University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System: Water Quality and the Home Landscape

Sustainable Landscaping: Healthy Environments

Co-existing with deer

by: Carl Salsedo, Ph.D.

Extension Educator, Horticulture

With the spread of the suburban landscape into former woodlands and fields, and the extensive use of highly edible plant species in traditional landscapes, white tailed deer have become a major concern for homeowners in many areas. Some homeowners have resorted to physical (noisemakers), chemical (strong scents) or repellents. Others wrap plants in mesh or erect fences. Most of these control measures are at least partially successful, but many are expensive or time-consuming to maintain.

An alternative approach is to reduce the landscape edibility rating by selecting plants deer prefer not to eat. As deer browse on any shrub or low growing tree if the conditions are bad enough, no list of plants can have an absolute guarantee for being deer proof. However, deer do tend to avoid plants with thorny stems or prickly leaves and those with strong aromas, making plants like bayberry, boxwood, potentilla, roses, and hollies good choices. Listed below is a listing of plants deer do not prefer.