White tail deer are common in the Highlands; we are living in their preferred habitat of mixed forest with open meadows. We all love to see these exquisite creatures until they start nibbling on our most precious plants, usually our favourites. Deer will eat almost anything if they are hungry, such as the first wild leeks of spring but they much prefer a salad buffet of non-native hostas.
Many gardeners have their own deer-proofing ideas ~ from the bar of soap hanging from a tree to a string of aluminum foil plates waving in the breeze. While some of these may work from time to time there are other strategies that may have a longer lasting effect.
These strategies include avoiding the deer favourite plants and choosing plants that deer generally don’t like.
It may seem like deer will eat anything, but in fact they have distinct preferences. The plants listed below are particular favourites of deer and may draw them into your garden. Unfortunately, our favourites are often deer favourites!
Deer Resistant Plants
Deer have an innate sense of determining what foods are good for them and what is not. They know the poisonous plants to avoid but like humans, there are some plants they just don’t like. Some key points when considering plants:
- if a plant makes them sick or is associated with a bad experience they will avoid it
- how hungry they are … plants they don’t like may become much tastier than before
- some individual deer may like plants that most do not
- deer often avoid plants with a strong fragrance, fuzzy or prickly texture or bitter taste ~ often but not always
This Deer Resistant Plant list is composed from the personal observations of several local residents.
• Allium (Allium)
• Lily of the Valley (Converaria majalis)
• Angel’s Trumpet (Datura)
• Lupins (Lupinus)
• Brown/black eyed Susans (Rudbeckia)
• Lilacs (Syringa vulgarism)
• Butterfly weed (Asclepias)
• Lavender (Lavendula)
• Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)
• Daphne (Papyricea)
• Cleome (Cleome)
• Blazing Star (Liatris)
• Cosmos (Cosmos)
• Marigolds (Tagetas)
• Daffodils (Narcissus)
• Monkshood (Aconite)
• Delphinium (Delphinium)
• Nicotiana (Nicotiana)
• Foxglove (Digitalis)
• Peonies (Paeonia Lactiflora)
• Globeflowers (Trollius)
• Rhubarb (Rhubarb)
• Goldenrod (Solidago vigaurea)
• Shasta Daisy (Laucanthemum)
• Iris (Iris)
• Valeriun (Valeriana officinalis)
• Juniper (Juniperas)
• Pines (Pinus)
• Spruce (Picea)
It has been suggested that Deer don’t like fuzzy leaves but they will on occasion eat lambs ears. They also don’t like aromatic plants but have been known to eat Artemesia. Often deer won’t eat prickly plants although they seem to like rosebushes. Deer don’t seem to eat ferns and various grasses and other wild plants which suggests they are good to grow.
These are more suggestions for growing plants that deer would not like to eat.
• cup plant
• forget me not
• obedient plant
• sun drops
It may seem like deer will eat anything, but in fact they have distinct preferences. The plants listed below are particular favourites of deer and may draw them into your garden. Unfortunately our favourites are often deer favourites!
Trees, Shrubs, Vines:
Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.): Both deciduous & evergreen
English Ivy (Hedera helix)
Fir (Abies spp.)
Hybrid Tea Roses (Rosa odorata hybrids)
Japanese Yews (Taxus cuspidata)
Mountain Ash (Sorbus spp.)
Vegetable Garden Plants:
Beans (Phaseolus spp.)
Blackberries, Raspberries (Rubus spp.)
Broccoli, Cauliflower (Brassica spp.)
Lettuce (Lactuca spp.)
Peas (Pisum satirum)
Strawberries (Fragaria spp.)
Sweet Corn (Zea mays)