Deer resistant AND shade tolerant

chateauclubcrestApril 4, 2005

The new house has a lovely shaded deck that apparently had been surrounded by shrubs that at some point that were viciously hacked off by the previous owners, leaving lots of little stumps.

I don't plan to do much with it this year, hide the stumps with some mulch, but I would like to try to put in a few deer resistant plants and se how they do. I have a long list of deer resistant plants (thanks to some wonderful links here!) but many of the plants I'm unfamiliar with.

So off the top of your head, any deer resistant shade plant suggestions? It's pretty shady!


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Vernonia(z7b OR)

for flowers you could try columbines, but it sounds like you need a shrub... anything thorny or spiky like holly, or a juniper. Sometimes really strong herbs will deter... but they LOVE basil. you can also walk in the woods and see what plants they are NOT eating.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2005 at 10:55AM
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'Scuse me, but the deer love blue holly and junipers need sun. They tend to leave some viburnums alone such as Korean spice, but will eat doublefiles. Winterberry holly is o.k. but gets large. St. Johns wort, Clethra, Itea all good in shade and deer haven't eaten mine. Easier to give you a list of shade perennials that deer don't like. Pulmonarias, hellebores, Dicentra Luxuriant or exima, Astilbe, viola, seed begonia (they ate my tuberous begonias one year, but usually don't) Sedum (usually), sedges, ladies mantle, ferns, lamium, epimedium. There are even more, but these are mainstays in my shade gardens with voracious deer.

1 Like    Bookmark   May 30, 2005 at 12:13AM
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kitova(z6 NJ)

shrubs: boxwoods for form & substance, leucothoe for a more informal cascading/mounding look
upright perennials: ferns, astilbes, bleeding heart, and columbine (although deer sometimes will nibble at the astilbe flowers)
ground cover: lamium (aka dead nettle) especially the variegated types, sweet woodruff, vinca, and pachysandra
annuals: marigolds

i have all of the above in my shade garden which is on a old deer trail, and they do fine.

1 Like    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 11:14AM
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bellevie(z6 MD)

Try some hellebore. Need shade, evergreen, tropical looking, flower from the end of winter until ?. Mine are still in flower in June! Probably due to the wet, cool spring. You won't be disappointed. Almost everyone who sees mine wants to know what they are and where they can get some.

As long as you plant them in rich, well drained soil, they'll perform extremely well.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2005 at 12:31PM
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Thanks. I picked up some hellebores last week and see how they do.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2005 at 9:59AM
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Actually any of the dicentras should be OK. I have a dicentra scabra climbing up a trellis and it's unscathed as is my eximia. Which brings me to my point really ANY plant is suseptible to deer when they decide to nibble-sometimes that wrecks a plant/bloom for a season you need to always be prepared for that no matter what anyone tells you is deer-proof. That said, these are plants that live in shade/potentially deerproof: lamium, pulmonaria-they are loaded with spiny hairs (that I certainly wouldn't want on my tongue)! My helleborus argutifolius was grazed and I was looking for a dead deer after that occurance since they are highly toxic(no dead deer though). Yes, to sweet woodruff,jack-in-the-pulpit,may apple, boxwood,Kirengeshoma palmata,...Magnolia stellata hasn't been touched BUT I'm wondering how much shade you've got since it needs some sun to bloom. Many of the plants mentioned in my post and others actually like at least a little sun. Do you have deep dark shade? or is it more dappled.
Winterberry is not safe-at least my female shrub has been deer pruned: ( No hollies are deer resistant and Amelanchier also got snagged by deer and wrecked the beautiful form it had. Kalmia which is supposed to be resistant to deer also got chomped to smitherines. I would look into Leucothoe maybe you should let me test that one and I'll get back to you lolol. Good luck: )


    Bookmark   July 12, 2005 at 12:38AM
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Suzinthecountry(z5 NY)

I'm in a place where deer eat everything even the things they're not supposed to. They devoured my Clethra within a week of my planting it and did a job on my Leucothoe and Ilex -- evergreen that looks like boxwood. (Not glabra). The one thing they haven't eaten is my Pieris japonica -- it is related to rhodies and poisonous to deer. I've had other problems with my Pieris -- they have been afflicted with lacebugs but I'm told that is because they get too much sun. If your site is truly shady, it could work for you.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 9:05PM
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Just wanted to report that I've planted a variety of supposedly deer resistant (hellebore, marigolds, sedum, coreopsis, achillea) and deer candy (free hostas :-) ) and used Deer Off and I've been sucessful so far. Key word is "so far." As of right now, the deer are more interested in enjoying the bounty of the two apple trees than eating my stuff.

