Cactus and Tender Succulents forum: Deer resistance in succulents

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Name: Leslie
Chapin, SC (Zone 7b)
Keeps Sheep Daylilies Hybridizer Garden Photography Cat Lover Hummingbirder
Birds Region: South Carolina Plant and/or Seed Trader Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 2 Avid Green Pages Reviewer
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Lalambchop1
Dec 18, 2017 2:17 PM CST
I have a wonderful new collection of sedum & semps I got from a NARR win and am planning a bed for them but then read that they may not be deer resistant. Our deer are voracious. Does anyone have experience with this?

Thanks!
Leslie

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
Name: Gene Staver
Portage WI 53901 (Zone 5a)
Herbs Annuals Hummingbirder Butterflies Garden Photography Cactus and Succulents
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gasrocks
Dec 19, 2017 10:17 AM CST
Can I assume that neither of those plants gets very large? I'd think a fence or chicken wire might work. Gene
Name: Leslie
Chapin, SC (Zone 7b)
Keeps Sheep Daylilies Hybridizer Garden Photography Cat Lover Hummingbirder
Birds Region: South Carolina Plant and/or Seed Trader Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 2 Avid Green Pages Reviewer
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Lalambchop1
Dec 19, 2017 11:54 AM CST
Thank you. They're not in a place I could really put a fence. I may do some flattish hypertufa pots and keep them on the deck or put them in my Gnome home plantings. They're so dear I'd hate to lose any of them.
Leslie

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Region: Arizona Cactus and Succulents Greenhouse Sempervivums Bromeliad
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plantmanager
Dec 19, 2017 11:57 AM CST
Leslie, most of my cacti and succulents have been munched by the deer. Put them in the safest place you can. I'm always amazed at how they can even eat the prickly pear and chollas with all the spines! I have some in my home, some in the greenhouse, and the outdoor ones are in raised beds with hardware cloth over them. Even birds and rabbits like my succulents. Sad
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Name: Leslie
Chapin, SC (Zone 7b)
Keeps Sheep Daylilies Hybridizer Garden Photography Cat Lover Hummingbirder
Birds Region: South Carolina Plant and/or Seed Trader Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 2 Avid Green Pages Reviewer
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Lalambchop1
Dec 19, 2017 12:03 PM CST
Thank you. Not what I wanted to hear but a new challenge for creativity!
Leslie

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Region: Arizona Cactus and Succulents Greenhouse Sempervivums Bromeliad
Adeniums Garden Ideas: Level 1 Tropicals Xeriscape Garden Art Plumerias
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plantmanager
Dec 19, 2017 12:08 PM CST
I know. I really envy people who can put them out in pretty rock gardens and have them grow well. Protecting them isn't very pretty. When I have a lot of a plant, I sometimes will put them out uncovered just for a test. Usually they end up discovered by the critters.
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Name: Leslie
Chapin, SC (Zone 7b)
Keeps Sheep Daylilies Hybridizer Garden Photography Cat Lover Hummingbirder
Birds Region: South Carolina Plant and/or Seed Trader Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 2 Avid Green Pages Reviewer
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Lalambchop1
Dec 19, 2017 12:41 PM CST
Bummer
Leslie

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Region: Arizona Cactus and Succulents Greenhouse Sempervivums Bromeliad
Adeniums Garden Ideas: Level 1 Tropicals Xeriscape Garden Art Plumerias
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plantmanager
Dec 19, 2017 1:25 PM CST
I agree Sighing!
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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Dec 19, 2017 2:03 PM CST

Moderator

We have no deer but the squirrels and bunnies and gophers can be downright voracious in the succulent garden this time of year (7 months since it rained). Succulents are extra tasty to them because of the water content. Some observations...

