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Dealing with Deer

These plant lists contain many common landscape plants suitable for planting in the Charlottesville area. The plants on these lists are divided into two categories: Rarely Damaged and Frequently Damaged. The classifications have been made based on observation and research throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. The susceptibility of any plant to deer damage is dependent upon many factors. Deer population, alternative food source availability, environmental factors, and location all influence the degree to which deer feed on any plants. No plants are safe under all conditions. The plants listed as rarely damaged are eaten only infrequently and are most likely to be avoided by deer. Those in the frequently damaged category are likely to require physical or chemical protection in order to avoid severe feeding damage, particularly in areas of high deer traffic.

One of the most effective ways of deterring deer from feeding on your favorite plants is to provide perimeter plantings around the yard of plants they like, but that you don't care about. This will keep the deer fed, without them needing to go after your favorites. In conjunction with this, use physical deterrents to divert the deer traffic away from your plantings. Stone walls around raised beds are discouraging to deer. They don't like to climb up if they don't have to. Physical barriers such as landscape netting is also quite successful at deterring deer. The black mesh is fine enough that you don't really notice it, but the deer and other animals can't get through it.

Using plants that are on the rarely damaged list will help ensure that your landscaping will be less attractive to deer. This can make the design process more challenging, but with a little creativity, you can develop a very attractive landscape that will cause you a minimum of deer-induced headaches. Red or yellow-leaved barberries can add season-long color to your plantings to take the place of some of the flowering plants that deer like. Pieris can give you early Spring bloom instead of deer-prized azaleas. Ornamental grasses can give a great look to sunny areas and are available in a wide range of sizes and colors.

Repellents work moderately well for deterring deer. Keep in mind that if the deer are hungry enough, they will ignore the repellent and feed anyway. The best on the market right now are Deer Away, Ropel, Hinder, and Milorganite. Deer Away is an odor repellent made from eggs that we can't smell, but deer do not like. Ropel adds a very bitter flavor to the plants that deer don't like. (The one draw-back here is that the deer have to taste a little before they realize they won't like what they're eating.) Hinder is also an odor repellent that is less effective that Deer Away, but still quite good. Milorganite is a lawn fertilizer made from Milwaukee's sewage sludge. The scent is a pretty effective repellent to the deer with the added benefit of the fertilizer nutrients for the plants. While no repellent is 100% effective, they can help limit the amount of damage done. Rotation of products (to avoid familiarity) and frequent applications can enhance the effectiveness.

Good luck dealing with the deer in your area. This can be a challenging problem, but with the help of these lists and the other strategies discussed above, you can have a successful landscape, even in deer country.

Rarely Damaged


Botanical Name Common Name Botanical Name Common Name
Aesculus parviflora Bottlebrush buckeye Betula papyrifera Paper birch
Amelanchier arborea Downy Serviceberry Chamaecyparis pisifera Japanese Falsecypress
Amelanchier canadensis Shadbush Cryptomeria japonica Japanese Cedar
Amelanchier laevis Allegheny Serviceberry Picea pungens glauca Colorado Blue Spruce
Betula nigra Heritage Birch Pinus sylvestris Scotch Pine

Shrubs and Climbers

Botanical Name Common Name Botanical Name Common Name
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi Bearberry Cephalotaxus spp. Japanese Plum Yew
Berberis spp. Barberry Eleagnus angustifolia Russian Olive
Buxus spp. Boxwood Gaultheria procumbens Creeping Wintergreen
Caryopteris x landonensis Caryopteria Hibiscus syriacus Rose of Sharon
Calastrus scandens American Bittersweet Leucothoe spp. Leucothoe
Cornus sericea Red-Osier Dogwood Pieris japonica Japanese Andromeda

