The Q&A Archives: Deer Rististant Shrubs

Question: I have a serious deer problem and need an evergreen, screen tree or shrub that only grows to six feet. The only things the deer do not eat on my property are spruce and boxwood and daffodils. We have tried everything and lost it. Is there such a spruce tree that only grows to six feet and is good in zone 6?? I will not be spraying any trees so it has to be totally maintenance free. Am I asking for the impossible? Please Help! Thank You.

Answer: There are dwarf Alberta spruce and birds nest spruce, both of which are slow growing but ultimately get much larger than six feet. You might also consider the mugo pine, but it too may exceed that size in time. In truth there are no totally maintenance free plants, so perhaps a fence would suit the situation better?

There are several lists of plants that have been developed, perhaps some of these would do, although do check to be sure that the plant would be hardy for you since the lists were developed in different areas of the country. Also, keep in mind that the deer learn to eat new plants and may have different preferences in different areas, so these lists are not deer "proof" but instead deer "resistant".

Penn State published a list of plants (for a discussion about the list and the original, please see )


Scientific Name Common Name Scientific Name Common Name
Abies sp. + fir Heder helix g.c. English ivy
Acer negundo + box-elder Ilex sp. = holly
Ageratum* flossflower Iris sp. * iris
Ajuga* bugle weed Juniperus sp.= juniper
Aquilegia* columbine Kerris japonica = Japanese rose
Berberis sp.= barberry Larix decidua + European larch
Buxus= boxwood Lupinus sp.* lupine
Catalpa sp. + catalpa Maclura pomifera + Osage orange
Cercis sp. + redbud Narcissus sp.* Narcissus
Chamaecyparis sp= false-cypress Paeonia suffruticosa= tree peony
Clematis sp.* clematis Papaver orientalis * Oriental poppy
Cotinus coggygria +smoketree Picea sp. + spruce
Crataegus sp. + hawthorn Pinus sp. + pine
Cytisus scoparius=Scotch broom Rhododendron sp. rhododendron
Daphne sp. daphne Robinia pseudoacacia+ black locust
Delphinium* larkspur Symphoricarpos albus= snowberry
Digitalis* foxglove Syringa vulgaris= lilac
Ginkgo biloba + maidenhair tree Tulipa sp.* tulips
Gymnocladus dioica+ Kentucky coffee tree Yucca* Yucca
+ tree or tree-like
* herbaceous plant
= shrubby
g.c. ground cover

West Virginia Extension offers a discussion of deer damage and a list of plants at

Cornell University has also published a list and a discussion at

I hope these help!

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