Deer resistant plants california

Zone 8 Deer Resistant Plants – Are There Plants Deer Hate In Zone 8

Most people have a favorite restaurant, a place that we frequent because we know we will get a good meal and we enjoy the atmosphere. Like humans, deer are creatures of habit and have good memories. When they find a place where they have gotten a good meal and felt safe while feeding, they will keep coming back to that area. If you live in zone 8 and would like to prevent your landscape from becoming the favorite restaurant of local deer, continue reading to learn more about deer resistant plants in zone 8.

About Zone 8 Deer Resistant Plants

There are no plants that are completely deer proof. That being said, there are plants that deer prefer to eat, and there are plants that deer rarely eat. When food and water are scarce, however, desperate deer may eat anything they can find, even if they don’t particularly like it.

In spring and early summer, pregnant and nursing deer require more food and nutrition, so they may eat things that they don’t touch any other time of the year. In general, though, deer prefer to eat in areas where they feel safe and have easy access to, not where they are out in the open and feel exposed.

Oftentimes, these places will be near the edges of woodlands, so they can run for cover if they feel threatened. Deer also like to feed near waterways. Plants on the edges of ponds and streams usually contain more moisture in their foliage.

Are There Plants Deer Hate in Zone 8?

While there are many deer repellents you can purchase and spray to deer proof gardens in zone 8, these products need to be reapplied often and deer may just tolerate the unpleasant scent or taste if they are hungry enough.

Planting zone 8 deer resistant plants can be a better option than spending lots of money on repellant products. While there are no guaranteed zone 8 plants deer won’t eat, there are plants they prefer not to eat. They don’t like plants with strong, pungent odors. They also tend to avoid plants with thick, hairy or prickly stems or foliage. Planting these plants around or near, deer favorites can help deter deer. Below is a list of some plants for deer proof gardens in zone 8.

Zone 8 Deer Resistant Plants

  • Abelia
  • Agastache
  • Amaryllis
  • Amsonia
  • Artemisia
  • Bald Cypress
  • Baptisia
  • Barberry
  • Boxwood
  • Buckeye
  • Butterfly bush
  • Cast Iron Plant
  • Chaste Tree
  • Coneflower
  • Crape myrtle
  • Daffodil
  • Dianthus
  • Dwarf Yaupon
  • False Cypress
  • Fern
  • Firebush
  • Gardenia
  • Gaura
  • Ginkgo
  • Hellebore
  • Japanese Yew
  • Joe Pye Weed
  • Juniper
  • Katsura Tree
  • Kousa Dogwood
  • Lacebark Elm
  • Lantana
  • Magnolia
  • Oleander
  • Ornamental Grasses
  • Ornamental Peppers
  • Palms
  • Pineapple Guava
  • Quince
  • Red Hot Poker
  • Rosemary
  • Salvia
  • Smoke bush
  • Society Garlic
  • Spirea
  • Sweetgum
  • Tea Olive
  • Vinca
  • Wax Begonia
  • Wax Myrtle
  • Weigela
  • Witch Hazel
  • Yucca
  • Zinnia


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There is no surefire way to rid your garden of the possibility of a deer buffet.

As the evening falls, the four-legged rats – *ahem, cough, cough* – majestic creatures leave their shelters and search for food, and many times your garden or landscape looks like a drive-through fast food joint to them.

There are many repellents out there, or home remedies, but many times they don’t work or don’t work well.

While there aren’t many truly deer-resistant plants out there, there are a few varieties that they would rather not eat.

Deer have favorites when it comes to the vegetation on which they like to browse. And they prefer tender new growth and foliage. Young landscape trees that are well fertilized will generally have lots of new, juicy growth, making them a tempting target.

Having said that, consider protecting any new saplings or transplants with temporary fencing to keep curious nibbling wildlife at bay – better safe than sorry!

This isn’t a complete list by any means, but it’s a good start if you are looking for specimen pieces for your landscape, and would rather not see them trampled to death or foraged on mid-season.

Deer dislike the taste and feeling of evergreens. It’s a combination of flavor and the sharp, unpleasant sensation of irritating needles on their tongues that keeps them away.

