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Plant Recommendations for Special Conditions

Plants Deer Eat Less Often

There may be hope for your landscape after deer damage and decimate your plants. This list is filled with plants that experts agree are bothered less by deer than are many others. Techniques for preventing deer from eating your landscape plants range from installing electrified fencing, to covering susceptible plants with erosion control netting, to spraying with commercially available repellents.

By far, the most effective means to contend with hungry deer is to choose plant material that deer do not like to eat. While no one can guarantee deer won’t browse on a particular species of plant, you stand a better chance of sustaining your landscape by avoiding the use of plants that deer have a palate for such as taxus (yew), thuja (arborvitae), tsuga (hemlock), rhododendron, azalea, euonymus (burning bush), hosta, daylily, tulips, crocus, and others. At the end of this article, there is a list of plants that deer love to eat.

This list does not include all the recommended plants, but has a very nice selection.

Aesculus parviflora (Bottlebrush Buckeye): Stately specimen that forms a spreading, mounded shrub with tall, pyramidal spikes to white flowers in July. Shade tolerant. Grows to 8 to 10 ft.

Aronia arbutifolia Brilliantissima’ (Brilliant Red Chokeberry): Grows to 6 or 8 ft. in height. Has abundant white flowers in spring followed by clusters of red fruit in the fall. Foliage is lustrous green, turning brilliant red in fall. Excellent for border or massing.

Betula platyphylla japonica Whitespire’ (Whitespire Birch): Narrow pyramidal white-barked birch that is tolerant of high temperatures and resistant to the bronze birch borer. Grows 30 to 40 ft. Bark does not exfoliate.

Buxus ‘Green Mountain’ (Green Mountain Boxwood): Evergreen shrub; upright, 5 ft. high and 3 ft. wide; exceptionally winter hardy; full sun; will not tolerate poor drainage or clay soils.

Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’ (Pyramidal European Hornbeam): Deciduous tree; mature height of over 35 feet; very dense, compact, upright branching; will eventually be rounded at the base to 20 ft wide, narrrowing to a rounded point at the top; produces a small 1/4 in. green-brown nut; dark green foliage spring through summer, turning yellow and orange in fall; disease free; drought tolerant; grows easily in sun or partial shade; pH 6.0 to 7.5.

Chionanthus virginicus (White Fringe Tree): Deciduous shrub or small tree; height of 15 to 20 ft. with equal spread; attractive specimen or planted in mass in the shrub border; open, rounded form with fragrant white flowers on 6 to 8 in. panicles in late spring; dark blue fruits in August and September, attractive to birds; full sun; prefers deep, moist, acidic soil but is extremely adaptable; tolerant of urban conditions.

Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet)
Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet): Deciduous shrub; 6 to 8 ft. height with 4 to 6 ft. spread; good for summer flowers in the shrub border; compact, dense form; upright panicles of fragrant white flowers in July and August; grows well in sun or shade; grows naturally in wet soil; salt tolerant.

Cornus florida (White Flowering Dogwood): Popular tree growing to 30 ft., rounded shape with early spring flowers, striking wine-red fall foliage.

Cornus kousa chinensis (Chinese Dogwood): Outstanding deciduous ornamental tree; grows to 20 ft. high and 15 to 20 ft. in width; broad vase-like shape; abundant, long lasting white blooms in June after the plant has leafed out, followed by a heavy crop of large, attractive, strawberry-like fruits loved by birds.

Cotinus obovatus (American Smoketree): Intense fall colors of yellow, orange, red, and reddish-purple. Attractive gray-brown bark becomes scaly with maturity. Grows to 20 to 30 ft.

Cotoneaster apiculata (Cranberry Cotoneaster): Low growing (3 ft.)shrub with stiff branching pattern. Effective as bank cover, near walls, ground cover, or as a foundation plant. Large red berries persist all winter.

Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’ (Winter King Hawthorn): Deciduous tree; height of 25 ft. with 20 to 25 ft. spread; ornamental tree ideally suited to the smaller landscape; good for naturalized plantings; rounded habit with vase-shaped branching structure; showy grey stems with lustrous green foliage changing to bronze, red and gold in the fall; white flowers in the spring; large bright red fruit persisting into winter; full sun, tolerant of many soils if given sufficient moisture; has sharp thorns.

Diervilla lonicera (Bronzeleaf Honeysuckle): A speading shrub, excellent for mass planting and banks. Small yellow flowers bloom in June and July. Foliage turns reddish-bronze in autmn. Insect and disease resistant. Tolerates dry, sandy soils. Sun or partial shade. pH 6.0 to 7.5.

