Plants to Grow (and Those to Avoid) in Deer Country

By Charlie Nardozzi

Deer are a common problem throughout the country. They love to browse on a variety of trees, shrubs, flowers, and vegetables. Of course, the best deer deterrent is a good fence. Gardeners also report success spraying various deer repellents. But the Holy Grail for those dealing with severe deer browsing problems is an attractive landscape plant that deer won't touch. While a hungry deer will eat almost anything, some plants are less appealing. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has compiled the master of all master lists of deer-resistant plants to guide gardeners and landscapers.

The zoo collected more than 40 lists of deer-resistant plants from nurseries, universities, horticulturists, and arboretums all over the Midwest. From that they created a new list of frequently mentioned plants. They sent out their list to 400 growers, educators, naturalists, and professional gardeners in the area asking, in their experience, which plants were actually left alone by deer and which ones were not.

From this research they've compiled the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden's Best Deer-Resistant Plants list, plus a list of plants deer feed on the most. While the resistant list is extensive and available on their Web site, the list of plants to absolutely avoid growing in deer country (or take your chances) is below.

Deer Favorites
Hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea)
Ilex cornuta (Chinese holly)
Ilex x meservae (blue holly)
Phlox paniculata (perennial phlox)
Pinus strobes (eastern white pine)
Taxus (yew)
Thuja occidentalis (American arborvitae)

For the complete list of deer-resistant plants, go to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

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