Other times, the pungent scent of certain plants makes deer think twice before chomping down. In general, if a tree or shrub feels or smells unpleasant to us, it’s doubly offensive to deer.

So, what’s not on the menu? Time to find the perfect option for your USDA Hardiness Zone. On to the list!

1. White Spruce (Picea Glaucus) – Zones 2-6

My first job as an adult was to plant 2,000 white spruce at a nursery in Pennsylvania. I’ll never forget these stiff-needled trees because of it. I’ve always enjoyed the relatively open and airy habit the white spruce develops as it grows.

White Spruce, available from Nature Hills

As long as it’s in a well-drained spot, the white spruce can grow quickly to heights of up to about 45 feet.

The needles have an unpleasant aroma when crushed – so don’t crush the needles!

The white spruce has a relatively narrow growing range, but it’s an exceptional tree that folks in warmer climates will never be able to grow. So jump on it and grow away if you’re located in the right zone!

2. Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea Pungens) – Zones 2-7

A classic addition to the landscape, the Colorado blue spruce provides beautiful and unique conifer colors, a soft and cool blue. A stately height of up to nearly 80 feet and hardiness to most diseases and pests makes the Colorado blue the tree for you.

1.5-2′ Bareroot Colorado Blue Spruce for Windbreaks, available from the Arbor Day Foundation

Unlike many other spruces, the Colorado blue is tolerant of wind. It is somewhat resistant to drought and periods of prolonged moisture, but is less hardy than other members of the Picea genus.

You can occasionally find grafted Colorado blues at nurseries if you want a squat and unique conifer shape in your garden. It can do well in a variety of soil types, just be sure to plant it in a sunny location.

3. Ginkgo (Ginkgo Biloba) – Zones 3-9

A favorite of mine from a point of fascination, the ginkgo is a spectacular grower in the right setting. These trees are incredibly tolerant of pollution and grow just plain cool looking leaves unlike what you’ll see on any other tree out there.

4-5 Feet Bareroot Ginkgo, available from Nature Hills

In the fall, the leaves turn to a golden-yellow and litter the ground with carpets of gold.

These can be planted in almost any condition and thrive. They are even tolerant of road salt, and line at least a few city streets in Philadelphia.

Just make sure you only purchase male trees; the females produce a foul-smelling fruit that would make you rue the day you planted them.

They prefer full sun and grow to a height of about 60 feet. Sandy soil is best, and wherever you plant, it must be well-draining. There’s a tremendous amount of interest in these trees and they’re guaranteed to be a conversation starter in your yard.

4. Red Maple (Acer Rubrum) – Zones 3-9

The red maple is a beautiful ornamental deciduous tree. It grows to be 30-90 feet tall at maturity, and up to 4 feet in diameter.

3-4′ Bareroot Red Maple, available from the Arbor Day Foundation

Flowering from March to May, it also has wonderful red spring and fall color. This tree takes best to full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Just be sure to plant true red cultivars such as ‘Autumn Blaze’ if red autumn leaves are what you’re after – some varieties will actually turn yellow come September or October.

Red maple prefers a moist, acidic soil that is well draining, and it will grow in various types of soil including sand and clay.

Commonly used for pulpwood by the saw timber industry, ink and various dyes were once made from the bark as well.

Care should be taken when mowing and removing weeds around the red maple, as it has thin bark that is susceptible to damage from the blades.

5. River Birch (Betla Nigra) – Zones 3-9

With its paper-like bark, the river birch will grow up to 100 feet tall. It is resilient to flood damage, grows well in moist to wet locations, and is good in tough clay soils.

Multi-Trunk, 4-5′, and 5-6′ River Birch in #3 Containers, available from Nature Hills

Acidic soil is preferable over something that is neutral or more alkaline. Intolerant to shade, remember to give this one a sunny location.

This is a beautiful tree specimen in the yard with its unique paper bark. Game birds also love the birch’s seeds.

6. Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia)- Zones 4-8

A fast growing deciduous conifer (you read that right!), the dawn redwood is the ideal choice if you’ve got room for it.

6″-1′ Bareroot Dawn Redwood, available from the Arbor Day Foundation

While it enjoys moist and rich soils, it does not enjoy standing water as much as its cypress cousins.