Forsythia x intermediata ‘Lynwood Gold’ (Lynwood Gold Forysythia): Fast growing, erect shrub with deep golden-yellow flowers in spring. Grows to 7 feet with equal spread. Tolerant to urban conditions, sun or shade.

Fothergilla gardenii (Dwarf Fothergilla): Deciduous shrub; fragrant, white, bottlebrush-like flower spikes in spring before leaves appear; dark green summer foliage followed by good multi-colored fall foliage; plant in sun or partial shade; non-alkaline soil; hardy; excellent for foundation plantings, borders or masses.

Fraxinus pennsylvanica ‘Patmore’ (Patmore Ash): Extremely hardy and tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions. Erect growth habit with glossy leaves. Grows 50 to 60 ft. with a 40 to 50 ft. spread. Seedless variety.

Gleditsia (Honeylocust): Useful as street or shade tree. Most varieties grow 35 to 45 ft.

Hamamelis vernalis (Vernal Witch Hazel): Deciduous shrub; grows 10 ft. in height with equal spread; flowers are yellow to red and begin blooming in February; can be used as specimens, screens and/or hedges; will grow in sun or shade; prefers soil with plenty of organic matter and moisture; pH 6.0 to 7.5.

Ilex verticillata (Winterberry): Deciduous holly; 6 to 8 ft. spread; excellent effect in mass plantings or shrub borders; bright red fruits persist as long as not eaten by birds. Native to swampy places, but does well in light to medium moist loam. Both sexes needed for pollination. Sun or partial shade.

Itea virginica (Virginia Sweetspire): Small, erect-branched shrub produces fragrant upright flower racemes in June and July. Foliage turns scarlet and crimson in the fall. Sun or partial shade. pH 5.0 to 7.0.

Juniperus chinensis 'Hooks' (Hook's Juniper): Evergreen shrub; height of 12-15 ft. with a spread of 2-3 ft; good for specimen or narrow hedge; upright pyramidal shape; green foliage requires little or no shearing to maintain form; prefers average soils in sunny locations.

Juniperus chinensis 'Sea Green' (Sea Green Juniper): Evergreen shrub; height of 3 ft. with a spread of 5 to 6 ft; excellent mint-green foliage with arching branches create a low, fountainlike effect. Moist soils are acceptable as long as they are well drained. Optimum growth occurs in sun with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0.

Kerria Japonica (Japanese Kerria)
Kerria Japonica (Japanese Kerria): Grows 4 to 5 ft. Single, golden-yellow flowers in spring. Bright green stems all year. Tolerates shade well.

Ligustrum obtusifolium regelianum (Regal Privet): Low, dense spreading shrub with a rounded shape. Grows 5 to 6 ft. Has a white flower and a black berry-type fruit. Valuable for growing in poor conditions but prefers dryers sites. Can tolerate severe pruning. Sun or partial shade, pH 6.0 to 7.5.

Lindear benzoin (Spice Bush): Dense growing native shrub with small yellow flowers in April, followed by glossy red frutis. Foliage and twigs have a spicy fragrance. Sun or shade, pH 6.0 to 7.5.

Liquidambar styaciflua (Sweet Gum): Large conical shaded tree, growing to 60 ft. Star-shaped foliage turns brilliant fall colors. Has corky bark.

Lonicera fragrantissma (Winter Honeysuckle): Semi-evergreen shrub with rounded leaves growing 6 to 8 feet in height with equal spread. Highly fragrant white flowers in April.

Lonicera xylosteum ‘Emerald Mound’ (Emerald Mound Honeysuckle): Deciduous shrub; 3 to 4 ft. in height with similar spread; effective in massed plantings or as a low hedge; compact, mounded form with dense, attractive bluish-green foliage; yellowish-white flowers in the spring with dark red berries in July and August; resistant to Honeysuckle aphid; sun or partial shade; prefers good, loamy, moist, well-drained soil but will adapt to many types.

Lonicera x brownii ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ (Dropmore Scarlet Honeysuckle): Considered the hardiest honeysuckle vine. Bright orange-scarlet tubular flowers from June to October.

Magnolia x ‘Betty’ (Betty Magnolia): Deciduous shrub or small tree; 10 ft. height with 8 ft. spread; attractive accent for the smaller landscape or garden; upright, rounded form; large purple-red flowers with white interior open prior to the glossy green foliage; sun or partial shade; prefers loamy, moist, well-drained, acidic soil.

