"Dealing with Deer in you Prospect Garden" (written by Jacquelyn McGrail, Master Gardener, Landscape Design Consultant

We in Prospect live in the midst ofdeer herds.  As their natural habitat decreases in size, and the available natural food supply decreases in quantity,  deer frequent suburban gardens for their all-you-can-eat 24 hour buffet.  Forget about seeing deer only at dusk and dawn, in my neighborhood (Hunting Creek), you can see them walking down the street, grazing on the shrubs, and even bedded down for a rest in front yards all day.  I have had fawns (twins) born in my backyard, as have many of my neighbors.  I have a love-hate relationship with deer, mostly because I’m an avid gardener.  You may think it’s hopeless to have a nice flower garden in deer country,  but that’s not true. You CAN have a beautiful garden with lots of flowers, shrubs, vines, and trees if you understand deer,  select plants carefully, and use barriers and repellents selectively. 

To understand deer, you must know that they are creatures of habit.  They have set patterns of travel, and they may always walk through one side of your yard but not the other.  You may notice large patches of daylilies that are always untouched by the deer, and other patches where they are eaten to the ground. There are, however, deer-resistant plants that you can grow.  Not exactly deer-proof, because depending on food availability, they could eat almost anything.  But if you plant deer-resistant plants, you can have a lovely garden.  Any list of deer-resistant plants must be taken with a grain of salt, however, as deer in different regions will favor different plants, and deer may avoid a certain plant in some years, but devour it in other years.  Some experimentation is needed, and flexibility will aid you in the Bambi Wars.  Another factor is that deer are attracted to anything newly planted, so it is a good idea to spray newly acquired plants with a deer repellent, or surround them with a temporary circle of green or black fencing wire.  Deer may try nibbling a new plant, and even if they decide they don’t like it, they may take a good chunk out of it before they decide to reject it.  Or, they may yank it out of the ground where it may perish before you find it and try to tuck it back into the soil.

I’ll start with annuals, the plants you buy every spring (in May), that grow and bloom all season, and that die when cold weather arrives.  Here are suggested selections.  I have limited myself to plants widely available at garden centers. Check tags, many vendors are noting deer resistance along with cultural requirements. Many of these plants are attractive to beneficial insects, pollinators, butterflies, and hummingbirds (indicated with B and H in the list). With this list, you can fill your containers and garden beds with a variety of beautiful annuals, in almost any size or color scheme.

Ageratum(floss flower),  mostly blue, can be pink or white, usually 6” tall, B.

Anitrrhinum (snapdragon) ,  red, pink, white, yellow orange , 6-30“, H.

Begonia (wax begonia, angel-wing begonia) white, pink, red, with green, bronze, or variegated foliage,  6-12“ or more, H.

Catharanthus (vinca or periwinkle, don’ confuse it with the hardy groundcover Vinca, also called periwinkle), pink or white, 8“-12”.

Centaureacineraria (dusty miller),  grown for silvery, fuzzy foliage, yellow flowers, to 12” .

Cleome (spider flower), pink, white, purple, 1’ to 5’, depending on cultivar,  B, H. 

Cuphea (Mexican heather, cigar plant) several species, many colors, 12- 24”, B, H.

Dahlia (dahlia),  grown from tubers, can be dwarf (6”) to tall (6’), with flowers from 2” to 10” wide, all colors except blue, B.

Hypoestes (polka dot plant) leaves dotted with pink or red, grown for foliage, may have purple flowers, 12”.

Lantana (lantana) white, yellow, orange, pink, red, 12” to 36”, B, H.

Lobelia (edging lobelia), blue or purple or white,  about 6” , B, H.

Lobularia (sweet alyssum),  white, pink, purple, very fragrant, for edging, 4-6”, B.

Nicotiana (flowering tobacco), lime green/white/yellow/pink/red, some fragrant, some open only at night,  9” to 5’, H

Pelargonium (zonal geranium, scented geranium), coral, pink, red, purple, white,  10” to 24”, H.

Pentas (Egyptian star flower), pink, blue, white, 12-18”,  B.

Salvia (flowering sage),  red, blue, white,  several species, 12-24”, H.

Senecio cineraria (also called dusty miller), wooly white coating on the foliage, yellow or white flowers, 2‘.

Tropaeolum (nasturtium), yellow, orange, red, bushy and trailing forms, 12-24”, flowers and leaves edible, B, H.

Tagetes (marigold),  yellow, gold, orange, maroon, white, lime green, varied heights, 6” to 36”, flowers edible, B.

Verbena (verbena) all colors except yellow, orange, 12-24”, B.

Zinnia (zinia), all colors except blue, 8-30”, easy to grow from seed, B."