The youngest, softest plants are the ones that get eaten first. A brand new installation is like a buffet to the mammals. Something about living the hard life out in the sun seems to toughen up plants and make them far less tasty. You can have two groups of plants growing side by side, all of them the same species or variety, and the squirrels will home in on the ones from this year, totally ignoring last year's group until those are all gone. The natural consequence of this behavior is that you gain a significant advantage if your plants survive a year or two. Of course that is only relative to the baseline voraciousness of the animals.

Also, the foraging here is quite seasonal, to the extent we have a rainy season and a dry season. Which makes sense because who would bother with a spiny succulent when there are tender young shoots sprouting everywhere? Smiling It may help to pay attention to when the deer are most likely to visit, and have a drop-down layer of chicken wire ready. For temporary or seasonal overhead protection. I use chicken wire for the bunnies, which is foolproof when combined with a gopher basket below (basically a cylinder of chicken wire underneath the plant, with a tighter mesh). I will eventually remove the above-ground chicken wire once the leaves on those trees are above the bunnies' reach.

In every mixed buffet experiment in the garden, where I have left different plants out together in the same space, there are some plants which are extra tasty and disappear first. Even though the foraging might happen over the course of a few days, there's a clear order to their selection. Other plants must be bitter and they might make it through unscathed. This Echeveria is the #1 top choice on the patio among the squirrels, mice, and birds who visit looking for food.



A couple of consequences relate to this. One is that sometimes by losing plants you learn which ones made it, which can be useful to know. And over time the garden becomes a bit more long-lived. Also, you can intentionally plant things the animals do not like and thereby make part of your garden less appealing to them. My go-to in this category would be the succulent Euphorbias, which the animals might try but do not actually eat. Those are notoriously cold-sensitive so that's not a recommendation, it's just a practical example from zone 11.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Dec 19, 2017 2:08 PM (+)]
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Name: Gene Staver
Portage WI 53901 (Zone 5a)
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gasrocks
Dec 19, 2017 2:05 PM CST
If you do not have rain for long stretches, could you not use a pepper spray on the plants?
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Dec 19, 2017 2:14 PM CST

Moderator

I have not tried the tactical grade but regular chile oil (extracted from dried chiles, spicy to the human tongue) seems to make absolutely no difference. Maybe the Mexican squirrels like their vegetables spicy. Smiling
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Dec 19, 2017 2:15 PM (+)]
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Name: Leslie
Chapin, SC (Zone 7b)
Keeps Sheep Daylilies Hybridizer Garden Photography Cat Lover Hummingbirder
Birds Region: South Carolina Plant and/or Seed Trader Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 2 Avid Green Pages Reviewer
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Lalambchop1
Dec 20, 2017 6:46 AM CST
Baja,
Thank you taking the time to write such an informative post. I'm not willing to risk my babies at this point so I'll keep them on the deck. I have birdfeeders for the birds and squirrels rarely come up there.
Leslie

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
Name: Larry
Hill Country TX (Zone 8b)
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ricelg
Dec 26, 2017 2:28 PM CST
Leslie,

I'm a little late to this one but unfortunately my experience is the same. I have a side area that I hoped to devote to cold-hardy succulents, but the deer (at various times) took most of them out. My cacti have been mostly left alone - sometimes the little ones testing their sprints and jumps have broken some pads off or knocked over some transitional pots. I have an old playground that I've converted into a cactus garden and moved over lots of rocks. I'm going to try some more this spring (that I can afford to lose) and see growing in the nooks and crannies of the rocks and somewhat protected by close-by cacti spines will reduce the foraging. I try to propagate whatever I put just in case they do get munched.

Wish I could give a better report...
Name: Leslie
Chapin, SC (Zone 7b)
Keeps Sheep Daylilies Hybridizer Garden Photography Cat Lover Hummingbirder
Birds Region: South Carolina Plant and/or Seed Trader Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 2 Avid Green Pages Reviewer
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Lalambchop1
Dec 26, 2017 7:46 PM CST
Thanks Larry. Looks like it's the deck for my new babies.