Magnolia x ‘Susan (Susan Magnolia): Compact, upright shrub or small tree; 8 to 10 ft. in height with an 8 ft. spread. Long slender red-purple buds open to 5 in. wide flowers in late spring.

Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’ (Leonard Messel Magnolia): Shrub or small tree grows 20 to 25 ft., showy 12 petaled flowers are fuchsia pink on the back and white on the inside with a purple-pink line in the center.

Myrica Pensylvanica: (Northern Bayberry): Upright, rounded shrub with decorative gray berries (on female only) well into winter. Prefers well drained, sun or partial shade, pH 5.0 to 6.5. Foliage turns deep red in the fall.

Nyssa sylvatica (Black or Sour Gum): Pyramidal tree growing to 50 ft. with a 20 to 30 ft. spread. Glossy, leathery leaves that turn intense shades of orange and red in fall. Sun or partial shade.

Oxydendron arboreum (Sourwood or Sorrel Tree): Pyramidal, multi-stemmed or low branched habit with white lily-of-the-valley type flowers in July or August, forming prominent seeds which turn vivid scarlet in fall. Excellent specimen grows to 25 ft.

Picea pungens glauca (Colorado Blue Spruce): Conical evergreen tree with blue color. Grows to 60 ft.

Picea pungens glauca ‘Globosa’ (Globe Blue Spruce): Dwarf form of Blue Spruce, flat-topped and compact in youth, becoming pyramidal with age. Slow growing, height 3 ft. and spread of 4 to 5 ft. Silvery blue color.

Picea omerika (Serbian Spruce): Narrow, conical evergreen grows 50 to 60 ft. in height. Its needles are glossy dark green with white stomatic lines underneath. Useful as a specimen or in groups.

Pinus densiflora ‘Umbraculifera’ (Tanyosho or Table Top Pine): Compact dwarf tree with a flat top and rounded head. Slow growing to 9 to 10 ft. with a spread of 12 to 15 ft. Unique habit makes this a facinating plant, even for a small garden.

Pinus flexilis (Limber Pine): Evergreen tree; 30-50 ft tall; 15-35 ft. wide; dark green needles about 3 in. long; cones 3-6 in. long; full sun or partial shade; adapts to many conditions; slow grower.

Pinus mugo (Mugo Pine): Hardy and rugged, dwarf, mushroom-shaped evergreen shrub. Grows 2 to 6 ft. in height with a spread of 6 to 8 ft. Green foliage, 1 in. cones.

Pinus nigra (Austrian Pine): Large pyramidal evergreen conifer grows 50 to 60 ft. with a spread of 40 ft. Best for backyard gardens and screens.

Quercus bicolor (Swamp White Oak): Good native tree that grows to 50 or 60 ft. Has a broad, rounded head and distincitve light brown flaky bark. Easily transplanted and will grow in poor, drained soils as well as upland sites.

Rhododendron ‘P.J.M.’ (P.J.M. Hybrid Rhododendron): Broadleaf evergreen shrub; 3 to 6 ft; rounded shape; variable lavender-pink flowers mid to late April; thumb-sized leaves, dark green in summer and plum-purple in fall; full sun or partial shade; acidic soil.

Rhododendron ‘Purple Gem’ (Purple Gem Rhododendron): Low compact and slow growing cultivar with purple-blue flowers that bloom in early spring. Small dark blue foliage turns red-purple in fall. Grows 3 ft. with equal spread.

Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ (Gro-Low Fragrant Sumac): Low growing, spreading habit (to 2 ft. with 6 to 8 ft. spread) makes this an excellent plant for mass plantings and bank control. Small aromatic flowers bloom in the spring and are followed by large, hairy, red fruits in the summer. Prefers dry, well-drained soil in sun or partial shade.

Ribes alpinum ‘Green Mound’ (Green Mound Currant): Dense growing shrub, perfect for a low hedge. Foliage turns golden-yellow in fall. Sun or shade. Grows 2 to 3 ft. in height with an equal spread.

Rosa rugosa (Rugosa Rose) Fragrant flowers June through September, vary in color from white to pink to red. Its dark green foliage is disease resistant and salt tolerant.

Stephanadra incisa ‘Crispa’ (Cutleaf Stephanandra): Rapid growing, low spreading shrub with very dense branches covered with deeply cut, fine textured leaves. Excellent for low hedge, ground cover or hillside planting. Nice for trailing over walls. Best in shade.

