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Friday - January 14, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Deer Resistant Plants for Dry Shade in Manor, Texas
Answered by: Marilyn Kircus

QUESTION:

What deer resistant blooming plants will do well under a huge oak tree?

ANSWER:

Trees compete with plants for water so you need plants that will do well in dry shade.

I went in to the Explore Plants feature on the Wildflower website and looked at the deer resistant plants list. Then I  chose some plants I thought would do well in your area and soils. But be assured, there are NO deer resistant plants.  If a deer is starving, it will eat anything and more and more, deer are losing their habitat and being forced to eat our plants.  I have an almost one-year old garden in Dripping Springs and have tested lots of "deer resistant plants". Deer ate most of them.

Be sure to protect your young plants with a deer spray.  Or you may want to put up a little temporary fence until your plants get some size so one bite doesn’t do them in. You may find deer will eat the flowers of some of these plants, even though they are supposed to be deer resistant. They do eat yucca blooms and ate my blue curls flowers that stuck out of the deer proof fence.

I'm going to give you the list in what I think may be the order of deer resistance, based on my experience in Hays County and the descriptions of deer resistance in the individual plant descriptions.

Verbesina virginica (Frostweed) This is the main thing that grows naturally under the live oaks on my daughter's property.  It is my favorite plant when the first freeze happens and it makes its cotton candy ice. And it is an important source of nectar for migrating monarch butterflies.  The leaves are a little coarse so it needs to be inter planted with something with smaller leaves. I haven't noticed any deer damage to the plants that grow naturally on our property.

Salvia coccinea (Scarlet sage) This is a showy red sage that blooms most of the year.  I'm currently in zone nine and it is blooming now. And you just cut it back when it gets leggy and it will just grow thicker  and with more blooms.  It even survives being mowed with a high setting. I didn't have this in my garden but several other sages did not get eaten by the deer. It would look pretty with many of the other plants or in a solid mass by itself.

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama This is our state grass and makes a good accent plant mixed with spring blooming plants as it stays short in the spring.  Deer hardly ever will eat grass so they all do well. It will give you fall color.

Carex texensis (Texas sedge) You should be able to find this growing naturally under trees in your area. It will give a grass effect or will look good mixed with other plants. Deer seem to leave it alone.

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) This is also a grass so deer mostly leave it alone.  The seed heads are stunning if you can view them backlit with morning or evening light. The wildflower center divided a bed under a live oak into Ying and Yang shapes and filled half of it with this and the other half with Turk's cap.  It was very stunning. Sea oats would also look beautiful with Scarlet Sage.

Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit)  This is one of my favorite plants. It will grow in asphalt and is one plant you don't want to coddle. It will form a mat of low-growing flowers which attract lots of butterflies and other pollinators. (And it’s the larval host for Phaon Crescentspot, Buckeye, and White Peacock butterflies.) I either grow it alone or with a tall native grass and let it keep other weeds from growing around the clumps. If it grows too vigorously, you can easily pull some of it up or just clip it back. It seems to have flowers most of the year, except in cold temperatures.  And in really dry conditions, it can be a “weaver” and “sew” your garden together.  If you give it very much water it will overgrow everything.

Phacelia congesta (Blue curls) This is a beautiful tall, blue-flowered woodland plant that will do best protected from western sun. It would look good mixed with grasses and or other flowers. It provides nectar to butterflies.

Wedelia texana (Zexmenia) This is very easy to grow in dry conditions. It blooms from May to November with cheerful flowers that attract butterflies and serve as larval host to Bordered Patch, Sierran Metalmark, and Lacinia Patch butterflies. Deer resistance is listed as moderate. I kept all my plants behind the deer fence so don't have any experience with how delicious they are to deer. When it starts getting leggy or woody, just whack it back.

Yucca pallida (Pale-leaf yucca) This plant gives spiky, blue-green interest.  I like to grow spiky plants like this with flowers and it would look good with zexmenia. Deer don't normally eat the yucca plants but love the flowers.  You will have to keep them sprayed with something like liquid deer fence to enjoy the blooms. It serves as the larval host for the yucca giant skipper butterfly and is pollinated by moths. It blooms in May and June with white flowers.

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (Turk's cap or turkscap) This is another great shade plant that is very attractive to hummingbirds. The normal color is an orangey red but cultivars are now available in pink and white and also in variegated foliage. It is considered moderately deer resistant.  Once it gets some growth, it should be able to hold its own.  Just spray it the first spring and early summer.

 Here are some pictures of these plants:


Verbesina virginica

Verbesina virginica

Salvia coccinea


Chasmanthium latifolium


Bouteloua curtipendula


Phyla nodiflora


Yucca pallida


Wedelia texana


Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii


Phacelia congesta

 

 

 

 

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