Happy New year!
Leslie

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
Texas (Zone 8a)
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GrammaChar
Dec 26, 2017 8:17 PM CST
I have dealt with deer for 17 years. At first the foraging wasn't too bad, and I was actually able to grow roses and many other plants. However, over the years many people in our neighborhood have installed corn feeders. The machines throw kernels out twice a day so the white-tail population has exploded. Do they eat succulents? Oh, yes. The deer ate all of my 6 ft. tall spineless opuntias down to the ground. And anything with a flower is quickly devoured. My huge century plant hasn't been nibbled on, but the deer destroyed it by rubbing their antlers against it. Texas Parks and Wildlife has tried to educate the public about the health hazards of feeding sugary corn to the deer, but with little success. For a while I was able to grow succulents on a staircase - but eventually even those were being chewed.

Thumb of 2017-12-27/GrammaChar/4bee84

I've reached my limit. Next week I'm having a 7 ft. tall deer-proof fence installed around an acre in the back. It's not what I wanted to do, but it's so frustrating to plant something and wake to find it gone the following morning. So the fence is my Christmas gift to myself.

Sorry for the long post. You can probably sense that I climb up on a soapbox about this issue.

Thumb of 2017-12-27/GrammaChar/7439cd

Photo taken in my backyard. But not for very much longer!

Deer and Gardening don't mix well.
Good luck with your succulents. Plan to protect them!

GrammaChar
Name: Leslie
Chapin, SC (Zone 7b)
Keeps Sheep Daylilies Hybridizer Garden Photography Cat Lover Hummingbirder
Birds Region: South Carolina Plant and/or Seed Trader Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 2 Avid Green Pages Reviewer
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Lalambchop1
Dec 26, 2017 8:35 PM CST
Hi Gramma,
I share your passion! I make extra money by selling daylily seeds online and this year had crop failure because the deer hit my plants so hard last winter and spring they didn't bloom. I now have an electric fence around the breeding stock.

I have a bow hunter who come each year to hunt in my yard but he hasn't gotten anythng. We have a neighborhood herd of 10 which includes 3 new fawns this year. My property is on one of their regular trails. I've even thrown out loud firecrackers when I see them but they just look at me. It's maddening.

Deer is a four letter word for gardeners.
Leslie

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
Name: Larry
Hill Country TX (Zone 8b)
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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ricelg
Dec 26, 2017 10:19 PM CST
No kidding. We've had fawns born on the back of our property 2 years in a row. Makes it hard to take aggressive measures against pregnant moms or babies. I've fixed some of the back fencing and hopefully my rescue dog will do a better job this year of chasing and disrupting them but there are so many people that feed them around here...
Texas (Zone 8a)
Passionate about Native Plants
Region: Texas Butterflies Salvias Garden Photography Native Plants and Wildflowers Bee Lover
Birds Hummingbirder Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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GrammaChar
Dec 26, 2017 10:37 PM CST
There are numerous articles on the internet that address this issue. Here's one:

"More harm than good
While feeding deer may enhance wildlife viewing, decades of research has clearly shown that supplemental feeding leads to increased disease risk, long-term habitat destruction, increased vehicle collisions, habituation to humans and alteration of other deer behavioral patterns and, ultimately, the demise of the value of deer and deer-related recreation. With CWD approaching our borders, the increased potential for disease transmission and outbreak is perhaps our greatest and most immediate concern, but habitat degradation, resulting in loss of wildlife diversity and abundance, and the introduction and invasion of exotic plants are consequences of feed that have been documented throughout North America. Supplemental feeding diverts the attention, resources and efforts of wildlife management personnel away from more beneficial work; and studies universally reveal many disadvantages and few advantages to the practice."

During my many years of observing the local herds, I've noticed an increase in goiters and twin births both of which are attributed to the corn feeders. I've witnessed three deer hit by cars on the road in front of my house. Sadly the folks who think they're "helping" the deer are, in reality, causing them harm.

Okay, I'll hush now.
GrammaChar

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