The Tree Center

Take 20% Off Entire Order with Code HOLIDAY20

Best Deer Resistant Plants and Shrubs For Your Area

February 16, 2015

Written by Siobhan Barton.

Deer pose a pesky nuisance for gardeners. Though they may be enjoyable to look at, deer will nibble on many types of popular landscaping trees. The damage deer cause can lead to trees that appear sickly or malnourished. The tree can suffer from more than just appearance issues – significant deer damage can impact the future life of your plant, and even cause it to die much earlier than it should.

Deer damage trees in several ways. During winter, food resources for deer dwindle. To get through these tough months, deer rely on the lichens that grow on trees to suffice for food. In eating the lichens off the trees, deer will rip off strips of bark, exposing the tree to the harshest seasonal elements. Deer also feed on evergreen leaves, or needles, often completely removing entire layers of the shrub or tree. The damage deer can do to trees can oftentimes devastate the tree permanently.

Antler rubbing is another common behavior that can negatively impact the growth of trees. Male deer will rub their antlers against trees in order to remove the velvety film. This damage, which occurs primarily on flexible and smaller tree limbs, can remove the entre outer bark and even damage the tree’s vascular tissue.

After all this worrisome news, it can be comforting to learn that there are ways to circumvent these pesky pests. Netting and fencing can provide temporary relief, but these can also become expensive, cumbersome, and unattractive. Planting plants that deer find unattractive can be one tool for dealing with high deer populations.

For homeowners who plant in areas laden with deer, these types of plants can be an essential tool to deter these majestic, but destructive, animals. Engaging in some proper research can make the difference between aggressive deer damage and a successful, deer-resistant garden attraction.

Deer tolerant plants come in a variety of types, and they cover all manner of plant types: shrubs, trees, shade plants, and evergreens. These commonly affected plants have cultivars that are capable withstanding the most abhorrent of deer attacks. These medium-sized mammals can be enjoyable to watch (and even get up to close to in deer parks), but they can be a deadly pest in the garden. Check out some of these deer-resistant plants, collected by The Tree Center experts, and plan out your pest-resistant garden today.

Deer Resistant Shrubs

Shrubs, which are usually smaller than trees, usually have more than once central stem that extends outward from the base of the plant. Shrubs are frequently eaten by deer due to their low height and accessible edible bits.

Gardeners love to plant shrubs. These smaller plants can add a variety of landscape qualities that would otherwise be absent from the garden – levels, texture, and color. Without shrubs, what could have been called a garden becomes an orchard or flower-bed. Shrubs add variety. Many shrubs are planted to create privacy walls and accent features in the yard. How often have you seen the common American boxwood shrub planted by a neighbor’s front door or a colorful rhododendron shrub at the house’s corners? Character attends the yard where shrubs are planted to strategically add cover, class, and color.

Unfortunately, deer can significantly damage the shrubs homeowners plant. Shrubs, which are typically closer to the ground, are at a higher risk for severe damage than trees, whose height makes them a smaller target. Shrubs are commonly devastated by the curious creatures who wander our woods.

Luckily, there are dozens of deer-resistant shrubs available. These shrubs have a variety of characteristics that make them unpopular to deer. We have collected a few of the most popular deer resistant shrubs here, and we have also compiled a much longer list below.

Prepare a garden selection free from the devastating effects of deer. Though a nibble here and there may occur, your overall garden appearance and health will blossom with the proper plant preparation and planting. And flowers, too!

Arrow Wood Viburnum

This flowering shrub displays creamy white flowers in the spring and vibrant blue to black berries in the early fall. Though birds will frequent the bush in the autumn for their meals, deer appear to have little interest in the Arrow wood Viburnum, which is found in most regions of the United States, except the farthest south and southwest regions. Expect your shrub to reach between 6 and 15 feet in height.

Barberry

A common garden plant, the Barberry (sometimes spelled Berberry) shrub is a medium-sized high-interest, low-maintenance plant. Frequently planted as a hedge or foundation plant, the Barberry displays luscious ruby to burgundy colors in its leaves, though some species include more yellow tones. Frequently thorny, the Barberry deters deer and grows easily in many types of environments.

Daphne

Daphne plants can be either deciduous or semi-evergreen, and they compose a variety of broad-leafed flowering shrubs. Daphne plants are typically fragrant and display clusters of tubular flowers that vary in color from light pinks and whites to blues and purples. The Daphne is a beautiful ornamental bush (one of my favorites). Even better? Deer won’t bite the flowers as they are want to do on other flowering shrubs.

