As deer populations have been exploding in many parts of the country, especially in the eastern US, the damage they are inflicting on suburban and rural landscapes has gotten out-of-hand. Gardeners have a few different options to protect their landscapes. And realistically, homeowners will need to utilize a combination of different techniques to gain the upper hand.
Here are three:
- The first and most effective way to protect your yard is to install fencing, but it needs to be at 7 to 8 ft. tall to thwart the deer who can easily clear lower heights. (Special low-visibility fencing mesh helps to minimize its visual impact.)
- Second is the use of a rotating menu of deer repellants sprayed on established plants that are vulnerable to browsing, especially during the fall, winter and early spring months.
- Thirdly, planting plants that are unpalatable to hungry deer is an essential deterrent.
Aromatic Plants and Ornamental Grasses
There are many plants that deer don't favor when they're out looking for a meal. In general, plants with strongly aromatic foliage like Lavender (Lavandula), Rosemary (Rosmarinus), Russian Sage (Perovskia), Sage (Salvia and Artemisia), Lavender Cotton (Santolina), hyssop (Hyssopus) and Hummingbird Mints (Agastache) are not on the deer dessert list. The aromatic oils contained in the plants are bitter and generally unpalatable. Also, many ornamental grasses are generally not heavily browsed as deer prefer to eat the stems, bark and leaves of woody plants.
Companion Planting Turns Them Away
Companion planting of deer resistant plants with other non-resistant plants is also a good strategy. Deer smell the aromatic plants and leave the whole planting alone. Planting lavender alongside and around roses or Clematis vines for example, is an effective and aesthetically pleasing strategy. Or Russian Sage (Perovskia) planted in among and on the outer edge of a xeric planting will keep the deer away as well.
New Deer Resistant Plants for Spring 2015
Look for the no deer symbol throughout the catalog and website plant descriptions for both new and previously offered deer resistant plants.
- 'Cold Hardy White' White African Lily (Agapanthus sp.)
- Pendulous African Lily (Agapanthus inapertus v. pendulus)
- Glowing Embers® Hummingbird Mint (Agastache rupestris)
- Sand Sage (Artemisia filifolia)
- 'Morning Calm' Trumpet Vine (Campsis grandiflora)
- White Jupiter's Beard (Centranthus ruber 'Albus')
- Pink Jupiter's Beard (Centranthus ruber 'Roseus')
- 'Creme Brulee' hybrid Tickseed (Coreopsis hybrid)
- 'Redshift' Hybrid Tickseed (Coreopsis hybrid)
- 'Honey Trumpet' Hybrid Foxglove (Digitalis hybrid)
- 'Takilma Gold' Oregon Sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum)
- Silver Curry Bush (Helichrysum tianshanicum)
- 'Wee One' Dwarf English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Fremont's Mahonia (Mahonia fremontii)
- 'White Cloud' Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
- 'Dwarf Silver' Evening Primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa)
- 'Little Night' European Sage (Salvia sylvestris 'Little Night')
- Giant Stipa Grass (Stipa gigantea)
- Century Plant (Agave species)
- Yucca (Yucca species)
Be sure and apply deer repellent to new transplants. Nursery grown plants don't realize their deer repellent properties until they have been growing in the soil of their new home for a few months to accumulate the bitter tasting oils that make the plants unpalatable.
It's also important to remember that the plants deer don't like to eat will vary somewhat from region to region. So I always recommend checking in with local Agricultural Extension offices and Master Gardener organizations to verify that the plants on your deer resistant "want list" are not being eaten in your area.
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