Gardening with deer in the
Deer are now present in every English county and very much on the increase. In many cases they have lost their fear of man and will even feed from window boxes with you looking out at them from inside!
Over the years we have compiled a list of plants that deer like and one that they generally do not. Nothing is certain with these lovely animals and we welcome feed back to add to our knowledge so that it can be shared with other gardeners.
Plants particularly favoured by Deer
Deer are great experimenters and will sample a few shoots and leaves from most plants. When that plant is young and newly planted this may be sufficient to severely set that plant back or kill it, even if the deer found that it did not like the taste!
They are also inconsistent in their preferred food and, particularly in cold weather, may be driven to eat something that they would normally not.
Newly planted trees in prominent locations may attract the attention of males marking territory [‘fraying’] by rubbing their antlers up and down the stem and removing the bark. If this tree is replaced, the new one is likely to receive the same treatment.
Muntjac deer are spreading rapidly and are a real threat to gardens as they will happily live within a garden if there is enough cover.
Roe and muntjac deer have observed our movements and adapted their feeding patterns so that they often visit our gardens when we are at work.
The following plants are usually at risk when deer come into gardens;
The number of asterisks indicate the normal degree of preference
Apple shoots and fruits ***
Hardy Geranium [some such as endressii]**
Pansies & Violas**
PLANTS NOT GENERALLY DAMAGED BY DEER
Deer are great experimenters and love to investigate something new, so any list of deer proof plants is not fool proof! Most damage is done by browsing on new growth but occasionally the damage can be caused by ‘fraying’. This is when antlers are rubbed on bushes and small trees to remove velvet from new antlers and to leave scent to mark territory. If the damaged tree is replaced, it is highly likely that the replacement will receive the same treatment.
Aquilegia [Granny’s Bonnet]
Aster [Michaelmas daisy]
Buddleja [Butterfly bush]
Cotinus [Smoke Tree]
Dicentra [Bleeding Heart]
Geranium [Hardy] ~most
Monarda [Bee Balm]
Nepeta [Cat Mint]
Ribes [Flowering Currant]
Rudbeckia [Black eyed Susan]
Santolina [Cotton Lavender]