Even if you live in an area prone to deer damage, you can still have a vibrant, colorful, landscape by picking plants and shrubs that the deer tend not to like.
Deer browse along a similar path every day so it is possible that one plant or shrub will be damaged by the deer and the one five feet away will not. Putting a protective cage around the shrub, albeit not an attractive option is one way to protect it, or you can replace the shrub with one that is less likely to be eaten. Deer also tend to arrive with a herd which can make defending every shrub difficult and prompting homeowners to totally exclude them from entering the property. High fences are an effective method of exclusion if your landscape choices warrant the expense and effort, and smaller fences can help around small areas such as a vegetable patch. Note that deer will happily hop over a 5 foot fence when they can see the other side, but are less likely to jump over a solid wood fence. You can also make a double fence or leaning fence, both of which make the deer think twice because although they will jump upward, they are not so good at length and gauging the distance between two fences is difficult for them. If fencing is not an option, then a practical remedy is to make some landscape decisions that are based on landscape material that the deer avoid.
Although nothing is totally deer proof, landscape shrubs and plants can be still be classed as deer friendly such as petunias which are a favorite summer snack for the deer, to boxwood and butterfly bushes which are only eaten when there is nothing else around. Late winter damage to woody shrubs is more common in areas where extensive snow cover limits the deer’s choice for food.
Deer resistant shrubs: These include boxwood, many most holly plants, butterfly bushes and caryopteris which are all very attractive shrubs. Avoid azaleas and rhododendrons, plus yews and euonymus which are more prone to damage.
Deer resistant perennials: The deer leave most herbs alone, including the ornamental ones such as perennial agastache or alliums, as well as peonies, coreopsis and potentilla. Hostas and fall chrysanthemums are more prone to damage.
Deer resistant bulbs: Most spring bulbs, with the exception of tulips are reasonably safe with deer around. Summer blooming canna and the dramatic Elephant Ears are also good plants to grow in the garden.
For the most part, ornamental grasses and ferns are left alone by deer, however the deer will quickly find your fruit trees!
Watching deer in the garden in the middle of winter is as much fun as watching the birds, and with a few wise choices in the landscape you will be able to continue to watch them all year long knowing that your plants are safe.