Winter is going to be kind of scary. These deer are *not* afraid of people. All the moms and baby deer hang out in our yard.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2005 at 5:15PM
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buckboard(z3-4 UT)

Boy, I am jealous that your ferns are managing to get avoided by the deer. I bought a house in May that had twenty or so ferns under the trees and by late june they were gone. I have lots of deer too. Maybe there are some ferns that deer like less than others.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 9:51PM
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rainshine(z6-7 MD)

Has anybody tried spreading dog or cat fur around (in the mulch) to repel the deer? I've read where this is supposed to work, but I've not talked to anyone who has tried it. I'm taking some fur today to a friend who has a deer problem. I'm also trying to convince her to replace severely deer-damaged yews. Imagine-- yews in a forest!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 8:07PM
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The deer in my yard practically laugh at dogs, so you can just imagine what they think about dog fur. The short answer is no.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2005 at 9:07PM
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Illicium floridanum(Florida Anise; zone 6-b or 7-a)is deer resistant and does well in moist shade. Woodlanders has several varieties. I. henryi is also a good choice.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2006 at 9:30PM
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Greetings all!

How come nobody has mentioned hydrangeas? The new cultivar "Endless Summer" blooms from late spring to fall and all the hydrangeas are nearly deer proof.

Another point is to use PlantSkydd. I've diluted mine to the point that it's half strength or less and it's still effective. I use it on the fast growing plants about every 3 weeks in spring and then less often in summer. I have perfect roses and hostas, not even deer tracks in the yard now for the last two years running that I've used it.


Here is a link that might be useful: Bob's Adventures

    Bookmark   January 9, 2006 at 8:53AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Deer love hydrangeas.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 5, 2006 at 7:45AM
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in Bob's response...what is Plantskydd???

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 8:51AM
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Monkshood. I think the latin name is "aconitium" or something like that. Grows vigorously and flowers profusely in shade, but highly poisonous to people. And deer, too, apparently 'cause they don't touch them. Not even a nibble.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 10:29PM
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Goatsbeard (Aruncus) works well, as does Andromeda (Pieris japonica). One of the spireas seems to do well (according to the nursery near me).

Bambi and friends do nibble at: hellebores, forsythia (the Arnoldii strain), peonies, yuccas (Y. filamentosa), and bleeding heart (Dicentra), and columbine - but I had twenty plus of the ambulatory vegamatics running across my property (on a weekly basis 2 years ago) and leaving presents for me. A six foot high fence of garden wire (2" x4"); five feet of fencing hung six feet high), (around three of the four sides of my yard) helped a lot; now there are only three/maybe four diehards that want to take risks on unfamiliar plants.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 12:03AM
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I have a country garden that the deer love to pick at.....what helps and works is peeing around the property and on the plants. Deer don't like the smell of us, go figure! Of course if it rains you'll have to be out there again.Hey, it's safe, natural and you've got nothing to lose.I am being serious!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2006 at 12:47PM
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bluesuze75(zone 5 midwest)

Stay away from hydrangeas and hostas. They have never touched my ferns (yet).

    Bookmark   May 15, 2006 at 2:23PM
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bwca4(z5 (Chicago))

How about Dwarf Fothergilla? Anybody had success with that?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2008 at 5:53PM
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my deer heard have never touched my LIGULARA. they love shade too!!!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 11:36AM
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It's amazing to read these posts! It seems as if the deer have regional preferences. Deer in my area (rural Maryland) nibble on forsythia and weigelia, but don't really eat it. Hostas are dessert! But they leave alone the fernleaf bleeding heart, lavender, hellebores, species geraniums, astilbe, skimmia, cherry laurel (Otto Luyken) and ferns I have planted on the edge of my woods. And they have never touched my Nikko Blue hydrangea.

