Do you plant for wildlife? If you’re like most gardeners, you love watching hummingbirds pause for a sip of nectar, bees gathering pollen, and butterflies flitting among the flowers. Sometimes, though, adorable garden visitors turn into bullies, destroying beloved plants and wreaking havoc on your landscape. Even if you’re a wildlife advocate, what animals do you need to discourage from visiting your garden?
How can such an adorable animal turn into a garden foe? You might initially love seeing deer in your yard–and even feel sorry for their loss of habitat—until they decimate your garden. Those carefully selected pollinator plants that you’ve tended in your efforts to save the bees look like a buffet to a herd of deer. Even one deer snacking on your plants can strip your garden beds bare. What’s a gardener to do? You can try fencing, sprays, and other deer-deterrents to protect your landscape, which work to varying degrees. Or you can practice pre-emptive planting.
Fortunately, some perennials prove more resistant to foraging deer than others. If you’re longing to keep plants in the garden and not in deer bellies, give these perennials a try!
If you grow a garden for pollinators, yarrow proves an excellent choice. The clusters of florets on each flower head attract bees and butterflies, as well as other beneficial insects, like braconid wasps, that prey on pests in your garden. Along with beautiful blooms that work well in fresh or dried bouquets, the fragrant foliage adds a sweet scent—but deer dislike it. Consider planting a border of yarrow around your beds as a deer deterrent.
While common yarrow tends to melt in summer’s high heat and humidity, new varieties like ‘Apricot Delight’ and ‘Ritzy Ruby’ hold up well in sweltering temperatures. You’ll find a wide variety of colors and sizes in today’s varieties, some with chameleon-like flowers that turn different shades as they mature, as well as petite varieties perfect for containers or garden nooks. What do they all have in common? Deer dislike them!
Do you love a bright burst of color in your garden? If you do, you’ll adore tickseed. Butterflies flock to it, plus it’s drought tolerant—and deer avoid it. Plant extra tickseed and include several varieties so that you can enjoy it in the garden while also bringing flowers indoors for bouquets.
From delicate, soft yellow Creme Brulee with its serrated petals, large blooms, and resistance to powdery mildew to vibrant red ‘Limerock Ruby’ with daisy-like flowers sporting a bright yellow center, tickseed proves a perfect pollinator magnet—while deer ignore it. If you want to ensure color all summer and fall, add tickseed to your garden.
For a riot of color in your beds, helenium offers a burst of bright blooms. A favorite among pollinators for its showy flowers, deer avoid it due to its bitter foliage, which is toxic when consumed in large quantities. A sun-lover that produces a gorgeous mass of color, helenium is also an ideal cut flower.
While also known as “sneezeweed” due to its historical use in snuff–it doesn’t irritate allergies, as the name implies–helenium works perfectly in back borders and containers. Try Mardi Gras for 6-8 weeks of flowers in the summer. Yellow petals lavishly splashed with orange-red form a wildly patterned skirt around the cone. If you prefer hot colors in your garden, you’ll adore ‘Mardi Gras’. And you’ll especially appreciate that deer avoid it!
As summer blooms wind down, Japanese Anemones appear to feed pollinators—but not deer—in your garden. These elegant blooms add movement to flower beds, swaying gently in the breeze, while the foliage creates a beautiful living mulch in beds as the plants grow and become established. The flowers add a pretty addition to bouquets, too.
For a sleek, classic look, try ‘Pretty Lady Maria’, a lovely single, with 2” bloom adored by butterflies. The compact plant is perfect for small spaces and containers. For a bright burst of color, add ‘Pretty Lady Julia’, a frilly, deep pink, double blooming 2” flower. Both varieties produce masses of flowers from August through November, ensuring autumn color even if deer dine on other plants in your garden!
An important note: deer-resistant plants might fall victim to a hungry herd during droughts or when there’s a shortage of food. Deer might be finicky in their flower choices, but they’ll eat anything if there’s a food shortage. However, they’ll typically look for other favorite feasts first, leaving yarrow, windflowers, tickseed, and helenium in peace. Try planting deer-resistant perennials among your other perennials and annuals or create borders to deter deer from snacking on your flowers. Bambi may be cute, but by making your garden less appealing to his palate, you can encourage him to snack elsewhere.
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