Sunday, April 17, 2011

Deer Country: More Deer-Resistant Shrubs & Flowers

Deer-browsed black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia)

Two of Joel Lerner’s “Green Scene” questions and answers in the Washington Post concerned deer and shrubs, trees, and flowers, and he mentioned specific plants that might be of interest to those who garden in Deer Country.

In answer to a question from Virginia about deer eating viburnums and holly, Lerner said deer usually don’t eat plants with thick or furry leaves and suggested four viburnums with those characteristics: leatherleaf, Allegheny, chindo, and burkwood. I haven’t grown them. He also mentioned that deer often badly damage arrowwood viburnum, a native. I can confirm that. Deer have defoliated my two arrowwood viburnums several times during each of the last three summers, and I hope my arrowwoods will benefit from a new deer-repellent spray that I mentioned in my last Deer Country posting.

For the hollies, Lerner said deer-resistant hollies generally included perny, dragon lady, and American hollies but that “deer have started eating plants previously thought resistant.” I have one American holly that our bambits have generally ignored except one fall when it was about 4-feet tall and was moderately damaged when a buck used it to rub velvet from his antlers. Two nearby, less-prickly Nellie Stevens hollies are browsed heavily. Two blue-princess hollies are seldom browsed.

Close-up of deer-browsed black-eyed Susan
In a question about deer-resistant plants, Lerner lists seven perennials: black-eyed Susan, fern, brunnera, astilbe, hellebore, pachysandra, and iris. Deer browsed my black-eyed Susan so severely that I dug it out. When I grew astilbe, they ignored it. They occasionally nip a bearded-iris leaf in early spring, but they ignore the Siberian iris just two feet away. Deer ignore the ferns growing near a stream in our woods. The others I haven’t grown.

Lerner lists four woody plants: lavender, rosemary, leatherleaf mahonia, and Daphne. I have four ‘Munstead’ lavenders that are about five years old now, and the deer haven’t touched them. Donna W., a Howard County Master Gardener, says deer ignore her mahonia. I haven’t grown the other two.

If you garden in Deer Country, try plants on deer-resistant lists that you find in newspapers, magazines, books, and online. In “Deer Country 3,” I mentioned several books plus a free online brochure.

In addition to his two answers to questions involving deer, Lerner answered questions about pruning roses, dealing with mature Leyland cypress trees, and landscaping around new concrete parking pads. To link to his “Garden Scene” column in the Post (April 1),  CLICK HERE.

To link to “Deer Country 3” with recommended books and a brochure on deer management, CLICK HERE.


  1. Lerner said deer usually don’t eat plants with thick or furry leaves and suggested four viburnums with those characteristics: leatherleaf, Allegheny, chindo, and burkwood.Online Nursery

  2. The winter of 2014 was one of the most severe that I can recall and the deer did decimate the following plants which nurserymen had told me were deer resistant: (1) acuba (I have a little nub in the ground) ; (2) Chindo virburnum (passed by it in the previous 8 winters); (3) Dragon lady holly (it looked like they plucked leaves off to get at young branches ; (4) Otto Luykens (passed it by for previous six winters).

    Here's what they made no attempt to sample: (1) nandina; (2) mahonia: (3) boxwood; and (4) pieris japonica.