The dawn redwood is a stupendous choice for any placement that has room for a 100-foot-tall tree with gorgeous bark, and the best shade of green this side of an emerald.

7. Black Tupelo (Nyssa Sylvatica) – Zones 4-9

Ah, ol’ Tupelo. That great Van Morrison song “Tupelo Honey” always jams through my head when I admire the fall color of the blackgum…

Black tupelo can grow in most soils that aren’t heavy and dense, such as those largely consisting of clay.

1-1.5′ Bareroot Black Tupelo, available from the Arbor Day Foundation

I love trees that offer up surprises, and the black gum’s seemingly random growth rate is exactly the kind of surprise I like. It will eventually reach a height up to about 50 feet, but its growth rate ranges from less than a foot to more than 24 inches a year.

This autumn-time head turner will nab your attention as the summer cools off, but its scale-like bark provides year-round interest to the discerning gardener.

8. Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron Tulipifera) – Zones 4-9

The tulip poplar is a fast-growing shade tree that deer tend to ignore. Consider planting one of these beauties if you’ve got the room for it to really show off. Capable of reaching heights of 100 feet and more, tulip poplars grow at a potential rate of two feet or more a year.

5-6′ Bareroot or #3 Container Tulip Poplar, available from Nature Hills

They provide shade and cover, but are prone to dropping small limbs and branches. They can tolerate a variety of soil types but are not so good with pollution.

An interesting leaf shape is accompanied by prolific flowering in the spring. You can also check out more of our favorite fast growing trees to create shade in this article.

9. American Holly (Ilex Opaca) – Zones 5-9

The American holly can reach heights up to 70 feet, and its prickly leaves are an awesome deer deterrent. These trees prefer acidic soils and grow at a moderate rate, 12 inches a year at most.

American Holly, available from Nature Hills Nursery

Holly prefers soils with good drainage, so plopping it into a wet spot is a no-no.

Birds and other wildlife love the berries, though deer find every bit of this plant unpleasant. For the enterprising gardener with a love for homemade Christmas arrangements, the fruiting berries of a holly can serve as excellent material for a homemade design.

10. American Persimmon (Diospyros Virginiana) – Zones 5-9

Wait a minute, a deer-resistant tree that also provides fruit? What is this, witchcraft?!

5 Diospyros Virginiana Seeds, available on Amazon

No, it’s just the persimmon. I’m not a fan of the small, astringent fruit, but plenty of folks enjoy the taste and it’s great for making jelly once it ripens fully and sweetens up. Better yet, it’s an attractive option that offers food and shelter for more desirable wildlife.

Keep in mind that you’ll probably need both a female and a male tree planted in close proximity in order to pollinate the flowers and set fruit.

Plus, though it prefers moist, sandy soil, it will grow in just about anything, and is tolerant of drought as well.

Even if you don’t want the fruit, this is a beautiful tree worthy of the coveted “ornamental” status while still producing edible fruit. Expect it to reach heights of up to 50 feet.

11. American Sweetgum (Liquidambar Styracifula) – Zones 5-9

American sweetgum grows to be 50-150 feet tall and is a good long-lived addition to most any garden. The leaves are star-shaped with 5 lobes.

2-3′ Bareroot American Sweetgum, available from the Arbor Day Foundation

This tree is shade intolerant and can survive in most any soil.

Flowers bloom from March to May and fruits mature from September to November. For fall foliage, its show of red and yellow is breathtaking.

Sweetgum wood is often used for lumber and plywood, though it can crack easily.

Also known as American storax, hazel pine, or alligatorwood (among other names), sap from this tree and its Asian relatives was sometimes used in ancient medicines. The resin that weeps from cuts made in the bark is also referred to as “liquid amber” or “copalm balsam,” and it has a pleasant smell.

12. Flowering Dogwood (Cornus Florida) – Zones 5-9

The <” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>flowering dogwood is a gorgeous native tree known for its showy display of pink or white blooms in April and May, small red fruits, and leaves that turn shades of scarlet in the fall. It maxes out at heights of 20-40 feet with a short trunk and branching crown.

