Deer-Resistant Companion Plants

Deer are aggressive browsers and unless something is done to deter them, they can be very detrimental to the garden. When it comes to hostas, the damage becomes obvious...they eat the leaves off while the petioles remain. The whole garden can quickly become an unattractive smorgasbord as other plants are also consumed.

An 8 ft. high fence is perhaps the best defense, either built from wire or wood. Make sure it is secured to the ground firmly so they can't sneak under it. If a fence isn't an option, then perhaps netting should be considered. You can also tie fishing line between the trees or between stakes, at various heights.

Commercial repellants are available, usually as liquid sprays, but deer can get accustomed to certain repellants. Other tactics include tying sacks of blood meal or deodorant soap shavings to trees, or nylon stockings filled with hair. Urine (human, coyote, and wolf) may repel them in some situations. Rags can be dipped in clove oil, tied to a string and strung through a plastic cup, and then hung upside-down throughout the garden. Also fabric softener sheets, mothballs, and rags soaked with kerosene. But whatever method is used, it will have to be replenished after a heavy rainfall.

A new method was recently developed by the University of Minnesota and involves systemically incorporating a deterrent into plants to prevent and reduce browsing. The system was licensed to Repellex for commercial development. It delivers a hot pepper concentrate through plant roots at the molecular level, making the plants inedible to animals. Because the active compound is protected inside the plant cells, it doesn't wash off in the rain or degrade in sunlight. One treatment typically lasts the entire growing season. The product is named "Repellex Systemic Granular" and is available on the Repellex website, .

Solar powered deterrent lights have become popular and are reported to be quite effective. Many brands are available on-line. However, they have need to be moved around occasionally so the deer don't become accustomed to them.

A final alternative is to include an array of deer resistant plants throughout the garden. While nearly all plants are susceptible to deer damage to some extent, the following is a list of landscape plants which are reported be resistant to deer damage. Success of any of these plants in the landscape will depend on local deer populations and the amount of food available.

Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum)
Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia sp.)
Anise (Pimpinalla anisum)
Annual Vinca (Catharanthus rosea)
Dusty Miller (Centaurea cineraria)
False Chamomile (Matricaria sp.)
Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana sp.)
Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens)
Larkspur (Consolida ambigua)
Poppy (Papaver sp.)
Pot Marigold (Calendula sp.)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)
Snow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata)
Spider Flower (Cleome sp.)
Strawflower (Helichrysum)
Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
Autumn Crocus (Colchicum sp.)
Bluebell (Endymion sp.)
Crown Imperial, Fritilia (Fritilaria imperialis)
Daffodil (Narcissus sp.)
Ornamental Onion (Allium sp.)
Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica)
Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)
Winter Aconite (Eranthus hyemalis)
Perennials and Biennials
Anise Hyssop (Agastache sp.)
Basket of Gold (Aurinia saxatilis)
Bigleaf Goldenray (Ligularia dentata)
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)
Butter & Eggs (Linaria vulgaris)
Buttercup (Ranunculus sp.)
Cactus (Cactaceae sp.)
Catmint (Nepeta sp.)
Common Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
Common Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
Corydalis (Corydalis sp.)
Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)
European Ginger (Asarum europaeum)
False Indigo (Baptisia australis)
Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis sp.)
Fringed Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia)
Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys)
Greek Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis sp.)
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
Iris (Iris sp.)
Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina)
Lavender (Lavandula sp.)
Lavender-Cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus)
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lenten Rose, Christmas Rose (Helleborus sp.)
Lungwort (Pulmonaria sp.)
Marjoram (Majorana)
Mayapple (Podophyllum)
Meadow Rue (Thalictrum sp.)
Mint (Mentha sp.)
Monkshood (Aconitum sp.)
Oregano (Origanum sp.)
Peony (Paeonia sp.)
Potentilla, Cinquefoil (Potentilla sp.)
Purple Rockcress (Aubretia deltoidea)
Rockcress (Arabis caucasica)
Rocket Ligularia (Ligularia 'The Rocket')
Rogers Flower (Rodgersia sp.)
Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria)
Rue (Ruta sp.)
Russian Sage (Perovskio atriplicifolia)
Siberian Bugloss, Brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla)
Silver Mound (Artemisia sp.)
Small Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro)
Spurge (Euphorbia sp.)
Statice (Limonium latifolium)
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
Threadleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata)
Thyme (Thymus sp.)
Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
Yucca (Yucca filimentosa)
Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)
Hayscented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula)
Holly Fern (Cyrtomium falcatum)
Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum)
New York Fern (Thelyptens noveboracensis)
Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis)
Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)
Wood Fern (Dryopteris marginalis)
Big Bluestem (Andropogon sp.)
Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca)
Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens)
Clump Bamboo (Fargesia sp.)
Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis sp.)
Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)
Giant Japanese Silver Grass (Miscanthus floridulus)
Giant Reed (Arundo donax)
Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea)
Hakonechloa (Hakonechloa macra)
Hard Rush (Juncus effuses)
Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans)
Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrica)
Japanese Sedge (Carex sp.)
Japanese Silver Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)
Japanese Sweet Flag (Acorus sp.)
Large Blue June Grass (Koeleria glauca)
Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
Lyme Grass (Leymus arenarius glaucous)
Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)
Oriental Fountain Grass (Pennisetum orientale)
Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)
Purple Moor Grass (Molinia caerulea)
Ravenna Grass (Erianthus ravennae)
Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum)
Variegated Purple Moor Grass (Molinia caerulea 'Variegata')
Variegated Oat Grass (Arrhenatherum elatius)
Weeping Love Grass (Eragrostus curvula)
Allegheny Spurge (Pachysandra procumbens)
Barrenwort (Epimedium sp.)
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Bishop's Weed (Aegopodium podagaria)
Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)
Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)
Spotted Deadnettle (Lamium sp.)
Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
Barberry (Berberis sp.)
Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)
Blue Mist Shrub (Caryopteris clandonensis)
Broom (Cytisus sp.)
Bush Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa)
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia sp.)
Common Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)
Daphne (Daphne sp.)
Devil's Walking Stick (Aralia spinosa)
Drooping Leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana)
Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica)
Heath (Erica sp.)
Heather (Calliuna sp.)
Japanese Pieris, Andromeda (Pieris japonica)
Japanese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia)
Japanese Skimmia (Skimmia japonica)
John T. Morris Holly (Ilex x 'John T. Morris')
Leatherleaf Mahonia (Mahonia bealei)
Lydia Morris Holly (Ilex x 'Lydia Morris')
Moonglow Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum 'Moonglow')
Mountain Pieris (Pieris floribunda)
Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia aquifolium)
Prince of Wales Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis 'Prince of Wales')
Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa)
Russian Cypress (Microbiota decussata)
Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)
Sweet Box (Sarcoccoca hookeriana)

Better Homes & Gardens. "Top Deer-Resistant Plants for Your Region."

Blundell, Danielle of "20 Ways to Keep Deer Out of Your Yard."

Chamberlain, Steven C. "Repelling Deer from the Inside Out." The Hosta Journal, Volume 42, Number 1 (2011): 9-10.

Grenfell, Diana and Shadrack, Michael. The New Encyclopedia of Hostas. Portland, OR: Timber Press, 2009.
     "Pests, Diseases, and Other Threats to Hostas: Deer", page 52

Leider, David J. "Keep Deer Out of the Garden." The Hosta Journal, Volume 33, Number 1 (2002): 53-55.

Rutgers New Jersey Experimental Station. "Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance."

Tucker, Larry. Made in the Shade. Memphis: Weber Publications, 2012. "Q & A: Deer Repellents", page 34

Zilis, Mark R. Mark Zilis' Field Guide to Hostas. Rochelle, IL: Q & Z Nursery, Inc., 2014.
     "Hosta Problem Solving Guide: White-tailed Deer", page 349-350

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