Top native plants for deterring deer

Want to discourage whitetails from hanging around? There are plants for that

By Lorraine JohnsonLorraine Johnson

Deter deer


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“Nothing is deer-proof,” says Miriam Goldberger of Wildflower Farm, “but you can plant species that are the cuisine of last resort for deer.”

Jacki Kennedy-Ciphery of Water’s Edge Landscaping in Port Carling, Ont., finds that most of the deer damage she sees is to cultivars (plants that have been selected and bred for specific traits) rather than to native plants. She mentions hostas (a non-native) as particularly vulnerable to deer predation, and notes that “one of the problems with deer is that they trample more than they eat, damaging the crowns of plants.”

Some people have had luck discouraging deer by placing human hair or dog hair in the garden bed. Kennedy-Ciphery wraps shavings of Irish Spring soap in pieces of old pantyhose or J-cloth and twist-ties them to a garden stake when her flowers are in bloom. “They dislike it as much as I do.” But if all tricks fail to thwart your hungry visitors, she suggests, “Be tolerant of imperfection and be prepared to share your flora with the fauna.”’

Plants to deter deer

• Foxglove beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)

• Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

• Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

• Lance-leaved coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)

• Lavender hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

• Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

• Nodding onion (Allium cernuum)

• Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)

• Side-oats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)

• Stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida)

For photos of these and other plants, refer to these websites:

Ontario Wildflowers

North American Native Plant Society

This article was originally published on May 14, 2003

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