Cornus Florida ‘Cherokee Chief’ Red Flowering Dogwood, available from Nature Hills

Dogwoods enjoy full sun but they can also do well in partial shade, and they’ll offer the added bonus of attracting birds and pollinators like butterflies to your yard. Tolerant of clay soils, this tree is also notable for its resistance to black walnut juglone toxicity.

13. Pond Cypress (Taxodium Ascendens) – Zones 5-11

Another fast-growing tree, the pond cypress offers a vibrant green foliage that changes to a copper color in the fall, and a pleasing narrow pyramid shape. Reaching 45-60 feet at maturity with a spread of 15-20 feet, it grows naturally along the edge of small bodies of water or in boggy locations and swamps.

Pond Cypress #1 Container, available from Nature Hills Nursery

As its name suggests, it does well in wet areas of the landscape, though it can adjust to drier areas as well. Full sun or partial shade is recommended, and pond cypress will thrive in a variety of soil types. Any dead limbs should of course be removed, but they generally require no pruning.

14. Southern Magnolia (Magnolia Grandiflora) – Zones 7-9

One of the best known trees in the south, the southern magnolia is a fast growing evergreen that will mature at around 60-90 feet.

Magnolia Grandiflora ‘Green Giant,’ available from Nature Hills

It has large saucer-like white flowers that are classically fragrant. Blooms appear from April to June.

Magnolias grow best in rich moist soils and will tolerate some shade. Plant this for a showy, classic addition to your garden.

Letting the leaves fall without raking provides natural ground mulch for the tree.

15. Deodar Cedar (Cedrus Deodara) – Zones 7-11

My travels in the Southwest allowed me to encounter and interact with the deodar cedar. A true cedar, these are also naturally resistant to insects.

Deodar Cedar, available from Nature Hills

It will reach heights of about 50 feet and develops a conical shape. They have a similar habit as the white spruce mentioned above, so if you live in the warmer regions of the United States, you can show off your deodar cedar while us northern folk are tending our white spruce.

It isn’t a fast growing tree, but wildlife loves it and will treat you with regular visits while it fills out and shapes up. Deodar cedars prefer moist soil that is well draining, and they have good drought tolerance.

That’s All For Now – So Get Growing!

We’ve got a nice assortment of deer-resistant trees here for you to consider in your yard. Ready to make your selections?

If you’re looking for deer-resistant flowers, try perennials like the iris and calamint, or plant marigolds (one of my favorites) as a sunny annual.

We’re happy to hear your thoughts and suggestions, so leave us a comment and check back in soon at Gardener’s Path!


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Product photos via the Arbor Day Foundation Store, Nature Hills Nursery, and Seedville. Uncredited photos: . Originally published by Lynne Jaques on January 4th, 2016. Updated on April 12th, 2018 with additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

About Matt Suwak

Matt Suwak was reared by the bear and the bobcat and the coyote of rural Pennsylvania. This upbringing keeps him permanently affixed to the outdoors where most of his personal time is invested in gardening, bird watching, and hiking. He presently resides in Philadelphia and works under the sun as a landscaper and gardener, and by moonlight as a writer. An incessant questioning of “Why?” affords him countless opportunities to ponder the (in)significance of the great and the small. He considers folksy adages priceless treasures and is fueled almost entirely by beer and hot sauce.

13 Garden Plants Deer Will Utterly Destroy

Oh, man! Nothing like a fresh hosta! Photo:

I’m gonna save you some money. I’m gonna save you some time. I’m gonna save you a LOT of heartache, anger, acid reflux, and embarrassing eye twitches. Because if you live where deer cruise the neighborhood at night, there are certain plants you should NEVER stick in the ground lest you find them the next morning on a pleasant little journey down Bambi’s digestive tract. Let’s start with the Big Three.

The Big Three Hostas, daylilies, and roses. To a deer, these are fresh-caught Maine lobster served with melted Irish butter. They will scarf down every one they see, even when not offered a suitable wine pairing. You might think thorny roses would be undesirable, but you don’t know Bambi. To him, a little physical pain is more than worth the emotional trauma he’s going to cause you. Don’t even think of planting these three plants in deer country unless your garden is surrounded by an electric fence the size of the one in “Jurassic Park.” Hope there’s not a power outage.

