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Avoid Costly Deer Damage To Shrubs

Deer can cause significant damage to landscape plants, as they have a wide range of dietary preferences and will often feed on a variety of shrubs, flowers, and trees. Their browsing habits can result in the stripping of leaves, twigs, and bark, which can weaken or kill the plant. Additionally, repeated browsing can cause a plant to become stunted or misshapen.

There are, essentially, three strategies to protect your landscape plants from deer:

  1. Put up a barrier around the plants deer eat.
  2. Spray the plants deer eat with repellents.
  3. Select plants that deer rarely eat.

Notice we used the words "rarely eat". This is because deer will taste almost any plant you can put into a garden. In most cases, if the deer do not like a particular plant, they will move on to other plants. If, however, the are particularly hungry because other preferred food sources are not around, they will even eat plants they do not enjoy (for the record, I do not particularly like eggplant but will eat it if I am hungry).

Finding a palette of shrubs rarely damaged by deer takes years of trial and error. What works one year may not work in another. What works in one location may fail the test in another location.

At Allentuck Landscaping Co., we have three decades of work under our belts and feel we have found a staple of shrubs that we are confident enough to recommend. As with any list, this list is reliable but not fool proof (it should be noted that deer cannot read so they are unaware that this list of shrubs does not appeal to them).

The following is our list of shrubs rarely damaged by deer in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Shrubs Rarely Damaged by Deer

Pieris japonica 'Cavatine' - Dwarf Cavatine Pieris

This is a delightful dwarf shrub (grows to 3') that has dangling white flowers in early spring. The flowers resemble Lily Of The Valley. Its new growth emerges in shades of red before hardening of to green. This is a perfect plant for a partially shaded garden.


Shrubs Rarely Damaged by DeerCephalotaxus harringtonia 'Prostrata' - Spreading Japanese Plum Yew

English and Densiform Yews are almost always eaten by deer and left to decline. The Japanese Plum Yew family is rarely, if ever, eaten. Deep evergreen color and a low growth form coupled with a feathery texture makes this plant worth having in a garden. It is one of the few conifer evergreen shrubs that will thrive in the shade.


Shrubs Rarely Damaged by Deer

Mahonia bealii - Leatherleaf Mahonia

Do not let the name of this shrub fool you. Although it's leathery leaves give it a unique texture, it's yellow flowers make it a stunner. This Mahonia has a multi-stem upright habit and is great as an accent plant or used in masses. It can tolerate sun or shade well.



Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jalena' - Jalena Witch Hazel

One of the very first plants to bloom in the spring, its blossoms can be seen as early as January in some years! Witch Hazels can get quite large, up to 8'-10' so give it plenty of room to grow. A really delightful shrub.


Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Blue Mist - Bluebeard

How about a plant that attracts pollinators and still isn't eaten by deer! Bluebeards are something to look forward to in the second half of the year. It typically blooms from mid-summer until late in the fall. A spectacular plant for full sun exposure.


Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki' - Goshiki False Holly

Finding a hedge plant that deer do not eat can be a challenge. The Goshiki False Holly fits the bill. Closely resembling a holly, it has yellow and green leaf coloring and is one tough plant. It can be used in full sun but prefers a little shade protection.



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At Allentuck Landscaping Company, our mission is to create beautiful environments for people to enjoy. We see landscaping as a way to improve people’s lives.

The Allentuck Landscaping Company team has been a leading landscape company in Montgomery County, Maryland for over 28 years with our turnkey approach to landscape design, installation, construction and maintenance. Most companies try to serve many types of customers at the same time; homeowners, shopping centers, office buildings and the list goes on. At Allentuck Landscaping Co., we focus on one customer, you, the homeowner. We have a singular focus on bringing you the best landscape practices, the best customer service, and the best value for your home.

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