No treats for Rudolph

Horticulture Hints

With Santa and his reindeer soon to be arriving, it is a good time to discuss our other deer friends. Many gardeners have experienced deer damage to their gardens, but what steps can be taken to help prevent Bambi and his relatives from feasting on your landscape?

Although prevention of deer browsing is difficult, gardeners may be able to avoid some damage with careful plant selection. The best defense against deer is to plant things they don’t care to eat. Deer are less likely to eat plants with fuzzy or coarse foliage, and leaves or stems with strong odors or spines.

Some plants less attractive to deer are lamb’s ears, ornamental grasses, ferns, catmint, Russian sage and lavender. While deer love tulips and lilies, they do tend to avoid other bulbs such as daffodils, allium, grape hyacinth and autumn crocus.

As for trees and shrubs, deer often avoid pines, spruces, larches, cypress, barberry and boxwood. In spring and summer, forsythia, weigelia, spirea and ninebark attract fewer deer. For late-season color, try planting beautybush or potentilla shrubs.

As bucks like to rub their antlers on young trees, wrap trunks with tree wraps or protect trunks with wire fence cages supported with stakes. If deer pressure is high, it is recommended to protect all trees, both deciduous and evergreen, that have trunk diameters under 6 to 8 inches.

Essentially, the amount of deer damage to the landscape varies and depends upon seasonal weather conditions, availability of alternative foods, and plant palatability.

Did you know? Home gardeners should realize that there are no plants that are completely deer resistant. Deer will browse even on even the most resistant plants when faced with starvation. However, careful plant selection, along with repellents and fencing can help to reduce deer damage.

Horticulture Questions? Contact McCormick at yvonne@iastate.edu for information or advice.


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