The Myth of "Deer Resistant" Plants

deer grazing a garden

Exhibiting last year at the MANTS (Mid Atlantic National Trade Show) I met some very interesting folks who were experts in the field of deer and their eating habits. I learned a lot from one woman who published a study on a deer's diet. Interestingly, what deer might not eat in one geographic location will be eaten in another location. She singled out Boxwood as an example of what commonly sold as a plant that deer will never touch. In certain areas, deer will most definitely consume this shrub even when they are not in starvation crisis! 

The reason being is a deer's taste buds are always changing. This poses the biggest challenge to the manufacturers of deer repellent sprays. They must constantly change their formula so the deer do not get use to a scent or taste. I've noticed this first hand in my own garden while using a deer repellent spray that used to do a great job protecting my Hostas is now useless defense. 

 According to Rutgers Nursery website- "Unfortunately, no plant is deer proof. Deer will eat anything to survive".  

When I spoke to nursery centers owners they rarely will say a plant is "deer proof" to their customers. They explained the reason being is they are too often caught out when a customer complains that their deer resistant plants have been eaten in the 1st season after planting them. Many nursery centers use the Rutgers University's list of "Plants Rated by Deer Resistance" now as a loose recommendation rather than the standard it used to be deer resistant plants. 

According to in regards to spray repellents-

"The effectiveness of repellents will vary and will depend on a number of factors":

  • Seasonal changes in plant palatability
  • Local deer taste preferences and nutritional needs
  • Availability of alternative foods
  • Time of year
  • Deer density
  • Type of repellent and concentration of active ingredients
  • Durability of the repellent and how often it is applied

     What is your experience or thoughts? Drop us a line, we would love to hear!





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