10 More Dinnertime Favorites Rhododendrons and azaleas (Rhododendron sp.). What’s up with this? Are deer determined to remove all of America’s favorite plants from the landscape? Yeah, pretty much.

Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica). Around the Southern coast and in places with alkaline soil, this broadleaf evergreen is enjoyed as a substitute for acid-loving azaleas. Deer feel the same way. Yum.

Japanese pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira). It grows in many of the same places in the South as Indian hawthorn does. Until deer find it, of course, and then your garden looks so much more open and uncrowded than before. Fist bump!

Pansies and violas (Viola sp.). This one is a no-brainer. If people can put pansy and viola flowers on salads and eat them, deer surely can. FYI, their favorite dressings are Ranch and Thousand Island.

Euonymus (Euonymus sp.). Grumpy ain’t gonna shed any tears over this one. He hates most species of euonymus, particularly the gruesomely garish golden euonymus (E. japonica ‘Aureomarginatus’). If the deer don’t get them, scales and mildew will. Good riddance.

Japanese aucuba (Aucuba japonica). This is one of the better broadleaf evergreen shrubs for shade, especially the popular gold dust plant (A. japonica ‘Variegata’) with bright yellow spots on deep green leaves. Once a deer spots it, though, it’s “sayonara.”

Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.). Did you know that blueberries are among the most potent sources of health-giving antioxidants? Deer certainly do, which is why they will gobble down every one, along with the foliage too. How kind of you to plant them.

Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata). Among the most common evergreen shrubs for foundation planting and hedges in cold-winter areas, Japanese yew bears soft, red fruits that people find quite toxic. Deer, of course, do not. They relish the leaves as well. Here’s looking at yew, kid.

Tulips (Tulipa sp.). OK, since I just told you to forget about planting pansies and violas for spring color, you think you’ll plant sweeps of tulips instead. Wait until the herd sweeps through your yard! Plant daffodils instead. Deer won’t touch them.

American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis). Rows of these pyramidal, needleleaf evergreens are often planted in the burbs to screen out ugly neighbors. Deer, however, think all humans should be friends and that can’t happen with arborvitaes in the way. Good dining makes good neighbors!

Deer-Resistant Plants Now that you know what not to plant, you undoubtedly yearn for information on which plants Bambi won’t eat. And you shall find it on the next Grumpy Gardener appearing Wednesday, June 15. Toodles.

An Unexpected and Beautiful Benefit of Violets

Q. What ate all of my wild violets? All that’s left are the veins and the stems!

    —Connie, up in Erie, PA

A. Well, this sure is a change of pace! Generally when we see ‘wild violets’ in a subject line, the email is more like this one:

Q. We moved into a new house two years ago, and the back lawn was more weeds than grass. Despite the two large silver maples that shade the lawn, I have most of the weeds under control, but have not been able to control the spread of violets. It seems that the only way to control them would be to kill everything and start over or dig them all up (an impossibility due to their sheer numbers). I tried mowing at a low setting to lop off the flower buds, but that goes against the normal advice of not scalping the lawn. It also didn’t get rid of them!

    —Rolf in Alexandria, VA

A.That’s much more like the typical violet vituperation we receive! Unfortunately, Rolf is taking the all-too typical homeowner stance of “I’m going to grow a lawn there no matter how little chance I have of success!” The basic truth is that even the most shade-tolerant grass needs four hours of sun a day; and even if it does get that much, Rolf will still have to contend with the intense competition for water and nutrients from those giant maple roots. Growing grass under trees is a tough job.

And his ‘low-mow brainstorm’ may have actually been more like lawn-a-cide. Grasses in shady areas need to be cut even higher than we typically recommend—at three and a half inches—to have enough surface area to try and collect the minimum amount of sunlight they need to survive. Scalping—especially right before the season of summer heat stress arrives—will probably just turn the area into a dust bowl or a mud puddle, depending on what kind of weather he gets.

But it’s not surprising that wild violets are the last of the ‘weeds’ resisting his removal efforts. Despite their fragile look and ephemeral beauty, they are tough plants, and they are highly resistant to chemical herbicides. The only sane way to remove them would be to try one of the new non-toxic herbicides whose active ingredient is iron, or to dig up and replant the clumps somewhere they’re wanted.

