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Deer in Landscapes and Gardens

Deer-Resistant Plants

In neighborhoods with a lot of deer, boxwood can be heavily browsed.Since the late 1980's many "deer-resistant plant" lists have been published. I'll admit that I've been lulled into a false sense of security more than once by these lists. For example, don't believe for a second that boxwood, at right, is resistant to feeding damage in neighborhoods where deer populations are high!

Unfortunately, research suggests that when deer populations rise above fifty or sixty animals per square mile there are very few plants they won’t eat. And, because they tend not to move too far in search of food, their palate increases as they become hungrier and food sources become more scarce.

Deer also tend to be unpredictable as to what they’ll eat depending upon where they live.

In some neighborhoods where food is plentiful, deer often walk right past landscape beds filled to overflowing with favorite plants. Meanwhile, only a couple of blocks away, the same plants may be gnawed right back to the trunk.

Even in a very rural setting, the brown-tinged arc of yews was heavily browsed by deer!Even more frustrating is that deer may leave plants untouched for several years, then eat them to the ground practically overnight for no apparent reason! This will likely never be the case with yews (Taxus), however, as even in the very rural setting pictured here, they gorge themselves on the brown-tinged arc of this favorite food after crossing a wide-open field!

Because it flowers on new growth, rose of Sharon can recover quickly from deer browse.Given this unpredictable nature, it’s best to rely on plants that can recover relatively quickly, even after being heavily browsed. Just a couple of examples include rose-of-Sharon, at right, and rugosa roses. For additional recommendations, click on the "Sources for More Information" link in the upper right corner of this page.