Low Maintenance Ground Cover For South Facing Slope With Deer! - Knowledgebase Question

Katonah, NY
Question by staceyzuk
February 16, 2001
We have a 1/2 acre south facing steep grassy slope. The grade makes it difficult to mow and the local deer herds make it difficult to choose a ground cover that won't be devoured. Is there one you recommend or a low growing grass for zone 6? Thank you.

Answer from NGA
February 16, 2001


In my garden, the deer eat, sample and trample without much discretion so they can do a lot of damage in a short time. Unfortunately there is no magic list to give you. Deer will learn to eat almost any thing and their menu varies depending on what they have learned to eat so far. They are creatures of habit, so if they are dining at your house they will be likely to nibble on whatever you plant sooner or later. The best way to try to make a list is to check with your neighbors and see what they are still having success with and what they are not. Some gardeners also report success using the repellants (both home made and those that are commercially available), especially in areas where the browse pressure is not very severe. In my own sad experience, the only reliable solution over time is a tall fence.

However, there are some published lists of plants to consider. Keep in mind that deer are adaptive and will learn to eat new things. For example, foxgloves and juniper are on some lists but the deer ate mine, so the lists are starting points rather than absolutes. Good luck!

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

http://www.penpages.psu.edu/pe... )


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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