Go figure!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2008 at 8:55AM
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Just discovered Bottlebrush Buckeye as a strong shrub possibility for my own shady spot that's frequented by deer. Everything I've read says it's deer resistant (maybe because the bush provides nuts? The nuts are highly poisonous to humans, but don't seem to affect squirrels, etc.). Only downside is that you need a large spot for this plant -- the bush gets big both in height and girth (12' x 12' I've read). It's native to New England and other states; has large beautiful white flowers in July; plus striking yellow leaves in the fall.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 6:17PM
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I have had a serious deer problem and have noted that they tend to avoid: Pachysandra, Vinca minor, Pieris Japonica, Astilbe, Hellabore, and Schip Laurel.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 2:52PM
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gardenspuds(CA- SF Bay area)

I've planted many on the "deer reistant" list to find that many get eaten. Even the new flower growth of Astilbe this year are getting chomped down, last year they weren't touched.

The best plants for my shade yard (none of these have been touched since planted 2 years ago): Foxglove, Lirope (common name lilyturf), Asarum (common name wild ginger) and Symphoricarpos albus (common name Snowberry).

It all comes down to the preference of the deer in your area. Even the local deer seem to have preferences, and I've talked to gardeners that live a few miles from me and have given me a list of what works in their yard, and some that worked for them haven't worked for me, vice versa.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 1:04PM
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Deer resistant and shade tolerant? Try ferns--they don't touch them! Also have luck with bleeding heart, Pieris, Hedera (ivy), and Skimia japonica. Maybe Ajuga and pachysandra--we'll see.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 10:26PM
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gardenspuds(CA- SF Bay area)

Concerning Ferns: I have witness the local deer chomping ferns down to the base of the plant! But, I say that with a caveat- here they will eat the "tender" leaf ferns, but stay away from the "tougher, leathery" leaf ferns.

I had a Pieres defoliated, it died.

Like I said, it all comes down to the preferences of your local deer population! LOL!

Trial and error, I've lost probably a few hundred dollars trying different plants until I've found what works for me. Foxglove and irises dominate, but I do have others they don't touch. The deer here seem lazy and don't seem to bother low growing plants (Like Ajuga).

And get this, they don't touch the two white Heliotropes in my yard, so this year I planted a purple one. They ate the purple Heliotrope and left the white alone! And the white ones are planted in the direct path of the deer, the purple is further fromt the path! That makes no sense, the woman at the local garden center didn't want to believe me! But, the white Heliotrope is on it's second year going strong, and I haven't seen Heliotrope on any of the resistant lists...


    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 1:02AM
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We have deep shade against our house. Boxwood wasn't grazed by the deer, but wouldn't grow either. No one has mentioned Rhodies which are supposed to be poisonous to deer and like shade. Do you think these would work and grow together like azeleas? (We had two of three white azeleas planted in a row eaten. The third is doing great four years later - go figure.) Re Ivy - our house was covered with it for maybe 15+ years, then one year the deer ate it back to the twigs. We had to pull it all down and repair the siding. It's SO frustrating and expensive to keep replanting. Yes, deer repellent works great - until you forget to spray it...

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 3:34PM
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Jdannynet - Rhododendrons are great companions to azaleas, but in my experience, the deer enjoy munching on them.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2011 at 4:30PM
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I bought this house last May. I planted 6 azaleas and 2 rhodedendrons, 5 burning bushes ground cover ivy, and a hydrangea tree. All are eaten way back. However, they did not touch any of my 9 boxwood bushes. My house in under mature maple trees and a lot of leaves on the ground. No plants...all eaten. I'd like to have something other than boxwoods everywhere! This is becoming very expensive and it's only my first year here.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 11:13PM
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Live in the woods with a herd of deer. Spirea does well. Rhodedendron also. Butterfly bush I heard is resistant. I'm going to try it this year. Wygelia- so far they only nibbled on them- 1st winter. they can get big so it's ok.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 11:50AM
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can i plant marigolds now? i live in frederick md

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 11:20PM
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Reading everyone's posts -- one thing comes to mind. Whether a plant is listed as resistant or not, when it is young or putting forth new growth, I think all bets are off. Deer just seem to love tender growth, regardless