But even that might not give Rolf a shot at a nice lawn. His shady, ‘tree-infested’ conditions make him the best candidate for a woodland garden I’ve seen in a long time. Instead of fighting a battle with Nature that he’ll never win, he should install some native plants that do well in dry shade in that area and let the violets be. Or, if he does somehow have a decent looking lawn, mow even higher—at closer to four inches—and enjoy the violets during their brief appearance early in the season. After all, they’re beautiful in the Spring…

…And edible! They look great on top of salad greens. And, like their cultivated cousins, the pansies and violas, they contain large amounts of rutin—a nutrient that strengthens capillary walls and helps reverse the visible effects of varicose and spider veins over time.

But of course, that’s if you get to eat them! It’s way past time to return to our main topic and try and help poor Connie eat some of hers! I have to admit that I didn’t have a clue, so we picked Connie’s email for one of our ‘posts of the day’ at the You Bet Your Garden Facebook page last month. To get the responses started, I suggested that ‘the usual suspects’ were herbivores like deer, groundhogs, rabbits and such.

…Despite the fact that Connie had said ‘all that’s left are the veins and the stems’, and those big plant eaters aren’t nearly so choosy—everything would be eaten. An insect perhaps? But what kind of an insect? I’ve encouraged the growth of wild violets all over our property, and I never saw flowers that were ‘stripped’ the way she described.

Luckily for Connie, our Legion of Facebook Friends stepped in. The first comment was from someone named Mary Martin (loved you in Peter Pan!), who was squarely on Rolf’s side. She posted: “I know people who would welcome anything that eats violets!”

But then Colleen Beatty of Delaware chimed in with the observation that “a number of caterpillars require violets as food. Keep an eye out for the butterflies they become; and if they are the ‘culprit’, maybe you should plant more violets next year.”

Well, Coleen was A-Plus, Gold Star right! I did a little searching and found a great article on violets as host plants at the website of the American Violet Society. Originally published as an article in the Summer 2000 issue of The Violet Gazette, it explains that violets function as food for the caterpillars that go on to become Fritillaries; large, colorful butterflies that look a lot like monarchs to the untrained eye.

Elizabeth Scott, the author of the article, explains that towards the end of summer, the adult butterflies lay their eggs in areas where they somehow know that violets will appear the next Spring. The eggs hatch, tiny little caterpillars emerge, spend the winter under leaf litter, and then start to nibble away when the violets begin to flower—feeding from below, so people rarely see them.

But you can’t miss the big butterflies they turn into! And even though I never noticed any violence to our violets, we do have a lot of Fritillaries flitting around the garden right now. Looks like we have yet another reason to love our wild violets!


By Stacey Guerin, Special to the BDN • February 10, 2012 3:08 pm

Winter is tough on deer. With their usual food sources under snow, they forage for sustenance wherever they can find it. In Maine, many good-hearted residents leave food outside — table scraps, potato peelings and the like — with the intent of providing a little help to the deer who inhabit their areas. According to the experts, however, that’s a bad idea.

For the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, the panel on which I serve, the condition of Maine’s deer population has become a priority issue. As guides, hunters and wildlife officials can tell you, our deer herd is in trouble. In southern Maine, deer are still abundant, but it’s a far different story in more rural areas. The white-tailed deer population is collapsing in the western mountains, the northern forests and the Down East counties.

Rebuilding Maine’s deer herd has become a major focus of the committee’s work, not least because deer are vital to our heritage and economy. Deer hunting and viewing typically generate at least $200 million a year in economic activity, drawing money to guide and outfitting services, hunting camps, motels, restaurants and the like.

Maine has traditionally been famous for its big bucks, but as this No. 1 game animal becomes scarce, hunters will find Maine less desirable. Already, in fact, nonresident hunting license buyers have dropped from a high of 41,538 in 2002 to 27,898 in 2010. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has begun to ponder how fish and wildlife conservation will be funded if hunting revenues continue to decline.

