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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.

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

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Wednesday - June 22, 2011

From: Lansing, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Deer Resistant
Title: Keeping deer away from non-native plants in Lansing MI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What is the real - best way to keep deer from eating my Hostas, Garden phlox and lilies? Ive tried the stinky spray and the fertilizer granules that deter, to no avail.

ANSWER:

It's funny-everyone thinks Mr. Smarty Plants keeps secrets and won't tell the real truth about the solution to our correspondents' questions. Honest, if we knew of a way to deer-proof anything, we would tell you.

We would love to be able to say "just have plants native to Michigan and that will solve everything." NOT!! The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which the plants are being grown. Trust us, we have deer down here in Austin, native plants, and the deer loooove them.  They invade the Plant Nursery at the Center, jump over fences, and even have a nice salad off the blooms of cacti and other prickly succulents. We are having a very hot, dry summer, and the habitats of the wild creatures are being taken over by development as Austin grows. The deer eat where they can, and learn to ignore the attempts to deter them.

We have a list of Deer Resistant Plants on our Recommended Species page. If you follow the link to that page you will find a list of 344 species native to North America that have some resistance to deer browsing. If you use the sidebar on the right-hand side of the page and select on Michigan, and Narrow Your Search, you will get a list of 75 possibilities.  Be sure to read the disclaimer at the top, which pretty much says what we already  told you. If the deer are hungry enough, they will eat your shoelaces if you don't keep moving.

Now, here's a unique plan-just don't plant things that deer will eat. You will save the cost of scarce resources like time, money, water and fertilizer, not to say treatment of the ulcers you will give yourself if you keep stressing out over this. Look on the Michigan list we steered you to for ideas. There are a lot of very attractive grasses that deer don't care for, and shrubs like holly with tough leaves. When you are looking at the list, you can follow each plant link to the page on that plant that will give you information on Light Requirements, type soils, water needs and so forth. Somewhere, usually under "Benefits" on that page, there will be an indicator of the deer resistance of that plant. Unfortunaly, many times it will just say "moderately" resistant, and you know what that means! It's on the Deer Cafeteria menu.

 

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