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When Deer Get The Munchies


Are any plants safe from deer in search of a smorgasbord?

The dead of winter is a good time to start making your spring planting choices. Draw your garden areas on a map and consider coordinating plant heights, colors, and flowering patterns for year-round beauty. And, while you’re perusing gardening choices, chances are you may thinking about bushes and plants that should be replaced because they don’t seem to weather well. Some are probably injured due to their unhappy status as tasty deer food. Are there truly deer-proof landscape choices? Not really, especially when you live in a heavy deer population area. But you can try.

One of your best choices is boxwood. This evergreen shrub is hardy but slow-growing. It makes beautiful hedges as it doesn’t mind being trimmed to shape. If left alone, it can grow to 20 feet tall and equally as wide. It’s a woody plant and a common choice for Christmas arrangements (boxwood Christmas trees are a popular do-it-yourself holiday arrangement). Juniper is another good choice for a deer-resistant shrub.

While not evergreen, roses are rarely bothered by deer. It’s a thorny issue, apparently. They do, however, like the rose of Sharon. If you’re looking for an evergreen tree, consider a spruce, especially white spruce, Colorado blue spruce, or a Norway spruce.

Deer aren’t overly keen on evergreen needles anyway, and when combined with a strong scent like spruce, they’ll look for other choices. While you might think a sugar maple tree would be a sweet choice, deer tend to steer clear. They also avoid birch but be careful when planting young trees. These are all fair game in the deer grocery aisle, so you’ll need to erect fencing around them or protective wire blankets. Perennial flowers that are pretty deer-proof include daffodils, heather, lupine, wisteria, baby’s breath, buttercups, lavender, and sweet William. If you’re interested in attracting deer—after all, they are beautiful, gentle creatures, and most of us understand that mice are the main host for Lyme bacteria spread by “deer” ticks—the American chestnut tree, fruit trees (pear, apple, persimmons, plum), oaks, raspberry bushes, blackberry bushes, and trees that drop nuts like acorns are sure to draw interest.

Planting a garden? Your deer neighbors will most likely be requesting peas, soybeans, turnips, kale, and sweet corn.

Posted on February 3, 2021

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