Syringa vulgaris (Common Lilac): Deciduous shrub grows 12 to 15 ft. in height, has delicate, fragrant, purple flowers in May. Makes a good informal hedge or screen. Prefers sun.

Ulmus parvifolia (Chinese Elm): Deciduous tree; excellent, fast growing, durable; disease and insect resistant; drought tolerant; grows to height of 45 ft. and a spread of 25 ft.; foliage is dark, lustrous green turning to shades of gray, green, orange and brown; useful as street trees and in large areas and parks; hardy to Zone 5.

Viburnum x ‘Chenaultii’ (Chenault Viburnum): Shrub with dense branching habit and small dark green glossy leaves, grows to 8 ft. Pink to white flowers in late April or early May.

Viburnum x rhytidophylloides ‘Alleghany’ (Alleghany Viburnum): Semi-evergreen shrub; USDA hybrid introduction; dark green leathery foliage; resistant to leafspot; creamy-white flowers in May, followed by brilliant fruit in August that matures to black in late September, early October; plants grow to a height of 12 ft. with a width of 10 ft.; berries attract wintering birds.

Viburnum dentatum (Arrowwood Viburnum): Valued for its durability and utility. Makes a good hedge, grouping or filler in a shrub border. Very adaptable, grows 6 to 8 ft. in height.


Perennials/Ground Covers:

Allium (Ornamental Onion): Relative of the onion, useful in border or rock garden and as edging plant. Best in full sun. Foliage dies back during and after blooming.

Aquilegia (Columbine): Perennial with distinctive mounds of airy, fan-like leaves contrast with pastel flowers. Best to keep moist in well-drained, rich soils. Its dainty, multi-spurred blossoms attract hummingbirds in spring and early summer.

Astilbe ‘Rheinland’ (Rheinland False Spirea): Early summer-flowering perennial that thrives in shaded, moist conditions. Pink flower clusters rise in fluffy plumes over mounded green foliage.

Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta Daisy): Free-flowering perennial growing 24 to 30 inches. White flowers are single or double. Foliage is deep green, and coarsely toothed. Best in full sun and well-drained soil.

Galium odoratum (Sweet Woodruff): Perennial with fragrant, small white flowers in May and fine textured foliage. Excellent ground cover . Partial shade to full sun.

Helleborus orientalis (Lenten Rose): Perennial with attractive evergreen foliage. Blooms in late winter and early spring in colors ranging from cream to rich dusty rose, often with a hint of green. Superb plant for the shady garden.

Hyacinthus orientalis (Hyacinth)
Hyacinthus orientalis (Hyacinth): Spring blooming bulb with highly fragrant blooms. Color varies depending on cultivar chosen. Prefers full sun and fertile garden soil.

Narcissus (Daffodil): Early to mid-spring blooming bulb. Height 6 to 24 in. depending on selection. Distictive trumpet shaped flowers vary in color, depending on selection.

Pachysandra terminalis ‘Green Carpet’ (Green Carpet Pachysandra): Evergreen ground cover; dark green, glossy leaves hold color in sun; part shade preferred; 6 in. high; small white flowers in May.

Article Written By Andrew L. Sparks of Andrew L. Sparks and Associates, Willoughby, Ohio.

Photos by David Emmitt, Program Manager—Plant Science and Landscape Technology, Cuyahoga Community College, Eastern Campus


Plants Frequently Severely Damaged:

This list of plants to avoid if you have a deer population on your property was developed by researchers at Cornell University

Botanical nameCommon name
Abies balsameaBalsam Fir
Abies fraseri Fraser Fir
Acer platanoidesNorway Maple
Cercis canadensisEastern Redbud
Chamaecyparis thyoidesAtlantic White Cedar
Clematis sppClematis
Cornus maCornelian Dogwood
Euonymus alatusWinged Euonymus
Euonymus fortuneiWintercreeper
Hedera heliEnglish Ivy
Malus spp.Apples
Prunus sppCherries
Prunus sppPlums
Rhododendron spp.Rhododendrons
Rhododendron spp.Evergreen Azaleas
Rhododendron catawbienseCatawba Rhododendron
Rhododendron periclymenoidePinxterbloom Azalea
Rosa (x) hybridHybrid Tea Rose
Sorbus aucupariaEuropean Mountain Ash
Taxus sppYews
Taxus baccataEnglish Yew
Taxus brevifoliaWestern Yew
Taxus cuspidataJapanese Yew
Taxus (x) mediEnglish/Japanese Hybrid Yew
Thuja occidentalisAmerican Arborvitae







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