Annuals, Perennials, & Bulbs

Botanical Name Common Name Botanical Name Common Name
Achillea spp. Yarrow Antirrhinum majus Snapdragon
Aconitum spp. Monkshood Arabis spp. Rock-cress
Ageratum houstonianum Ageratum Arisaema thiphylum Jack-in-the-Pulpit
Allium christophii Star of Persia Aubrietia deltoidea Rock Cress
Allium neapolitanum Daffodil Garlic Bergenia spp. Bergenia
Allium ostrowskianum Lily Leek Ceratostigma plumbaginoides Plumbago
Anemone x hybrida Japanese Anemone Cimicifuga racemosa Snakeroot
Anemonella thalictroides Rue Anemone Colchicum autumnale Colchicum
Anethum graveolens Common Dill Colchicum speciosum Colchicum
Aquilegia app. Columbine Consolida ambigua Larkspur
Aurinia saxatilis Basket-of-Gold Convallaria majalis Lily-of-the-Valley
Coreopsis verticillata Threadleaf Coreopsis Narcissus spp. Daffodil
Cyclamen hederifolium Neopolitan Cyclamen Nicotiana spp. Flowering Tobacco
Dicentra spectabilis Bleeding Heart Osmunda regalis spectabilis Royal Fern
Digitalis spp. Foxglove Pachysandra terminalis Japanese Spurge
Dryopteris marginalis Wood Fern Papaver orientale Oriental Poppy
Ecinacea purpurea Purple Coneflower Pelargonium spp. Scented Geranium
Epimedium spp. Barrenwort Pervoskia atroplicifolia Russian Sage
Euphorbia spp. Euphorbia Ranunculus spp. Buttercup
Fritillaria spp. Fritillary Rheum rhabarbarum Rhubarb
Galium odoratuim Sweet Woodruff Rudbeckia spp. Black-eyed Susan
Gloriosa superba Glory Lily Salvia spp. Sage
Hemmerocallis ‘Stella de Oro' Stella de Oro Daylily Santolina chamaecyparissus Lavender Cotton
Hesperis matronalis Dame's Rocket Scilla spp. Squill
Hyacinthus orientalis Hyacinth Stachys byzantina Lamb's Ears
Lamium maculatum Deadnettle Tagetes spp. Marigold
Lavandula spp. Lavender Tanacetum vulgare Common Tansy
Linaria vulgaris Toadflax Thymus spp. Thyme
Lobularia maritima Sweet Alyssum Tiarella cordifolia Foam Flower
Lychnis coronaria Rose Champion Tropaeolum majus Nasturtium
Matteuccia struthiopteris Ostrich Fern Yucca spp. Yucca

Frequently Damaged


Botanical Name Common Name Botanical Name Common Name
Acer palmatum Japanese Maple Fraxinus excelsior European Ash
Acer platanoides Norway Maple Ilex ‘Nellie Stevens' Nellie Stevens Holly
Cedrus atlantica Atlas Cedar Kuelreuteria paniculata Goldenrain Tree
Cercis canadensis Redbud Magnolia soulangeana Saucer Magnolia
Chionanthus virginicus Fringe Tree Malus spp. Apple and Crabapple
Cupressocyparis leylandii Leyland Cypress Prunus spp. Cherry and Plum
Pinus strobus White Pine Thuja occidentalis Arborvitae
Pyrus spp. Pear Tsuga spp. Hemlock

Shrubs and Climbers

Botanical Name Common Name Botanical Name Common Name
Chaenomeles japonica Quince Kalmia latifolia Mountain Laurel
Clematis spp. Clematis Rhododendron nudiflorum Pinksterbloom Azalea
Cornus mas Cornellian Dogwood Rhododendron vaseyl Pink Shell Azalea
Euonymus alatus Winged Euonymus Rhododendron hybrids Rhododendrons & Azaleas
Euonymus fortunei Wintercreeper Rosa hybrids Hybrid Roses
Euonymus kiautschovicus Manhattan Euonymus Rubus spp. Raspberries & Blackberries
Hydrangea macrophylla Bigleaf Hydrangea Sorbus aucuparia European Mountain Ash
Hydrangea quercifolia Oakleaf Hydrangea Syringa patula Manchurian Lilac
Ilex cornuta Chinese Holly Taxus spp. Yew
Ilex x merserve ‘Blue' Holly Vaccinium corymbosum Blueberry
Ilex verticillata Common Winterberry    

Annuals, Perennials, & Bulbs

Botanical Name Common Name Botanical Name Common Name
Aegopodium podagaria Bishop's Weed Lillium spp. Lily
Aquilegia spp. Columbine Matthoila incarna Stock
Athyrium niponicum pictum Japanese Painted Fern Pelargonium spp. Geranium
Cherianthus spp. Wallflower Polygonatum biflorum Solomon's Seal
Hedera helix English Ivy Ranunculus asiaticus Buttercup
Helianthus spp. Sunflower Trillium spp. Trillium
Hosta spp. Hosta Tulipa spp. Tulip
Hemerocallis spp. & hybrids Daylily Vinca minor Periwinkle
Iberis sempervirens Candytuft