Lake County Nursery

Deer Resistant Plants

It’s that time of year, I look out my window and see a doe and her fawns coming through the yard.  They are so cute with their spotted coats, long clumsy legs and sparkling eyes.  Whatever mom does, they follow and do the same. Wait, why is she eating my Green Giant Arb, and my Rugosa Roses, aren’t those supposed to be on the “safe list” of plants? Why are they not eating the neighbors burning bushes? I was told were tasty! So, I Google and find that the choices I made were correct, well who wrote that they were safe? Do they really know what they are writing about?

At some point we have all witnessed wildlife foraging on plants that have been listed as “browse resistant”.  As our neighborhoods grow and we encroach on the natural habitats for deer, rabbits and coyotes we hear more and more news stories about people and pets having encounters with our wildlife neighbors.

According to Realtree’s website deer hone into the food source.  Deer will stick close to their food source.  Food varies by region but whatever the mother has foraged her offspring will follow her.  Deer are habitual creatures and will return and teach their offspring to return to the best feeding areas.

So, wait a minute, if the doe ate my Green Giant then all the babies will feast on my deer resistant Arbs? Now you may feel helpless and wonder what we can plant. While there are no “fool proof” answers here are a few opinions we have heard of:

  • Breaking a herd of deer of their browsing requires patients along with physical barriers.
  • The rotation and repeat application of smell and taste repellents like Liquid Fence.
  • Use motion detecting sprinklers or electric shock devices and or loud noises.
  • Plant material may vary in resistance from one landscape to another depending upon the density of deer in the area, time of year, and type of weather. Look at the surrounding areas to see what the deer are browsing on. Plant in other areas and use a different plant palette.

Deer browse will be worse in the winter especially where there is significant accumulation of snowfall. No plant is resistant in that case. Be on the lookout for deer damage in early spring when new, tender plant growth is produced, the deer are starving, and females are trying to rear their young.

Spend some time looking around your yard, learn the habits of your visitors and plan appropriately. If the problem is excessive check with your local Department of Natural Resources for recommendations to deter the browsing. Happy gardening!

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