Fragrant Sumac

With a wildflower attitude, the Fragrant Sumac provides a plant with manageable growing rates, pest and insect invulnerabilities, and, as the name implies, a pleasant odor when the twigs or leaves are bruised. This small, 2 to 4 foot shrub, repels deer and instead offers tiny yellow spring flowers and supple autumn colors and fruit.

Heather Shrub

Most Heathers bloom in summer, providing stunning clusters of purples and pinks. Landscapers love Heather, which grows easily on poor soil, hillsides, and ledges. For this reason, Heather is frequently used as a border plant, lining garden walls, and in the undergrowth as a colorful foundation plant. In addition to these traits, Heather is also resistant to the devastating effects of deer.

Other Deer Resistant Shrubs

Arrow Wood Viburnum

Bayberry

Blue Mist Shrub

Bush Cinquefoil

Butterfly Bush

Common Boxwood

Daphne

Devil’s Walking Stick

Drooping Leucothoe


Fragrant Sumac

Heath

Heather

Andromeda Japanese Pieris

Japanese Plum Yew

Japanese Skimmia

John T. Morris Holly

Leatherleaf Mahonia


Moonglow Juniper

Mountain Pieris

Oregon Grape Holly

Prince of Wales Juniper

Red Elderberry

Russian Cypress

Russian Olive

Sweet Box


Deer Resistant Trees

Trees, though significantly taller than their kinsman shrubs, are also prone to the effects of deer. Most often, trees grow lichens and mosses during the spring and summer months. In autumn and winter, when the other greenery has died or been ingested, deer will begin to pick away at the bark and living material growing on trees.

The bark may seem like it’s only the tough exterior to the plant, and this is, in part, true. The bark of the tree is similar to your skin, or epidermis. It provides protection from the elements and helps keep all the innards, well, in!

Just like a person with damaged or serious skin conditions (such as eczema, psoriasis, or cancer), trees, too, can suffer from diseases or infestations to their skin. Deer provide one of the most serious of these infestations, as their respective size can greatly affect the well-being of a tree.

There are several types of tree that can withstand these negative effects caused by deer. These deer-resistant trees can border properties, sometimes acting as an invisible fence line for the deer population. More often, they are at least able to care for themselves, using their deer protective skin to survive tough winters.

We have collected a few of the most popular deer resistant trees for you that grow in the United States. These trees are used for landscaping and backyard planting, and they will deter infestations of deer. We have also compiled a list of deer resistant trees that you can peruse if you are considering a tree planting in your backyard.

Bottlebrush Buckeye

Reaching up to 12 feet tall, the Bottlebrush Buckeye is a small flowering tree that produces incredibly showy pink to red clusters of flowers up to a foot in height. For this reason, the Bottlebrush Buckeye is commonly planted as an ornamental or accent tree.

Autumn is another beautiful season, as the dark green, glossy leaves give way to yellow foliage. Though the flowers are within easy reach for deer, these mammals do not feed on them, finding the taste quite bitter.

Katsura Tree

A truly impressive tree, the Katsura tree reaches between 40 and 60 feet tall. Commonly planted as a shade tree, the Katsura Tree offers shape and texture with gently rounded leaves and tiny red and green flowers that bloom in spring. The Katsura, which provides low shade (perfect for placing a bench underneath), is not an enticing dish for deer.

Mimosa Tree

Beautiful to behold, the Mimosa tree is a mid-summer bloomer. Fern-like leaves add texture and shape to the garden landscape. In addition to its unique leaves, the Mimosa tree also displays exotic pink flowers that dazzle onlookers. Neighbors will be stopping by to ask what tree offers such beauty and keen privacy. Deer will avoid this tree.

Paper Birch

This year-round beauty is popular in autumn, as its white bark begins to contrast dramatically with vibrant golden leaves. Frequently found along small streams and rocky slopes, the Paper Birch grows well in a variety of soil types and landscapes. The Paper Birch can reach up to 70 feet tall, though young saplings will range between 10 and 20 feet for the first few years. Though deer may visit the Paper Birch tree, they will not nibble.

Pawpaw Tree

The lovely Pawpaw tree is a popular tree that offers tropical ambience and wind protection. Large leaves display themselves on this small, 25 foot tall tree. The Pawpaw is often planted for its fruit, which can be eaten. Fruit gains can be increased by planting the Pawpaw tree in full sun with at least one additional Pawpaw tree for pollination purposes. Deer are turned away from the taste of the Pawpaw tree.

Common Sassafras

Three unique leaves are grown by the Common Sassafras tree, which has been used to make teas and other edible treats. Careful, though; ingesting large amounts of Sassafras can be damaging to human health, which is why deer are also uninterested in this tree. Reaching up to 60 feet tall, the Sassafras tree has a vague lemon scent and provides stunning beauty and sturdy summer shade.

