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Invasive Groundcovers for Deer Control

Bugleweed (Ajuga), Creeping Myrtle, Deadnettle


Periwinkle Vinca Picture

Periwinkle vinca is a classic ground cover for shady areas.

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden

Except for lilyturf, the groundcovers treated on Page 3 are rather well-behaved. But the groundcovers on the present page are invasive. You'll have to weigh your concerns about deer control against any concerns about their invasiveness before using these plants.

Bugleweed, or "ajuga" (Ajuga reptans) is an invasive plant that is not eaten by invading deer, making it useful for deer control. For a picture of its bluish-purple bloom, see the photo gallery on Page 1. Ajuga can be grown in zones 3-10 and generally stays short, although when in flower it "gains" a few inches. Ajuga is an easy plant to grow. It will grow in sun or part shade, and it's not fussy about soil so long as the drainage is good. This groundcover will form a dense mat and provide you with both attractive foliage and flowers.

Creeping myrtle, or periwinkle vinca vine (Vinca minor) is a perennial groundcover widely used as a grass substitute in lawn areas and effective in deer control (see picture above, on right). Grown in zones 4-8, creeping myrtle requires good drainage. This shade-loving, deer-resistant groundcover has traditionally been planted under large trees, where the homeowner's choice of lawn grass would quickly have given up, deprived of sufficient light. Creeping myrtle's vine grows only 3"-6" off the ground, but its trailing stems with evergreen leaves spread up to 18". The stems root at the nodes as they creep along the ground and spread rapidly to form an attractive groundcover. Attractive, but invasive; keep it in check, lest it spread where you don't want it to. Creeping myrtle puts out a bluish-lavender flower in spring and blooms intermittently throughout summer.

Deadnettle (Lamium galeobdolon), or "dead nettle," is another invasive, shade-loving perennial needing good drainage that is useful to landscapers seeking deer control. Deadnettle can be grown in zones 4-9 and attains a height of 1'-2', with a similar spread. It has yellow flowers, but I value it more for its leaves, which are of a medium-green color interrupted by splotches of silver. Deadnettle, once established, is considered a good plant for dry shade.

Finally, on Page 5 we'll see that some groundcover plants considered aromatic by humans wreak havoc on the nostrils of deer, making them some of our sweetest weapons in deer control....

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