deer resistant”, only some that are more deer tolerant. There are plants that deer prefer over others and it varies in different parts of the country. A lot of it has to do with how hungry they are. Most deer will sample everything at least once, decide if they like it or not and return if favorable.
Which Plants and Shrubs Are Really “Deer Resistant”?
We live in the eastern part of the US, specifically in northern Virgina. I am sharing our experience of which plants the deer in our region loved and the ones they didn’t touch and I’m hoping this information may help you to make knowledgable landscaping choices if deer are a problem in your area.
In Front of Home “Landscape Reveal”, I showed the plants, shrubs and flowers that were planted as part of a new landscaping project for the front of our home. I will list out the names of all the items that were planted in our yard and tell you if they Passed or Failed my “Deer Resistant” test.
1.) Ilex meserveae ‘Blue Maid’ Holly Plants – Deer LOVE these Holly Plants! Even though they are labeled as “deer resistant” they are NOT! Every prickly leaf and berry was eaten from our 6 shrubs…down to the stem. EPIC FAIL!
2.) Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ – Another favorite of deer. They feasted on my hydrangeas ferociously. Result – EPIC FAIL!
3.) Rosa Pink Drift Ground Cover Rose – Deer LOVE Roses…period. Even with the thorns, they are a delicacy to hungry deer – A third EPIC FAIL!
For more on these roses, check out Caring for Rose Bushes and Keeping the Deer Away.
4.) Buxus x ‘Green Mound’ – This hybrid boxwood has dark green foliage and forms an attractive mound. And guess what? Deer DID NOT eat these shrubs! Had I known that….I would have planted many more in the area…love them for their appearance and deer resistance. We have a winner folks! PASS!
5.) Syringa Reticulata ‘Ivory Silk’ aka the Japanese Lilac Tree is a pretty blooming tree with fragrant creamy white flowers. Considering this is a tree, it is higher off the ground and not easily accessible to deer. It did well and deserves a PASS on my test.
6.) Daphne Odora ‘Carol Mackie’ plants are compact, rounded shrubs that mature to about 3 feet tall. They bear fragrant, white to light pink, tubular flowers in clusters and their blooming time is generally in early May. This plant is considered poisonous and deer were not interested. That’s a PASS in my book.
7.) Paeonia (Pink) – These beauties produce huge glorious blooms that can be cut and brought indoors. Deer were not interested in these plants and they deserve a Huge Happy Haute Home PASS!
For more information about Peonies, check out When to Plant, Cut and Store Your Peony Flowers for Later Use.
8.) Buxus sempervirens ‘Dee Runk’ is one of the prettiest and most versatile boxwoods I have ever seen. They have a broad-leafed evergreen with a very narrow, upright and pyramidal shape. I personally love these boxwoods but the deer don’t! Definitely a Win Win. PASS!!!
For more information about these boxwood, check out How to Protect Sensitive Boxwoods During the Winter Months.
9.) Prunus Laurocerasus ‘Schip’ aka Cherry laurel or English laurel is a broad, dense, spreading, evergreen shrub. It is native to southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia where plants in the wild may become tree-like, eventually growing 30 feet tall. I like this plant for its height and blooms but so do the deer. While this one was not one of their favorite delicacies, I still have to FAIL this plant for deer resistance.
10.) Rosa Knockout (Yellow) – As I mentioned earlier, I think deer like all rose varieties. So in my opinion, all roses are an EPIC FAIL for deer resistance in my book.
11.) Ilex Crenata ‘Helleri’ – This Japanese Holly is an evergreen with tiny green leaves on a dwarf, stiffly mounding plant. This plant annoys me the most, and is a favorite among hungry deer. EPIC FAIL!
With all that being said, we have to deal with the plants we have and find a way to deter deer from eating them. Thank goodness I found a product that really works at keeping deer away. They are pellets that you put around the base of the plants. After watering thoroughly, the plant takes on a nasty taste making deer no longer interested. I have already used 2 containers of pellets and my plants have started to grow new stems, and buds are reappearing on the roses. I’m super happy with this product.
Another fix to the deer issue is to install a fence around your yard. It’s a good deer barrier. Whether you decide on a tall or shorter one, using wire mesh between the posts is a great deterrent, as deer are capable of wiggling through a 12 inch space. We have a wood fence around our backyard with heavy duty mesh in between the posts. Although deer are capable of jumping over the fence and into the yard – for some reason they don’t. The fence is a great deterrent and I would highly recommend this option if feasible. Our home sits on top of a hill and our front yard isn’t suited for a fence, so for now, I’ll stick with the pellets.
Do you have a deer problem in your area? Drop a comment – see you next time
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