Japanese Maple

This small tree offers color throughout the growing season, displaying rich burgundy-purple to maroon tinted leaves. Twisted branches add shape and texture to the garden landscape. There are many Japanese Maple varieties that display different shapes: weeping, cascading, and elegant canopies. Deer will not bite this winning landscape tree.

Other Deer Resistant Trees

American Holly

Bottlebrush Buckeye

Japanese Black Pine

Katsura Tree

Mimosa Trees

Paper Birch

Pawpaw Tree

Pitch Pine

Red Pine

River Birch

Allegheny Serviceberry

Austrian Pine

Chinese Fringe Tree

Chinese Paper Birch

Colorado Blue Spruce

Common Flowering Quince

Common Sassafras


Corkscrew Willow

Dawn Redwood

Douglas Fir

Downy Serviceberry

Dragon Lady/ San Jose Holly

Eastern Red Cedar

English Hawthorn

European Ash

European White Birch

Goldenrain Tree

Green Ash

Himalayan Birch

Honey Locust

Japanese Cedar

Japanese Falsecypress

Japanese Flowering Cherry


Japanese Maple

Japanese Red Pine

Kousa Dogwood

Norway Spruce

Paperbark Maple

Red Maple

Ruby Horsechestnut

Scotch Pine

Serbian Spruce

Shadbush

Sourwood

Striped Maple

Sugar Maple

Tulip Tree

White Spruce

Yellow Birch

Deer Resistant Shade Plants

There are two types of shade plants to consider: plants that produce shade and plants that grow well in the shade. We have covered both!

Shade is a valuable commodity. Trees that produce shade, therefore, can be beneficial in a variety of ways. First, shade producing trees provide shade under which people, pets, and plants can rest. Second, the shade they produce can also have a cooling effect on the land as a whole. This is especially helpful for homes in warm climates. Shade producing trees, when planted carefully, can help to lower the temperature of the property, decreasing cooling costs like air conditioning.

Deer munching on the shade leaves can be devastating. Shade trees provide much of their cooling shadows through the use of broad leaves. If deer devour the leaves, then the tree cannot provide shade. For landscapers and homeowners hoping to plant shade producing trees, consider some of the following species.

Golden Chain Tree

This beautiful tree, reaching between 15 and 25 feet in height, displays gorgeous golden-yellow flower chains in the spring and summer. Most commonly planted for its beauty, the Golden Chain tree’s branching pattern can be chaotic, which only adds to the rich textures and shapes provided by this deer resistant shade producing tree.
 

Japanese Black Pine

Evergreens can provide shade, too. The Japanese Black Pine usually reaches between 20 and 60 feet in height and displays enormous green needles and pinecones that offer scented shade from the sun’s hottest rays. Deer-resistant, the Japanese Black Pine creates a conical evergreen shape.
 

River Birch Tree

The River Birch tree is loved for its shade and tolerance to not only deer, but poor soils, various sunlight exposures, and divergent water offerings. The River Birch has lovely cinnamon-colored bark and produces rich green leaves in summer.
 
 

Other Deer Resistant Shade Producing Plants

Golden Chain Tree

Holly Trees

Katsura Tree

Mimosa Tree


Pawpaw Tree

Dwarf Alberta Spruce

Japanese Black Pine


Pitch Pine

Red Pine

River Birch

Shade Tolerant Plants

The shadows provided by shade producing trees can be difficult to grow other plants in; this is especially true if deer are nibbling on the groundcover. We have collected several types of groundcover shade tolerant plants that are resistant to deer.

Bishop’s Weed

This groundcover perennial ranges between 12 and 24 inches in height, and it will grow vigorously over exposed garden ground. Bishop’s Weed is so named because it can be invasive in certain regions, and it grows in all types of sun exposure. The small green leaves display beautiful tiny inconspicuous flowers in spring and white-rimmed green leaves throughout the growing season. For areas where deer-chew is a concern, Bishop’s Weed can be an alternative.

Holly Fern

Holly FernThis water-loving fern is easy to grow and easy to manage. Commonly planted both outdoor and indoors, Holly Fern is smooth to the touch and produces beautiful texture and shape in the garden landscape due to its fern leaf structure. Holly Fern has a solid reputation as a deer resistant plant.
 

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the ValleyThis shade-loving perennial is well known throughout the United States’ northern temperate regions. Large leaves surround dazzling white flower clusters that bloom in early to mid-spring. The Lily of the Valley is sure to attract butterflies and bumblebees, though pesky deer will remain out of sight for the most part.
 

