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Deer-Resistant Shrubs

List of Deer-Resistant Shrubs or Bushes

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Picture of daphne's variegated foliage.

Picture of 'Carol Mackie' daphne's variegated foliage.

David Beaulieu

Deer-resistant shrubs aren't Bambi's preferred snacks, although he'll eat most any plant when really hungry. Consult this list of bushes if your landscaping budget isn't big enough to feed Bambi.

Deer-Resistant Shrubs That Are Evergreen:

I often take bike rides in the Lyme, Connecticut (U.S.) area and observe people's landscaping while I'm at it. One shrub I see a lot of in the landscapes there is boxwood. One reason why, no doubt, is that this classic plant for hedges is a logical choice, aesthetically, in an area of upscale residences.

But there's more to it than that. Lyme disease, an illness spread by a deer tick (Ixodes dammini) is named after this town, so you know that lots of Bambi's relatives frequent the region! Homeowners here have figured out that Bambi tends to leave boxwood alone more often than not.

Boxwood is an example of a broadleaf evergreen. Among the needled evergreens, junipers make for some of the best deer-resistant shrubs. It's understandable: Juniper's texture is bristly (not exactly a treat for the tongue). Blue Star juniper is a small, slow-growing, rounded bush that's a good choice in beds where a bluish accent is needed. Meanwhile, Blue Rug juniper serves as a ground cover; you'll often see it growing on hillsides.

For a totally different look, try the Pfitzer Chinese junipers that have been trained into pom-poms.

Flowering Deer-Resistant Shrubs:

You get a 3-for-1 deal with arrowwood viburnum. This deer-resistant shrub bears colorful fall foliage and berries, to boot, in addition to blooming in spring.

Andromeda (Pieris japonica) is multidimensional, as well. I could just as easily have listed it among the evergreens. But unlike boxwood and the other evergreens mentioned above, this bush is also grown for its blooms, which give off a powerful smell in early spring.

Bluebeard (Caryopteris) blooms in late summer, at a time when relatively few bushes are flowering. It would be difficult to choose between this desirable tardiness of bloom and the beauty of the flowers when deciding upon the plant's outstanding feature. In addition, bluebeard is drought-tolerant. Like bluebeard, Russian sage (a sub-shrub, technically) has bluish flowers with silvery-gray foliage and is drought-tolerant. But it blooms earlier and for a longer time than bluebeard.

Don't dismiss all types of Buddleia as being invasive plants for all regions. First of all, Buddleia is invasive in some regions, while in others, it is not; do your homework before planting to determine its status in your own region. Secondly, as I point out in my article on 'Blue Chip' butterfly bush, the word is that this promising new cultivar is non-invasive.

More Deer-Resistant Shrubs:

While the search for a non-invasive butterfly bush has apparently ended with success, I'm still waiting to be convinced when it comes to another invader, barberry. I'd stay away from planting this one for now. That's too bad. With its sharp thorns, it's easy to see why barberry is a deer-resistant shrub.

"Bayberry" may be only one letter off from "barberry," but they are miles apart in other respects. Bayberry is a native of eastern North America, a shrub you're more likely to see in the wild there than in people's yards. It's the fragrance of bayberry that deters our cloven-hoofed garden pests from eating it.

I've saved 'Carol Mackie' daphne for last because I could almost have put this variegated bush into either of the two categories above. While not technically evergreen, daphne is virtually so, being leafless for but a short span of time. And its fragrant flowers are one of the true delights of the spring garden.

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