Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Favorite Deer-Resistant Plants

The winner, chosen at random from among the many entries to our July 2011 Washington Gardener Reader Contest is Shirlie Pinkham of Gaithersburg, MD.

She receives a 32-ounce bottle of Messina Wildlife’s Deer Stopper spray (a $14 value). Messina Wildlife’s Deer Stopper products come in a variety of ready-to-use and concentrate sizes, as well as a revolutionary, proprietary pre-treated barrier ribbon. These highly effective products prevent deer, elk, and moose from bedding down, rubbing, and foraging damage to all shrubs, flowers, edible crops, forest areas, fruit trees, and turf areas. Safe for use around fruits and vegetables, made of organic ingredients. These pleasant to use products all dry clear and odor-free, and they work by smell, taste, and feel. Concentrates make 10 times their size in ready to use material. The 32oz. trigger bottle will cover approximately 1,000 sq. ft.

We received many great entries telling us their favorite deer-resistant plants. Here is the compiled list of entrants selections for Mid-Atlantic proven deer-resistant plants.
~ Pulmonaria 'Trevi Fountain'
~ Butterfly bush
~ Creeping jenny
~ Ostrich fern
~ Painted fern
~ Pieris japonica
~ Peonies (any kind)
~ Vitex agnus-castus
~ Caryopteris spp.
~ Helleborus spp. and stinking hellebore
~ Euphorbia robbiae
~ Various Mint family (Lamiaceae) members, e.g.:
Agastache spp.
Monarda spp.
Salvia spp. (sage)
Geranium spp.
~ Astilbe
~ Datura
~ European ginger
~ Hops
~ Pachysandra procumbens (Alleghany Spurge)
~ Arisaema triphyllum, (Jack in the Pulpit)
~ Dryopteris marginalis (Wood Fern)
~ Allium spp.
~ Ornamental grasses, e.g., Miscanthus, Panicum, etc.
~ Dicentra eximia (native bleeding heart) – The blue-green lacy foliage is stunning and it flowers all summer, unlike the non-native dicentra spectabilis. Each plant can be impressively wide by its second year. D. eximia self-seeds readily although fortunately not as excessively as D. spectabilis.
~ Actaea racemosa or cimicifuga racemosa (black cohosh, black snakeroot, etc.) – Mine took three years to decide they were happy and would propagate. Now, from the original two, or maybe three, plants I have dozens covering a sizeable area with their lovely low leaves and tall spikes when in bloom. They cannot take full sun.
~ Amsonia hubrechtii and amsonia tabernamontana – The A. hubrechtii’s tall feathery foliage is my preferred of the two Amsonia that I have. Both have lovely blue spring flowers, and the A. hubrechtii turns a nice yellow in fall, A. tabernamontana not so much. A.hubrechtii also self-seeds modestly and has large easily collectible seeds; A. tabernamontana has yet to spread in my garden and I could not find any seeds last fall, although perhaps I just didn’t look at the right time.
~ Schizachyrium scoparium “The Blues” (little bluestem) – A wonderful medium-tall arching silvery blue grass that does not go monster like Miscanthus (a non-native). It can droop late in the season if there’s a really heavy rain, but a short tomato cage ring around it works well if needed then. Self-seeds a bit, not much.
~ Asclepias tuberose (butterfly weed) – Just such a cheery bright orange color, self-seeds robustly (thank goodness, given the voraciousness of monarch butterfly caterpillars) with those cool-looking, fluffy, readily collectible seeds.
~ Aconitum (5 feet tall under good circumstances with deep purple-blue blooms in late September, I’m not sure which type mine is).
~ Thalictrum rochebrunianum (5 ½ feet tall, tiny pink flowers with yellow centers, self-seeds but cannot stand full sun; there are also 12 native thalictrum but I don’t have any although I have 4 different varieties)
~ Caryoptis divaricata “Snow Fairy” (small green leaves with white edges that just light up their area, mine is in partial shade so it hasn’t flowered).
My Opuntia, prickley pear cactus, have been very resistant so far! And, they are native to Maryland, and perfectly hardy.
~ Aesculus parviflora aka Bottlebrush Buckeye -- Large native shrub ideal for woodland understory that flowers in July and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, blooms well in both shade and sun.
~ Epimedium spp. -- Tough, evergreen, drought-tolerant ground cover plants featuring delightful "fairy flowers" in early spring, some with leaf coloration.

~ Narcissus (daffodils) -- My favorite deer resistant plants are the daffodils that have naturalized in the woods near the yard. Their spring appearance brightens the spirits of all who see them, and reminds me that there is at least something in the undergrowth that the deer haven't munched out of existence.

Are there any favorite deer-resistant plants of yours not on our list?
Deer photo provided by Randy and Beth Cleaver -- large buck spotted in their Takoma Park, MD garden.


  1. I would add:
    Buxus (Boxwood)
    Japanese Plum Yew
    Dwarf Cryptomeria
    Blue Star Juniper

    Ornamental Oregano ('Kent Beauty' Origanum is supurb)

    Scilla (Squill)

    Among those on your list, after years of testing, I would disagree that the following are reliably deer resistant:
    Japanese Painted Fern

  2. Correction: Eohdea should be Rohdea (a wonderful shade tolerant evergreen perennial)

  3. Thanks, Connie! These are terrific. From myown garden, I'd add to the list also English Lavenders (Munstead and Hidcote).

  4. Thanks for the suggestions. I noticed geranium on the list. I think we would want to add "except G. maculatum". That seems to be right up there with hosta as a deer favorite.

  5. Good catch, Diana, I am assuming they meant the scented, zonal kind.

  6. Very good information, thanks for this best idea


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