Landscape shrubs aren't the preferred food for white-tailed deer, but they will eat them in a pinch, as so many homeowners in suburban or rural areas can tell you. During a cold winter or at other times when natural sources of food are low, your landscape can be devastated by deer feeding on shrubs and small trees. Sometimes the damage is merely cosmetic and the plant will recover, but if the bark is completely stripped from a shrub or tree, the plant can be killed.
If you live in a region... where white-tailed deer are prevalent, consider planting shrubs that deer are less likely to munch on. There are many possibilities among evergreen species, flowering shrubs, and other specimens, as you'll learn in the following list.
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Boxwoods (Buxus) are plants known as broadleaf evergreens, meaning that they have broad leaves like deciduous pants, but keep their leaves in the winter. This makes it a very popular plant for hedges. Boxwoods contain alkaloids that are distasteful to deer.
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Junipers are members of the cypress family and have a very heavy, fragrant odor. Because deer have such a sensitive sense of smell, they dislike any plants with a heavy odor. Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata Blue Star) is a small, slow-growing, rounded bush that's a good choice in beds where a bluish accent is needed. Meanwhile, Blue Rug juniper (Juniperus horizontalis Blue Rug) serves as a ground cover; you'll often see it growing on hillsides.
For a totally different look, try the... Pfitzer Chinese junipers (Juniperus chinensis Pfitzeriana Glauca) that have been trained into pom-poms.
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You get a 3-for-1 deal with arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum). This deer-resistant shrub bears colorful fall foliage and berries, in addition to blooming in spring.
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Andromeda (Pieris japonica) is a multidimensional shrub. Although it is technically an evergreen and could have been listed with those shrubs this bush is also grown for its blooms, which give off a powerful smell in early spring. It is the rich smell that deer recoil from.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Bluebeard (Caryopteris) blooms in late summer, at a time when relatively few bushes are flowering. In addition, Bluebeard is drought-tolerant. Like many plants on this list, it is the heavy scent that repels deer.
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Like Bluebeard, Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), which is technically a sub-shrub, has bluish flowers with silvery-gray foliage and is drought-tolerant. But it blooms earlier and for a longer time than Bluebeard.
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Although butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is considered too invasive in many regions, it may well work for you, so do your homework. 'Blue Chip' butterfly bush, for example, is a newer cultivar that promises to be non-invasive.
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Shrub roses, in general, are good plants where deer are a problem, due to the thorny stems that deer don't like to eat. We especially love Candy Oh!, which is a variety that is known for its fragrance and vibrant coloring.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) is a native of eastern North America, a shrub you're more likely to see in the wild there than in people's yards. It's the fragrance of bayberry that deters our cloven-hoofed garden pests from eating it
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Carol Mackie daphne (Daphne x burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie') is a variegated bush with extremely fragrant flowers. Its fragrance is one of the true delights of the spring garden, but the aroma and poisonous berries are distasteful to deer. It is evergreen to zone 5.