While deer are attractive animals and a joy to watch in the right setting, they can cause havoc in the garden. So which are the best deer-proof plants? Well, as experienced gardeners will know, it turns out that there are none. However there are some plants that are less likely to be damaged than others. In fact this A list is quite a lot longer than you might think as Meghan Shinn explains in her article which I found on the Horticulture Magazine website.
If you’re wondering which plants are absolutely deer-proof, wonder no more. There are none. If deer are hungry enough, they’ll eat just about anything. Preferences vary by deer species and the region in which they live, as well. That said, one excellent plant list can be found at the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. This Rutgers University webpage lists many common garden trees, perennials and shrubs and rates them on a scale of A (rarely damaged) through D (frequently severely damaged).
“Realizing that no plant is deer proof, plants in the Rarely Damaged, and Seldom Severely Damaged categories would be best for landscapes prone to deer damage. Plants Occasionally Severely Damaged and Frequently Severely Damaged are often preferred by deer and should only be planted with additional protection such as the use of fencing, repellents, etc. Success of any of these plants in the landscape will depend on local deer populations and weather conditions.”
In general, deer avoid plants with an unpleasant mouth-feel, such as hollies, and plants with strong fragrance, such as lavender. Your local extension agency may also offer a list of region-specific deer-resistant plants. These are usually locally native plants that have developed the ability to withstand deer browsing in order to survive.
See more at Horticulture Magazine