En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
3 ratings

Monday - March 17, 2008

From: Chepachet, RI
Region: Northeast
Topic: Deer Resistant
Title: Native, deer-resistant evergreen trees for Rhode Island
Answered by: Nan Hampton


What deer proof evergreens can I plant in RI that may make nice xmas trees in a few years?


First of all, there are not really any "deer proof" plants, only deer resistant ones. When food is short and conditions are tough, deer will eat almost anything—even plants on all the deer-resistant lists. That said, here is information about the deer-resistance of native evergreens (presented below) that grow in Rhode Island.

Deer-Departed.com lists the following species on their "Rarely Damaged Tree" list: Chamaecyparis species, Ilex opaca, Juniperus virginiana, Picea glauca, and Pinus species. Brooklyn Botanic Garden list of Deer-resistant Plants—Shrubs and Trees for the Deer-Plagued Gardener lists Chameaecyparis species and Picea species trees as deer-resistant. Iowa State University Extension Service puts Thuja occidentalis on their "Plants Frequently Severely Damaged". It is possible, however, to protect young trees from nibbling deer by enclosing them in wire cages. Check with you local nurseries for possible solutions.

Below are native evergreen trees that grow in Rhode Island. The information about growth rates for these comes from the U. S. Forest Service. It is possible that there are nursery cultivars of these trees that have been selected for more rapid growth than that listed by the Forest Service.

Chamaecyparis thyoides (Atlantic white cedar) has a medium growth rate. In favorable sites they can grow to 10 feet in 7 or 8 years in the South, or 10 years in the Northeast. Here are some photos of Atlantic white cedar.

Juniperus virginiana (eastern redcedar), depending on the site, can grow as much as 17 inches in a year.

Thuja occidentalis (arborvitae) , probably not deer-resistant and generally slow growing (as little as 3 inches/year). Photo of T. occidentalis.

There are several pines, most of which are somewhat deer-resistant:

Pinus banksiana (jack pine) grows slowly in the first 3 years, but after this period their growth rate increases considerably so that they may be 3 feet by 4 years. Photos of P. banksiana.

Pinus resinosa (red pine) grows slowly in the wild and may take as long as 10 years to reach 4.5 feet. Photo of P. resinosa.

Pinus rigida (pitch pine) is another slow grower requiring 8 years to reach 2 feet. Photos of P. rigida.

Pinus strobus (eastern white pine) grows slowly for first 2 to 3 years, but then increases rapidly so that by 10 years they have reached 10-15 feet.


Picea glauca (white spruce) is another slow grower, reaching less than 20 inches after 4-6 years. Photos of P. glauca.

Picea mariana (black spruce) growth reaches 5-13 feet at 10 years in plantations. Photos of P. mariana.

Finally, an evergreen non-conifer, Ilex opaca (American holly), can grow 3 to 4 feet a year under optimal conditions, but usually grows much slower. Here is more information about its growth.

Juniperus virginiana

Pinus strobus

Ilex opaca



More Deer Resistant Questions

Identity of ball-shaped purple flower in Connecticut
July 13, 2015 - I am trying to identify a ball shaped purple/light purple flower with opposite leaves that look fern like. It has been in bloom since late May or early June. I have found it growing with what appear...
view the full question and answer

Deer Resistant Plants for Northern Virginia
September 22, 2010 - I'm looking for deer resistant shade plants in Northern Virginia. The deer have devoured my hostas, impatiens and native toad lily plants, day lilies.
view the full question and answer

Are there plants that are resistant to axis deer?
November 07, 2013 - Greetings! I live about 10 miles south of Kerrville, Texas, toward Medina. I wish to begin planting more natives on a plot we have recently purchased. Some plants will go inside a fence that deer...
view the full question and answer

Climbing vines that are deer resistant
July 12, 2013 - Please find plants that are climbing vines and are deer resistant
view the full question and answer

Deer-resistant groundcovers for erosion control
September 26, 2012 - I need a ground cover (vine??) that will help me with erosion on a sloped front yard. It gets about 6-8 hours of sun and my main need is for something that the rats in our neighborhood will not destro...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center