Georgia Gardener Newsletter Design Tip: October 5, 2006

Gardening with Deer-resistant Plants

Need deer-resistant
design help?
Check out our
Design Services.

Your prized hosta, the hydrangea you propagated from a cutting in your grandmother's garden, the rose bushes your children gave your for Mother's Day...gone or severely damaged.

What happened? If you live in rural, suburban or even some urban areas, your garden may have been visited by deer. Deer usually come out of hiding sometime near dusk looking for food and will continue feeding under cover of darkness until near dawn.

To see the list of deer-proofing methods and deer-resistant plants shown below, click here.

History of Deer in Georgia

Before the arrival of Europeans to North America, white-tailed deer occupied most of the United States. In areas they were hunted to near extinction and at one point were all but gone from Georgia well into the 20th century. They were intentionally re-introduced and then protected until their numbers reached such that they were considered a stable population.

Today in Georgia, the Department of Natural Resources estimates that there are approximately 1.2 million deer. With the elimination of natural predators and a reduction in habitat, this has not only caused their numbers to balloon, but to be concentrated into smaller more densely populated areas. And now we have a problem.

Carrying Capacity and Deer-Human Interactions

The term carrying capacity refers to how many creatures can be sustained in an area. This is dependent upon several factors including available food, water, predators and protective places to hide and rear young. If the carrying capacity of an area is exceeded, there are natural checks and balances to bring the number of creatures down. These include a rise in the number of predators, disease and starvation. If you remove predators from the equation, disease and starvation are all that's left. This is a slow and cruel way to die.

In Georgia, a healthy forest is capable of supporting about 10 deer per square mile. Before settlement this amounted to about 600,000 deer statewide. The current deer population is now twice that with less habitat due to human sprawl.

Areas with high concentrations of deer and people pose a danger to both. Extremely rare are instances in which deer actually charge and attack people. More common are deer-vehicle accidents. The Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division estimates there are 51,000 deer-vehicle accidents per year which accounts for 13.5 percent of all collisions in the state of Georgia. Nationwide there are approximately 1.5 million such accidents per year resulting in both human and deer death and more than one billion dollars in vehicle damage. Being hit by a motor vehicle is also a cruel way for deer to die.

Obviously, we need to do something to bring down their numbers (or ours), especially in areas with dense development. Probably the easiest way to do this would be to make the buck hunting season year round, extend the doe hunting season and train professionals to thin deer populations in urban and suburban areas. Being killed by an experienced hunter using legal methods is the most humane way to deal with deer overpopulation.

Keeping Plants Safe From Deer

Deer-resistant Trees

Maple Acer spp. (including Japanese)
Birch Betula spp.
Ginkgo Ginkgo biloba
American Holly Ilex opaca
Magnolia Magnolia spp. (older trees)
Cherry Prunus spp. and cultivars
Dogwood Cornus spp. and cultivars
Pine Pinus spp.
Oak Quercus spp. (older trees)
Hawthorn Crataegus spp.

Deer-resistant Shrubs

Sweetshrub Calycanthus floridus
Fringe Flower Loropetalum spp.
Abelia Abelia spp.
Boxwood Buxus spp.
Buckeye Aesculus
So. Wax Myrtle Morella cerifera
Doghobble Leucothoe spp.
Andromeda Pieris spp.
Sweetspire Itea virginica
Summersweet Clethra

Deer-resistant Perennials (P) & Annuals (A)

Sage (P/A) Salvia spp.
Lantana (P/A) Lantana spp.
Groundcover Verbena (P/A) Vergena canadensis
Most Herbs (P/A) varies
Bell Flower (P) Campanula spp.
Showy Evening Primrose (P) Oenothera speciosa
Tickseed (P/A) Coreopsis
Daffodils (P) Narcissus
Turtlehead (P) Chelone spp.
Most Ferns (P/A) varies

Plants Deer LOVE to Eat

Hydrangeas Hydrangea spp.
Roses Rosa spp.
Daylilies Hemerocallis
Hostas Hosta spp.
Phlox Phlox spp.
Pansies Viola spp.
Euonymus Euonymus spp.
Indian Hawthorn Rhaphiolepis spp.
Asiatic Lilies Lilium spp.
Hibiscus Hibiscus spp.

Copyright © 2006 by Theresa Schrum - All rights reserved
No part of this website may be reproduced without the expressed written permission of Theresa Schrum