Plants for a Deer Resistant Garden: Throw Some Shade

by Jul 24, 2017News1 comment

Plants for a Deer Resistant Garden: Throw Some Shade

By Alex Hall, Leon Levy Native Garden Intern

Not only do Northeastern gardeners have to endure harsh winters and rocky soils, but we also have to contend with White-tailed Deer. The all too familiar woodland creatures all but terrorize unprotected gardens—trampling tender vegetation, beheading anything that looks tasty, and sometimes even digging up and devouring roots and bulbs. It’s nearly impossible to keep deer away from unfenced gardens in our region, and often the survival of our plants requires sacrificing or changing the aesthetic of our space by erecting deer netting or fencing.

Fortunately, nature is on our side, and there are several native plants that deer will stay away from. Poisonous plants such as Eastern Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia) will ward off our hoofed plant-predators as well as trees, shrubs, and plants with strong scents like Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina), or mountain mints (Pycnanthemum spp.). Similarly, deer don’t like to munch on plants that are hairy or spiky, like Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) or Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa).

Enjoy these tips for a beautiful shade garden that won’t be snacked on by Bambi!

Instead of letting an invasive groundcover like Japanese pachysandra take over, try the native species Pachysandra terminalis, or Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense), a popular alternative. Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) is another shade-loving and interesting plant grown for its unique cup-like structure.

If you’re going for a pop of color, False Goat’s Beard (Astilbe biternata) will light up a shady spot with its variety of feathery blooms. Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica), a spring ephemeral, is a delicate addition to an area with partial shade.

Shrubs that add structure, foliage, and bird habitat to your shade garden are Allegheny Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis), American Holly (Ilex opaca), and Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata). Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) is a good choice if you’re looking for a larger shrub in part-shade conditions.

Still stumped for what to plant in your shady garden that the deer will resist? Consider becoming a member at the Great Blue Heron level to receive a landscape consultation with our Leon Levy Native Garden team.

And stay tuned for a follow-up article on native deer-resistant plants for sunny gardens!

1 Comment

  1. Black Eyed Susan

    Thank you! So helpful to deter the deer!


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