The Rosedale Plantsman's Guide to Plants Usually not Damaged by Deer

Plants Usually Not Damaged By Deer

Trees

Deciduous - Many deciduous trees generally are not eaten or bothered by deer. However, deer may rub antlers against trunks and branches of many younger trees in fall, particularly Crabapples, Lindens, Japanese Tree Lilacs, Magnolias and others (protecting these with tree wrapping, wire mesh cages or small post "corrals"). During late summer or in winter, deer may browse buds up to about 5' above ground, especially of Crabapples, Lindens, Japanese Maples, Magnolias and With Hazel. The varieties tolerate this fairly well, with new spring growth coming from dormant (under-the-bark) buds and undamaged higher buds.

Evergreens - White Pines and Norway Spruce are usually not eaten, except in areas with especially active deer population such as Bedford, Katonah, and South Salem. White Spruce, Colorado Spruce and Colorado Blue Spruce are not generally eaten. Hemlocks, Arborvitaes and especially Yews (Taxus) are vulnerable and usually need winter protection by means of wrapping or fencing.

Shrubs

Deciduous - Many are not eaten or bothered. However, in late summer, winters, and occasionally at other times, deer do browse buds, leaves, and tender stems of Deciduous Azaleas, Hydrangeas, Quince, Burning Bush, Corkbark, Witch Hazel, Viburnum varieties, Roses and occasionally other varieties.

Usually safe species include:

  • Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)
  • Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
  • Lilac (Syringa)
  • Mockorange (Philadelphus)
  • Privet (Ligustrum)*
  • Spireas
  • Sweet Pepperbush*
  • Weigela

*Indicates species whose buds may be browsed in areas with large, active deer populations.

Evergreens - 

Nearly always safe:

  • Japanese Andromeda - all varieties
  • American Holly (Ilex opaca)
  • Boxwood - all varieties

Usually safe:

  • William Penn Barberry
  • Dragon Lady Holly
  • Dwarf Spruce Varieties
  • Sweet Box (Sarcococca)

Vulnerable - in areas with large active deer populations:

  • Azalea - all evergreen varieties
  • Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis varieties)
  • Cotoneaster - all evergreen varieties
  • Holly - most evergreen varieties except American Holly (Ilex opaca)
  • Mountain Laurel - all evergreen varieties
  • Rhododendron - all evergreen varieties
  • Most other broadleaf evergreens

Especially vulnerable (these are the first species to be damaged):

  • Arborvitae - all Eastern (Thuja occidentalis) varieties. Western Arborvitae (T. plicata)
  • Euonymus - all evergreen varieties
  • Yew (Taxus) - all varieties

Perennials

Usually safe (* indicates safest varieties)

  • Achillea (Yarrow)*
  • Aconitum (Monkshood)*
  • Alchemilla species (Lady's Mantle)
  • Allium*
  • Artemesia (Wormwood)*
  • Aruncus (Goatsbeard)
  • Astilbe (Goatsbeard)*
  • Baptisia*
  • Brunnera (Bugloss)*
  • Coreopsis*
  • Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)*
  • Digitalis (Foxglove)*
  • Epimedium*
  • Euphorbia (Spurge)*
  • Ferns - all varieties*
  • Grasses - most varieties*
  • Helleborus (Lenten Rose)*
  • Herbs - most varieties, especailly mints*
  • Iris - all varieties*
  • Lavendula (lavender)*
  • Ligularia - all varieties*
  • Monarda (Bee Balm)*
  • Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum species)*
  • Nepeta (Catmint)*
  • Peonies*
  • Pulmonaria*
  • Russian Sage (Perovskia)*
  • Salvia (Sage)*
  • Sempervirens (Hens & Chicks) - all varieties
  • Thistle (Echinops)*

Especially vulnerable in areas with active deer populations:

  • Alcea (Hollyhock)
  • Campanula (Bellflower) - all varieties
  • Delphinium
  • Hemerocallis (Daylily) - all varieties
  • Hosta (Funkia) - all varieties
  • Lillium (Hybrid Lily) - all varieties
  • Phlox
  • Platycodon (Balloon Flower)

Flowering Bulbs

Usually Safe (highly resistant) species include:

  • Alliums (All)
  • Chiniodoxa
  • Daffodils (Narcissus) - all types
  • Galanthus (Snowdrops)

Reasonably Safe (in areas without active deer populations):

  • Camassia
  • Scilla (Bluebell) species

Most Vulnerable:

  • Hyacinth
  • Tulip

Protecting Vulnerable Plantings

Netting, burlapping or fencing provide the best protection against winter browsing of evergreens.

Taste Repellents are helpful when the deer population is light and the repellent is applied early and regularly throughout the growing season. Deer are creatures of habit and once they are accustomed to feeding on our plantings, protection is difficult. Taste Repellents include Bobbex and Deer Out.

Scent Repellents can also deter (but not prevent) browsing, and generally are most effective in warm weather. In very cold or snowy winter weather, scent repellents usually are less effective. Milorganite Fertilizer (safely applied to plantings every 3-4 weeks) is the most commonly used scent repellent for large areas. For individual plants or beds, hotel-size, highly scented soaps (e.g., Irish Spring) can be hung from paper clips or in nylon stocking pouches to help repel deer with moderate success.

© Rosedale Nurseries, Inc. 1994, 2003, 2015, 2019

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