When planning a landscape design in deer-inhabited areas, consider choosing deer-resistant plants, trees and shrubs. Fencing a garden area rarely works because deer can jump fences of most heights. Choosing plants the animals find unpalatable offers the greatest chance at deer proofing a garden and lessening the damage that unwanted browsing can cause.
The southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) grows to a height of approximately 90 feet and offers deer resistance, according to North Carolina State University's website. The glossy, green leaves measure up to 8 inches in length and rarely suffer damage from deer. In spring, the tree produces fragrant white flowers that can measure up to 12 inches in diameter. It grows well in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 7 to 9.
In areas that suffer cold winters, consider planting the common honeylocust tree (Gleditsia triacanthos), which can withstand temperatures in USDA zone 4. The tree is seldom browsed by deer, according to Oregon State University's website. The deciduous tree grows to a height of 60 feet. It produces 8-inch-long leaves that turn a brilliant yellow in fall months.
Texas A&M University's website lists the oleander (Nerium oleander) as a deer-resistant shrub. It grows to a height of 20 feet. This evergreen produces lance-shaped foliage. Over the summer months, it produces flowers in shades of salmon, pink, red, lavender and white. All parts of the oleander are poisonous, so care should be taken when planting the shrub in areas frequented by children or pets. The shrub grows best in full sunlight. It is hardy in USDA zones 8 to 10.
The cold-hardy Russian olive shrub (Elaeagnus angustifolia) grows well in USDA zones 3 to 8. West Virginia University Extension Service's website lists it as a deer-resistant shrub choice. It grows to a height of 20 feet. A low-maintenance shrub, the Russian olive offers attractive, silvery-green foliage. The shrub does have invasive tendencies. It can be trained into a tree shape with care or grown as a hedge. It grows well in moist or dry soils and has the ability to fix nitrogen into nutrient-poor soil. Plant the Russian olive in full sunlight or partial shade.
Lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina) grows as a perennial in USDA zones 4 to 7, but in zone 8 and above the plant must be treated like an annual because it cannot survive the summertime heat. Lamb's ear grows as a mat, which makes it an ideal ground cover. It produces 4-inch-long, thick leaves that spring from a rosette form. The leaves are a silvery-green and covered in soft, white fur. Various cultivars exist that offers larger or smaller foliage. During the summer, it produces flower spikes in shades of pink or yellow. It offers deer resistance, according to the University of Minnesota.
Penn State Cooperative Extension's website suggests the Icelandic poppy (Papaver nudicaule) for deer resistance. It grows in USDA zones 4 to 10. The plant prefers full sunlight or partial shade. It easily self-seeds and is a good choice for a wildflower garden. It grows to a height of 2 feet. During the summer months, it produces paperlike yellow, orange, red or white flowers with fernlike foliage. The plant can tolerate drought well.
- North Carolina State University: Deer Resistant Plants
- Floridata: Magnolia grandiflora
- Oregon State University: Deer-Resistant Plants for Central Oregon
- Floridata: Nerium oleander
- Texas A&M University: Deer in the Urban Landscape
- West Virginia University Extension Service: Resistance of Ornamentals to Deer Damage