13 Garden Plants Deer Will Destroy


There are certain plants you should NEVER stick in the ground lest you find them the next morning on a pleasant little journey down Bambi’s digestive tract. Let’s start with the Big Three.

The Big Three
Hostas, daylilies, and roses. To a deer, these are fresh-caught Maine lobster served with melted Irish butter. They will scarf down every one they see, even when not offered a suitable wine pairing. You might think thorny roses would be undesirable, but you don’t know Bambi. To him, a little physical pain is more than worth the emotional trauma he’s going to cause you. Don’t even think of planting these three plants in deer country unless your garden is surrounded by an electric fence the size of the one in “Jurassic Park.” Hope there’s not a power outage.

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Rhododendrons and azaleas (Rhododendron sp.). What’s up with this? Are deer determined to remove all of America’s favorite plants from the landscape? Yeah, pretty much.

Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica). Around the Southern coast and in places with alkaline soil, this broadleaf evergreen is enjoyed as a substitute for acid-loving azaleas. Deer feel the same way. Yum.

Japanese pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira). It grows in many of the same places in the South as Indian hawthorn does. Until deer find it, of course, and then your garden looks so much more open and uncrowded than before. Fist bump!

Pansies and violas (Viola sp.). This one is a no-brainer. If people can put pansy and viola flowers on salads and eat them, deer surely can. FYI, their favorite dressings are Ranch and Thousand Island.

Euonymus (Euonymus sp.). Grumpy ain’t gonna shed any tears over this one. He hates most species of euonymus, particularly the gruesomely garish golden euonymus (E. japonica‘Aureomarginatus’). If the deer don’t get them, scales and mildew will. Good riddance.

Japanese aucuba (Aucuba japonica). This is one of the better broadleaf evergreen shrubs for shade, especially the popular gold dust plant (A. japonica ‘Variegata’) with bright yellow spots on deep green leaves. Once a deer spots it, though, it’s “sayonara.”

Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.). Did you know that blueberries are among the most potent sources of health-giving antioxidants? Deer certainly do, which is why they will gobble down every one, along with the foliage too. How kind of you to plant them.

Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata). Among the most common evergreen shrubs for foundation planting and hedges in cold-winter areas, Japanese yew bears soft, red fruits that people find quite toxic. Deer, of course, do not. They relish the leaves as well. Here’s looking at yew, kid.

Tulips (Tulipa sp.). OK, since I just told you to forget about planting pansies and violas for spring color, you think you’ll plant sweeps of tulips instead. Wait until the herd sweeps through your yard! Plant daffodils instead. Deer won’t touch them.

American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis). Rows of these pyramidal, needleleaf evergreens are often planted in the burbs to screen out ugly neighbors. Deer, however, think all humans should be friends and that can’t happen with arborvitaes in the way. Good dining makes good neighbors!

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