Sensitive Fern

Sensitive Fern PlantThe Sensitive Fern is a favorite among horticulturists. This attractive, yet unassuming fern, responds to touch stimuli. Gently run fingers along the fern’s leaves and watch them curl up. Fascinating for both the young and old, the Sensitive Fern is an intriguing and deer-resistant plant to add to the garden groundcover.
 

Other Deer Resistant Shade Tolerant Plants

Allegheny Spurge

Barrenwort

Bearberry

Bishop’s Weed

Bugleweed

Hayscented Ferns


Holly Fern

Japanese Painted Ferns

Leatherleaf Mahonia

Lily of the Valley

Pachysandra


Royal Fern

Sensitive Fern

Spotted Deadnettle

Sweet Woodruff

Wood Fern

Deer Resistant Evergreens

It is not surprising that deer, which are frequently found in northern reaches of the United States, also enjoy munching on northern plants, such as evergreens. Evergreen trees produce leaves (frequently needles) for the entire year; thus, they are evergreen. Both conifers and deciduous trees can be evergreens, though needle-covered spruces and pines typify these types of plant.

Many gardeners and landscapers prefer evergreens in planting privacy screens and garden borders, since the trees will continue to provide these provisions in the winter months. Beautiful garden paths can be easily marred by deer-chewed plants. We have collected a few of the most popular deer resistant evergreen trees below.

Common Boxwood

Common BoxwoodYards across the United States are strewn with the Common Boxwood, which create the most common privacy hedges and evergreen landscape plants. Both English and American Boxwoods grow with incredible easy and require only the most minimal pruning in terms of maintenance. Deer do not usually nibble on Boxwoods, which will make these a continued popular privacy plant.

Green Giant Thuja

Thuja Green Giant Arborvitaes RowThe Thuja Green Giant is the other most common type of privacy hedge found in the United States. Thujas are often planted in rows to create dense privacy screens that block out unwanted sights and sounds. The Thuja Green Giant virtually cares for itself, and it grows well even in poor soils. It is uncommon for deer to eat these evergreens.
 

John T. Morris Holly

John T Morris HollyHollies can be quite resistant to deer, and the John T. Morris Holly is one particular species that does quite well in deer populated areas. This holly creates a small shrub, which can also be expanded into a hedge. Not only will the holly deter deer, but it also will produce stunning red berries in winter.
 

Eastern White Pine

Michigan State Tree Eastern White PineThe Eastern White Pine is a staple of the mixed and coniferous woods of North America. This large pine tree averages between 50 and 80 feet in height with a large spread of up to 40 feet. This evergreen displays a conical shape, though in later years the tree is likely to square up somewhat. Adaptable to various soil types and water levels, the Eastern Pine is easy to care for and will help ward off pesky deer.

Colorado Blue Spruce

Utah State Tree - Blue SpruceThe Colorado Blue Spruce is commonly found throughout the USDA Zones 2-7. Rich blue-green needles are displayed by this 50 to 75 foot tall tree. This evergreen grows easily and is enjoyed for its color and texture. Deer will not usually munch on this fantastic evergreen.
 
 

Other Deer Resistant Evergreens

Common Boxwood

Japanese Plum Yew

Moonglow Juniper

Oregon Grape Holly

Prince of Wales Juniper

Sweet Box

Russian Cypress

American Holly

John T. Morris Holly

Lydia Morris Holly

Pitch Pine

Red Pine

Armstrong Juniper


Austrian Pine

Chinese Holly

Chinese Juniper

Colorado Blue Spruce

Creeping Juniper

Creeping Wintergreen

Dawn Redwood

Douglas Fir

Dwarf Balsam Fir

Eastern Red Cedar

Eastern White Pine

English Holly

Japanese Cedar


Japanese Garden Juniper

Mountain Juniper

Norway Spruce

Pfitzer Juniper

Savin/Tam Juniper

Scotch Pine

Serbian Spruce

White Spruce

Winterberry Holly

Blue Star Juniper

Blue Rug Juniper

Green Giant Thuja

Comments 3 comments

  1. September 22, 2017 by Beverly Toth

    I live in Daysland, Alberta, where can i purchase some John T Morris Holly trees, I live on a farm and would like to add these trees to my yard.

    Thanks

    Beverly

  2. November 5, 2017 by Leslie C Morris-Smith

    Bishops weed is a horrible invasive in my garden. It crowds out other plants, especially astilbe, and has been impossible to remove. I’m sorry my friend added it to my garden bed.

  3. April 2, 2020 by Michelle

    I am questioning whether River Birch tree attract white tailed deer. Some articles say yes while others say no. I live in SC where there are many deer. Hope you can clarify this. Michelle