Deer are disappearing for a variety of reasons. The past few winters have been particularly severe, increasing deer mortality. (This winter, so far, has been an exception.) Illegal hunting also remains a problem, along with declining winter habitat and human encroachment. Vehicle collisions, moreover, kill roughly 2,500 deer every year in Maine, although in 1998 the toll reached 4,500. Another major threat is posed by natural predators, particularly Eastern coyotes and, to a lesser extent, bears.

The decline in the deer population is so serious that legislators last year ordered four reports on how best to handle the problem. Those reports, recently filed with the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, address predator control, deer habitat, landowner outreach and related topics. One report deals specifically with the need to prepare a winter feeding strategy for deer and recommends an “annual media blitz” to inform the public about the risks and dangers associated with “supplemental feeding.”

According to this study, conducted by the DIF&W, supplemental feeding of deer has increased over the last two decades. It states that in many areas, supplemental feeding contributes to winter mortality of deer, and “there is good biological justification to ban feeding of deer.”

The DIF&W’s website features a section on feeding deer that begins with the admonition, “The best option is to not feed deer at all.” If you do, however, the department provides some useful tips.

• Locate deer feeding sites in or near deer wintering areas and at least a half-mile from plowed roads to minimize road-kill losses.

• Distribute feed in many locations every day to reduce competition among deer. Remember that concentrating deer in small areas can create a feeding ground for predators.

• Proper feed is natural browse items such as dogwood, birch or witch hobble. Oats or acorns can be given as diet supplements. In winter, the microorganisms within the deer stomach are different from the microorganisms the rest of the year. This change allows deer to ingest a diet of woody browse and turn the high-fiber diet into protein.

• Do not feed hay, corn, kitchen scraps, potatoes, lettuce trimmings or any animal proteins from animals rendered into feed. Deer may actually starve when fed supplemental foods during winter if they have a full belly of indigestible foods. Many deer have starved to death with stomachs packed full of hay.

• Once a feeding program has begun, do not interrupt or terminate it until spring greenery emerges.

Just because deer will eat food provided by humans does not mean it is good for them.

In most cases, supplemental feeding does not reduce deer losses during winter and in some cases can actually increase losses. If you currently feed deer or are considering starting, I urge you to please weigh the consequences carefully.

Rep. Stacey Guerin, R-Glenburn, serves on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee


The deer population has increased in many areas in recent years, because we have eliminated most of their predators (wolves and cougars), but hunting is not allowed in residential areas. As the suburbs creep out further into rural areas more and more gardeners are having problems with deer. These large mammals can be a serious problem, not only because they can eat a lot of plants in a short time, but because they will keep coming back for more.


The 100% guaranteed way to keep deer out of the garden is with a fence, but to be effective it must be strong and high. If you are only fencing your vegetable garden it shouldn’t be too difficult or expensive.

The cheapest commercial deer fencing is the eight foot tall plastic mesh. The 8 ft high metal wire deer fencing is stronger and more durable, but also more expensive.

Opaque fencing will also work and doesn’t have to be as tall as a transparent one, because deer (rather sensibly) won’t jump over something if they can’t see where they will land.

A double fence is also effective, if the two fences are far enough apart that they can’t clear both at once, but narrow enough that they can’t jump them singly. A variation on this is one fence, with a parallel strand of wire at the right distance out from it.


An aggressive dog will keep deer out of the garden, so long as it is free to roam and is there nearly all the time.

Image: Terry Spivey, USDA Forest Service,

Reduce Garden Damage by Growing Deer Resistant Plants

Last Updated: June 10, 2015 | by Mike McGroarty

After all the hard work that goes into making a beautiful garden, nothing makes a gardener’s blood boil more than waking up to find that hungry deer have decimated several prized plants. There are various methods to deter deer from destroying your garden, and one way is to choose deer resistant plants for the garden.

Notice that I am not suggesting deer proof plants. There really is no such thing as a deer proof plant. When deer are hungry enough, they will eat anything, even a plant they would normally consider to be a second rate meal. Deer resistant plants are generally avoided by deer, although there are always going to be some deer who didn’t read the rules and will eat some of these plants regardless of their palatability.

