Smart planting, smart spraying keep hungry deer at bay

You carefully planted those trees and shrubs. You fed them, watered them, watched them grow, slowly but surely. Then one morning, they didn't look right. When you got closer, you saw why. Uninvited guests - the four-legged kind - have feasted on that succulent, tender greenery!
However much you enjoy the sight of backyard wildlife, finding deer and other critters chomping on your plants is something you'd probably rather avoid. The solution is twofold: Repel the critters so they move on and forage elsewhere, and create a landscape filled with plants that deer do not find attractive.
If your landscape is already established and you don't relish starting over, your best bet will be the use of an effective repellent.

criteria: It has to be humane, safe around kids and pets and environmentally friendly. Ideally, it should be fairly simple to use, and of course it should keep the critters away from your plants.
A product that Cheryl and I have been using seems to meet all those requirements. It's called Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit Repellent. It consists of a funky-looking 48-ounce pressure sprayer that comes with a 6-ounce bottle of concentrate that you dilute with water.
You create the pressure by pumping the handle a few times. Incidentally, it doesn't require a lot of effort so it would probably be ideal for garden enthusiasts who suffer from arthritis or muscle fatigue. One 6-ounce bottle of concentrate will treat about 1,500 square feet.
We've also used an all-natural product named Deer Stopper that you might want to investigate. It actually smells quite pleasant, to humans if not to deer.
If your plant predators are attacking from underground, the Liquid Fence people make a product called Liquid Fence Mole & Vole Repellent. Again, it is not a poison and is harmless to pets and children. Moles, voles and gophers find that it makes plant roots taste unpleasant and they move on to feed elsewhere.
They also make products to repel cats, dogs and squirrels from invading your landscape. So far as I know, there isn't one called Neighbor's Kids Repellent. Unfortunately.
If you can't find the products I've mentioned, or if you have questions about them, you are welcome to contact me at
If you are just now planning your landscape, or if you are ready to start over and you anticipate problems with deer, it makes sense to select plants that deer don't want to eat. Here are a few you could look for.
Cedar Green Giant Regular readers know that this is one of my favorite trees for so many reasons. It's fast growing, adding 3 to 5 feet per year, and makes an excellent, dense hedge if kept trimmed to a height of maybe 6 or 8 feet. It resists drought and disease and is highly resistant to deer.
Other trees that are rarely deer-damaged: Japanese Cedar, Japanese Falsecypress, Scotch Pine and Douglas Fir.
Cypress, Dwarf Japanese Sungold A good choice when you need a deer- resistant evergreen shrub. It has a mop-like form with creamy golden new foliage on semi-weeping branches.
For more deer-resistant shrubs, try bamboo, barberry, boxwood, buddleia, Rose of Sharon and European privet.
Pachysandra Green Sheen When you first see this groundcover, you might think it's artificial because of the remarkable glossiness of its foliage. It does very well in shady areas and under the canopies of older trees where nothing much else wants to grow.
Some other groundcovers that deer don't care for: Creeping Myrtle, periwinkle and wooly thyme.
There's a useful resource available online, hosted by the Extension unit of the University of West Virginia, titled "Resistance of ornamentals to deer damage." The Web address is and you can click on a direct link from this column archived at my Web site, The article provides a lot of information and includes extensive lists of plants that are frequently damaged and rarely damaged by deer.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, visit
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