Usually, I spray Liquid Fence or cayenne water on ALL new growth and new plantings, to give them a chance to get going. After somewhat established, I leave off, and then the "resistant" varieties seem to perform as advertised.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 3:05PM
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Concerning the post from Barbara from gardenspuds regarding the concept that her deer did not touch white heliotropes but ate the purple. I have noted the same thing with other deer resistant plants, the white version seems to be the most resistant. I am glad to know someone else has had the same experience!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 11:09PM
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My white Butterfly bush has survived two years without any nibbles. No problem with any ferns, Hellebore, spreading Yew, Christmas Fern, Vincas (major or minor). Cleyera has done great-low maintanence evergreen shrub, although not for full shade? Deer did eat down my liropi just last year!I agree that spraying esp. when first planted helps deter their interest. Who called them "Ambulatory Vegematics"?--love it!!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 12:00PM
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We have been very successful at preserving plants from deer by staking Ivory Soap around the plants....we drill holes through the bar soap and use string to tie it to stakes and put the stakes every 5-10' or so. Lasts for months or through the winter. But they will need to be replaced.

That was especially after i saw the crows eating the soap!!!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 10:17AM
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Hydrangeas are deer caviar!!!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 8:34PM
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Deer chomped my columbine last night (grr - where are those mountain lions and wolves when you need 'em). In the Shenandoah Valley (Virginia), we've had luck against shade and deer so far with tiarellas and heucheras, which come in many lovely varieties - also cimicifuga (now actaea), polemoniums, and various native geraniums. All require almost 100% shade in our summer heat and drought, but if they make it through the first year, we're golden.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 11:56AM
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I was looking to plant 3 trees/shrubs Arborvitaes to provide privacy and was looking to get them about 5/6 feet tall. However I was advised that the deer love them and we live next to a state park which is loaded with deer and visit us regularly. I would like to get a shrub/tree that will grow out if trimmed to stay at about 7 feet tall and fill an area about 15 feet wide that the deer will not dine on. The area is partially sunny and this would be in the NJ area.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 8:55AM
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I'm in Wisconsin, and blue spruce here are safe from deer. There's a newish variety called Fat Albert that should meet your guidelines--bigger than a foundation planting, but not full-sized.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 9:34PM
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A neighbor has been using garlic powder around his flowers and plants and it seems to keep the deer away.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 11:18PM
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NO ARBORVITAE!!!! Boxwoods and Pieris are two of my favs and have never been touched.. Also have great luck with clumping bamboo (non-invasive)

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 10:53AM
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Wow!! Eight years since the question was posted and suggestions keep coming in. Gardeners rock!

We will never run out of deer or ways to garden around them. I live in the Sierra Foothills in northern CA. Talk about deer! They start coming down from the hills around the first of June and don't leave again till serious rains come in the fall.

My deer don't eat lirope, spirea (grows well in shade but blooms better in sun), nandina (yes, mine grows well with only 1 hour of sun a day), rhodies, and pieris. Re the spirea, because it's such a beautiful shrub whether it blooms or not, I have many around the property. Shade or sun, they always please.

One poster said that her deer laugh at dogs. Around here one deer got tired of one very old, very yappy-at-the-ankles dog, raised itself up, and came down with its front legs on top of poor old Sammy. He gave them all wide berth after that...

Just joined GardenWeb today and look forward to learning and posting!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 6:09PM
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On our VA mountain, our purple butterfly bushes are never munched, but when the bushes were newly planted, the fawns liked to lie down on top of them. Lost one of the bushes that way. They do like sampling the limelight hydrangeas. I've had great success with grasses and lavender; all of these do better in some sun.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 9:00PM
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Deer don't eat Carex here & they do great in the part shade of the PNW as long as watered.

Have you considered corydalis lutea, perennial with yellow flowers? Great filler plant with blue green lacy foliage.

They don't eat hardy geranium with the scented foliage like G. macro or sang... Just sniff foliage before you purchase. If you know someone growing hardy geraniums you can ask for a start. They're prolific and easy to transplant.

The website link below has amazing garden photos & suggestions for your new garden space.

Here is a link that might be useful: slideshow of 10 great groundcovers

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 11:47PM
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