Deer Resistant Shrubs

There are few plants that starving deer won’t eat. People have told me that juniper and shrub-type spruces are eaten. Even in the summer, deer have eaten hosta within feet of a house. With deer populations increasing, especially in suburban areas, here are some plants not apt to be destroyed by deer, plus some tips for keeping deer away from the plants you have.

Aralia, quince, shrub roses, and hawthorn have thorns, which discourage deer. Sometimes the flower buds and a few leaves get chewed, but, for the most part, the plant looks good. Barberry has this distinction, but can take over a forested understory, so it is not advisable to plant this species. The others are not invasive and are good choices.

For evergreens, boxwood, holly, juniper, shrub pine, and shrub spruce will not be ruined by roving deer herds. It has been brought to my attention that new growth will sometimes be eaten, but not to the detriment of the plant. In areas where deer are serious pests, yews and arborvitae should be avoided. I have been told rhododendron are also desired food, but have not experienced this, other than a few nibbled flower buds.

There are so many products on the market designed to keep deer away from plants that not all could be mentioned. The bottom line is plant the less desired foods and be persistent with your choice of product. 8’- 10’ fencing can work to protect your fruit trees. Various sprays can work if you reapply after rain and time has reduced their scent. Milorganite, spread around the ground under plants can repel deer, as well as fertilize the plants. Pungent, fragrant soap hung on branches has worked in many cases.

Something that might be worth trying is using a radio set to a talk show or heavy metal station on a timer that would cause it to come on at various times during the night. Covered with plastic or a zip lock baggie, this might work. From various sources, it seems that changing your tactics and your repellent works best. If all else fails, it might be time to try the plastic plants.


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Poland Spring, Maine
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