Published on 03/10/16

There are no truly deer-resistant plants

By Frank M. Watson

When deer leave the shelter of the woods in search of food, they often inspect the shrubs and flowers in your front yard’s landscape as if they were browsing a buffet.

They will nibble your pansies as an appetizer and then fill up on the azaleas as their main course. Then they’re off to the day lilies for dessert.

All across America, this scene plays out repeatedly wherever people have replaced the deer’s natural habitat with manmade spaces and landscapes.

Nuisance deer are difficult to control in residential communities.

There are a number of commercially available repellents on the market, but they tend to wash away with rain and must be re-applied frequently to be effective.

“Home remedy" repellents like soap, human hair and animal dung produce unreliable results.

Many people are opposed to shooting deer, and the practice is prohibited in many communities. Fencing whole communities or individual properties is often not practical.

Planting ornamental plants that deer do not like will reduce the number of deer browsing through your yard but very few plants are completely deer-resistant. When deer populations are high and food is scarce deer are more likely to feed on ornamental plants even if they’re not their favorite source of food.

They prefer tender new foliage from both newly-planted ornamentals and established plants that have been fertilized to produce lush new growth. During dry weather deer are attracted to irrigated plants.

Buck deer can cause considerable damage to young trees by rubbing them with their antlers. Repellents will not stop antler rubbing.

For a list of deer-tolerant ornamental plants, call your local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office or go to and search under “deer.”

Frank Watson is the University of Georgia Extension agent in Wilkes County, Ga.

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