Deer Resistant Plants; Landscape Planting with White-Tailed Deer

Are deer eating and destroying your landscape plants? You’re not alone! Hundreds of deer are crowded into smaller and smaller habitats (think suburbia). The loss of habitat here in Bucks County has led to incredible destruction of our forests, as well as creating a huge problem with deer in the residential landscape. Most of us enjoy the beauty of these majestic animals, but when they destroy your landscape plantings around your home, Bambi all of the sudden gets a different reputation: Godzilla!

Here in Bucks County, PA we have one of the densest deer populations in the state. Deer are present in virtually all towns in the county, from Quakertown through Doylestown and all the way into Bensalem and Bristol. Local municipalities, including Solebury, Upper Makefield and Lower Makefield, have taken extreme measures to lower this density- such as hiring sharp shooters or bow hunters to come in to neighborhoods to ‘cull’ the herd. Tyler State park in Newtown has an annual hunt to thin their herd. No matter what your opinion as to whether these actions are right or wrong- one thing is for certain- we have too many deer in too small of a space here in Bucks County.

If your landscaping is being destroyed by deer you may wish to implement your own deer management program. Deer want food! While deer will eat just about anything if they are hungry, some landscape plants can be quite unpalatable. Try to avoid plants that will attract deer such as Yew, Rhododendron, Azaleas, and Burning Bush. Instead, look to the most deer resistant landscape plants you can find, such as Boxwood, Rose-of-Sharon, Forsythia and Bayberry. The following link highlights useful information and lists of deer resistant plants, from the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station:

The use of plants that deer find unpalatable can also be useful when incorporated with plants they prefer. Try using the most deer resistant plants on the perimeter of your landscape bed with the more desirable plants on the inside. Plants that have silvery and/or hairy foliage are usually despised by deer; Lavender, Russian Sage and Yarrow to name a few. These landscape plants can be used in a protective perimeter fashion. Also consider plants in the mint family such as Monarda and Lemon Balm which deer also despise.

Other tactics to employ against the White-Tailed Deer are fences, repellents, and netting. Although deer can hop a 4′ tall fence with ease, the fence will help to discourage browsing in that particular landscape area- especially if your neighbors don’t have a fence. Deer will tend to move where it is easiest to obtain food. Repellents can be used quite effectively to discourage deer in the landscape, but must be applied frequently. Bird netting may be used to cover your landscape plants during the spring and late fall when deer browsing is it at its highest.