Deer-Resistant Shrubs

Bushes That You Will Love (but Bambi Won't)

Burkwood Daphne (Daphne x burkwoodii Carol Mackie) in bloom.
Daphne is an evergreen, flowering shrub. Andrey Zharkikh/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

Deer-resistant shrubs are not Bambi's preferred snacks, although he will eat almost any plant when really hungry. Grow one of these bushes if your landscaping budget is not big enough to feed Bambi.

Deer-Resistant Shrubs That Are Evergreen

    If you take drives through deer-infested areas of the United States such as Connecticut and observe people's landscaping, a shrub that you will see a lot is boxwood. One reason why, no doubt, is that this classic plant for hedges is a logical choice in an area of upscale residences. It lends itself well to a formal landscape design.

    But there is more to it than that. Lyme disease, an illness spread by a deer tick (Ixodes dammini), is named after Lyme, Connecticut, so you know that Bambi frequents the region. But homeowners here have figured out that Bambi tends to leave boxwood alone.

    Boxwood is an example of a broadleaf evergreen. Among the needled evergreens, junipers make for some of the best deer-resistant shrubs. Juniper's texture is bristly (not exactly a treat for the tongue). Blue Star juniper is a small, slow-growing, rounded bush that is a good choice in planting beds where a bluish accent is needed.

    Meanwhile, Blue Rug juniper serves as a ground cover. You will often see it growing on hillsides to prevent erosion.

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

    Flowering Deer-Resistant Shrubs

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

    Andromeda is multidimensional, as well. It is evergreen, but, unlike boxwood and many other evergreens, this bush is also grown for its blooms, which give off a powerful smell in early spring.

    Bluebeard 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 has bluish flowers with silvery-gray foliage and is drought-tolerant. But it blooms earlier and for a longer time than bluebeard.

    Do not dismiss all types of butterfly bush as being invasive for all regions. First of all, Buddleia davidii is invasive only in some regions. Check with your local county extension before planting to determine its status in your own region.

    Secondly, new cultivars have been coming out, such as Blue Chip butterfly bush, that are supposed to be non-invasive.

    Roses and lilacs are gardening staples. But with so many varieties to choose from, why not select types that are low-maintenance? Bambi tends not to eat the common lilac, meaning that you needn't worry about erecting a deer fence around this bush to grow it successfully. Candy Oh is not only deer-resistant but also an easy-to-grow rose bush

    More Deer-Resistant Shrubs

    While the search for a non-invasive butterfly bush has ended with success, we are still waiting for a proven non-invasive cultivar when it comes to barberry. That's too bad, because, with its sharp thorns, it is 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 are more likely to see in the wild there than in people's yards. It is the fragrance of bayberry that deters our cloven-hoofed garden pests from eating it.

    Carol Mackie Daphne has been saved for last because this variegated bush could have been put into either the evergreen or flowering category. It holds its leaves for most of the year, and its fragrant flowers are one of the true delights of the spring garden.