What are good “deer proof” plants?
—Jeff Parr, via e-mail
Sadly, there are none. That is to say, if deer are hungry enough, they’ll eat practically anything. But like all of us, they do have food preferences. Offer up menu items that aren’t very appealing and, hopefully, the deer will avoid your garden like it’s the breakfast buffet at a low-rent motel. Some native, deer-resistant options include: black-eyed Susan, butterfly weed, nodding onion, lavender hyssop, prairie dropseed, and foxglove beardtongue, plus, in general, plants that are thorny, fuzzy, or stinky. You could also discourage the deer by spreading human or canine hair, or mothballs, in your flower beds, or by securing a homemade sachet of soap shavings to a stake driven into the ground.
For site-specific plant suggestions, check with your local nursery. Staff may be able to recommend native plants that will work for you—ones that look pretty and grow successfully in your soil conditions—but not the resident deer population.