There is no sure fire way to rid your garden of the possibility of a deer buffet. As the evening falls deer leave their shelters and search for food, and many times your garden or landscape looks like a drive thru to them. There are many deer repellents out there, or home remedies, but many times they don’t work or don’t work well. While there aren’t many deer resistant plants out there you can plant some plants that deer would rather not eat.
Deer have favorites when it comes to plants they eat. They prefer tender new growth and foliage, plants that are fertilized well to have much new bits for them, and if it is dry they want well watered plants. This is what deer love to see, however, this article shows you some of the deer tolerant plants to help in keeping them at bay. This isn’t a complete list by any means, but it’s a good start if you are looking for specimen pieces for your landscape and would rather them not been trampled to death mid season.
Taxodium distichum (L.) L.C. Rich (Bald cypress)
This slow-growing deciduous conifer can reach 100-120 feet in height when mature. Its lacey yellow-green foliage turns a brownish red before falling off in fall, and its bark is fibrous like a cedar. It prefers full sun and partial shade. There are species in Georgia that have lived up to 1200 years. This cypress begins budding late December or early January to produce flowers around March and April. Fruits appear right before budding, starting around October. This cypress wood is resistant to decay and is suited for construction work, caskets, and for boats. Its seeds are the perfect diet for waterfowl. Resins from the cones of the bald cypress have been used as an analgesic in folk remedies for skin disorders.
Prunus caroliniana (P. Mill.) Ait. (Carolina Laurelcherry)
Growing up to 20-40 feet tall with a trunk up to 10 inches wide, the Cherry laurel prefers sun but is shade tolerant. These trees have fragrant white fuzzy flowers in late winter or early spring on racemes. Foliage is yellow green to dark green glossy leaves. These are a fast grower. Many types of wildlife love the fruits and this tree is easy to maintain. BEWARE: The leaves and branches contain prussic acid (cyanide).
Magnolia grandiflora L. (Southern magnolia)
One of the best known trees in the south, the magnolia is a fast growing evergreen that will mature at around 60-90 feet. It has large saucer-like white flowers that are classically fragrant. Blooms appear from April to June. Magnolias are best in rich moist soils and will tolerate some shade. Plant this for a showy classic addition to your garden. Letting the leaves fall without raking provides natural ground mulch for the tree.
Betula nigra L. (River birch)
Known for its paper-like bark, this deciduous tree will grow up to 100 feet tall. It is resilient to flood damage and is good in the tough clay soils. Intolerant to shade, remember to give this a sunny location. Game birds love the birch’s seeds. This is a beautiful tree specimen in the yard with its unique paper bark.
Liquidambar styraciflua L. (Sweetgum)
Sweet gum grows between 50-150 feet tall and is a good long-lived addition to most any garden. The leaves are star-shaped with 5 lobes. This tree is shade intolerant and can survive in most any soil. Flowers bloom from March to May and fruits from September to November. For fall foliage it’s breathtaking with red and yellow color. Sweet gum wood is used for lumber and plywood. Traditionally it is known as “copalm balsam” and is a substitute medicinally for storax. Other uses include chewing gum and as a perfume agent in soaps.
Acer rubrum (Red maple)
This maple, a beautiful ornamental deciduous tree, grows from 30-90 feet tall and up to 4 foot in diameter. Flowering from March to May, it also has wonderful red spring and fall color. This tree takes best to full sun but will tolerate partial shade. It is an important part of the saw timber industry and for pulpwood. White-tail deer also use the red maple as a food source. Ink and various dyes were once made from the bark. Care should be taken when mowing and removing weeds around the red maple as it is susceptible to damage from the blades due to the thin bark.