The bucks stop here: When deer dearly love your plants

  • Published: Friday, April 19, 2019

KIRKSVILLE, Mo. – Deer might be lovely animals, but not when grazing on freshly sprung tulips or hostas. And tree lovers fear antler rubs on trees and shrubs.

“Unfortunately, there are few simple solutions to prevent deer damage without eliminating deer completely,” says University of Missouri Extension horticulturist Jennifer Schutter. But take heart, deer and plant lovers. The two can coexist with an integrated pest management approach.

This includes monitoring deer pressure and using fencing, repellents and deer-resistant plants.

Deer seek plants rich in protein, especially in spring and summer, to help them recover from winter. They like moist, tender plant parts such as buds, new leaves and immature stems.

Schutter offers these tips to avoid deer in your landscape:

- Be flexible when choosing plants. Like people, deer have different tastes in food. Look for plants labeled as “deer-resistant.”

- Choose plants with rough textures. Deer do not like the texture of rough, hairy, prickly and spiny plants. Deer also dislike the texture of some viburnums, oakleaf hydrangea, lamb’s ear, prickly leaves or stems like hollies or barberries.

-Choose plants with strong scents. Deer also turn up their noses at heavily-scented plants. Their stems or leaves contain aromatic compounds. Lavender, boxwood and marigold are considered aromatic plants.

- Choose bitter-tasting plants. Plants with a bitter or alkaloid taste include yarrow.

- Interplant deer favorites with undesirables. (See sidebar for a detailed list.)

The MU Extension publication “Controlling Deer Damage in Missouri” (MP685) is available online at extension.missouri.edu/p/mp685. For more information about deer from MU Extension, visit bit.ly/2YKqjht.

Sidebar: Deer deterrence

No plant is guaranteed to deter deer, but gardeners report success with the following species:

Perennials

- Astilbe
- Bee Balm
- Bleeding heart
- Columbine
- Coralbells
- Evergreen candytuft
- Forget-me-not
- Foxglove
- Hardy geranium
- Hellebore
- Hibiscus
- Iris
- Monkshood
- Oriental poppy
- Peony
- Perennial alyssum
- Perennial flax
- Pinks
- Salvia
- Yarrow
- Yucca

Annuals and biennials

- Ageratum
- Dusty miller
- French marigold
- Lantana
- Larkspur
- Lobelia
- Morning glory
- Moonflower
- Nasturtium ornamental pepper
- Snapdragon
- Stock
- Wax begonia
- Zinnia

Groundcovers

- Bugleweed (ajuga)
- Bearberry
- Bergenia
- Dead nettle
- Ferns
- Indian strawberry
- Junipers
- Lady's mantle
- Lily of the valley
- Mosses
- Pachysandra
- Potentilla
- Sedum
- Snow-in-summer
- Vinca minor

Herbs

Observers rate many herbs as deer-resistant because of their strong aromas and flavors.
- Angelica
- Anise hyssop
- Basil
- Catmint
- Chamomile
- Chives
- Comfrey
- Dill
- Fennel
- Lamb's ears
- Lavender
- Lavender cotton
- Lemon balm
- Mint
- Mullein
- Oregano
- Parsley
- Rosemary
- Sage
- Thyme

Bulbs

- Autumn crocus
- Crocus
- Daffodil, jonquil, narcissus
- Crown imperial
- Glory-of-the-snow
- Grape hyacinth
- Siberian squill
- Snowdrop
- Snowflake
- Striped squill
- Surprise lily
- Various flowering onions
- Winter aconite

Perennial vines

- Akebia
- Bittersweet
- Grape
- Honeysuckle
- Silver lace vine

Trees

These trees appear to be rarely damaged, seldom severely damaged or deer-resistant. Protect small seedlings with tree shelters.
- American holly
- Beech
- Birch: European, white, paper
- Catalpa
- Corkscrew willow
- Dogwood: red osier, kousa
- Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
- English hawthorn
- Ginkgo
- Hickory
- Japanese flowering cherry
- Locust: black, honey
- Mimosa
- Pine: Austrian, mugo, red, Scots, shortleaf (for southern Missouri only)
- Common sassafras
- Smoketree
- Sourwood
- Spruce: Colorado blue, Norway, white
- Sweetgum
- Sycamore
- Tulip tree

Shrubs

- Barberry
- Bayberry
- Beautybush
- Butterfly bush
- Chinese holly
- Chinese junipers (blue and green)
- Common boxwood
- Common lilac
- Drooping leucothoe
- Forsythia
- Inkberry
- Japanese kerria
- Oregon grape holly

Writer: Linda Geist

Media Contact

Jennifer Schutter
660-665-9866

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