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Deer are the most likely to view your garden as their own personal cafeteria in the spring when plants are the most tender and juicy. If you are very lucky, you may have to protect your plants only for the first few weeks of the growing season. If this is the case in your garden, temporary fencing around vulnerable plants may be the answer. But in areas with a high deer population, or if some of those deer who don’t read the rules live nearby, you may have to resort to gardening with deer resistant plants.

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Deer tend to be like some little children. They don’t like to feel odd textures in their mouths. Plants that are prickly or fuzzy can be considered as deer resistant plants because in many cases the deer will avoid eating them. Aromatic plants are also avoided by deer, along with plants that have a milky sap and those that give deer an upset tummy.

Deer seem to especially enjoy munching on hostas and daylilies, but if the hostas and daylilies are surrounded by deer resistant plants, the deer may bypass these plants in search of a meal that is easier to reach. If you have plants in your garden that seem to be particularly desirable to deer, consider protecting them with a border of deer resistant plants. A low-growing groundcover planting of bugleweed (Ajuga), sweet woodruff (Galium) or aromatic thyme planted around the hostas and lilies may prevent deer from reaching your prized plants.

Woodland plants complement hostas quite well and many woodland plants are disdained by hungry deer. Deer avoid eating ferns, bleeding hearts, lily of the valley, harebells and members of the geranium family, including woodland Cranesbill along with the scented geraniums that have become popular garden plants. Protect plants that are deer delicacies by surrounding them with deer resistant plants.

Herbs make a fine addition to an ornamental garden. In addition to being useful in the kitchen, many herbs are also beautiful and they are disliked by deer. Most members of the mint family are avoided by deer, including anise hyssop (Agastache). Other deer resistant herbs include rosemary, dill, ornamental chives and other alliums, wormwood (Artemisia), lavender, lemon balm (Melissa), bee balm (Monarda), sage and oregano. There are several varieties of oregano, both culinary and ornamental, all which are avoided by deer. Catnip is another deer resistant plant, but it does attract cats and may cause another garden problem altogether.

Other aromatic plants that deer usually avoid include salvia, yarrow (Achillea), dead nettles (Lamium) and Russian sage.

If a plant is prickly in any way, deer will tend to avoid eating it. One exception to this rule is roses. Apparently roses are a delicacy for deer and they will put up with a few thorns so they can munch on the blossoms. But many other thorny or prickly plants are deer resistant.

Ornamental grasses can be considered deer resistant plants. Deer don’t seem to like the rough texture and cutting edges of ornamental grasses. Flowers that have spiky centers are also avoided. These would include coneflowers (Echinacea), zinnias, gaillardia, pincushion flowers (Scabiosa), Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia), and globe thistle (Echinops). The spiky texture of sea pinks (thrift) makes them undesirable to most deer.

Deer will happily devour many shrubs, but there are some that are deer resistant. If browsing deer are a problem in your garden, consider planting thorny barberry, Northern bayberry (Myrica) or evergreen boxwood. Daphne is also avoided by deer, along with privet, smokebush, spice bush (Lindera) and members of the spruce family.

Plants that have a fuzzy texture tend to be deer resistant. Fuzzy deer resistant plants include lamb’s ears, cockscomb (Celosia), rose campion (Lychnis), poppies, astilbe, Joe Pye Weed, goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) and mulleins.

Other deer resistant plants have a milky sap that deer dislike. Plants with distasteful sap include butterfly weed (Asclepias), spurge (Euphorbia) and peonies.

If a particular food tends to give you heartburn you most often avoid eating that food. Likewise, deer will avoid eating plants that make them sick or upsets their stomach. Deer can’t go to the pharmacy to buy antacids, so they will avoid eating plants that give them indigestion. These plants include morning glories, daffodils and narcissus, snowdrops, foxgloves, hellebores, elephant ears (Taro), monkshood (Aconitum) and the peonies that were mentioned earlier.

When planning or adding to a garden in an area with a lot of deer traffic, keep in mind that deer like a diet of bland, juicy plants. If the plant is smelly, spiky, fuzzy or sappy, chances are the deer won’t like it nearly as much as you do. It is possible to have a beautiful garden, despite the deer, so long as you work with deer resistant plants.

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