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Mr. Smarty Plants - Deer-resistant plants for Central Texas

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Monday - July 25, 2011

From: Wimberley, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Deer Resistant
Title: Deer-resistant plants for Central Texas
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I live in a community that is overrun with deer, thanks to neighbors who feed them daily. I am looking for TRUE deer resistant plants for beds...they have eaten my lantana, salvia, esperanza, jasmine, and even wisteria. I already have some grasses and oleander that they leave alone but are there any 'fancier' flowering plants I can rely on? I have gone through every deer repellant known to man. Thanks for the help.

ANSWER:

 Believe me, I can understand your frustration.  I have lived through the very same maddening struggle with deer in Central Texas that you are experiencing.  Deer devoured many so-called deer-resistant plants in my yard and followed up by eating iris leaves, marigolds and other such "completely unpalatable" plants.  So I am going to give you my  own personal list, short as it is, rather than refer you to one of the published lists that you have undoubtedly read already.

First, plants that I believe are truly deer proof.   Datura wrightii (Sacred thorn-apple), also called Jimson weed or Moonflower, Ratibida columnifera (Mexican hat), Dalea greggii (Gregg dalea), Sedum nuttallianum (Yellow stonecrop) and other sedums, Polanisia dodencandra trachysperma ( Clammyweed), Chrysactinia mexicana (Damianita), Capsicum annuum (Chile pequin)(if you protect it until the young red-hot peppers first appear), Copper Canyon daisy, and Jerusalem sage (which, I confess, is not a U. S. native). I might add that most ferns are not eaten by deer.  Datura grows into a 3-4 foot-tall, 4-6 foot-wide bush with large white flowers at night and early morning.  Ratibida can be quite invasive, but I like to see masses of it in bloom.

Next, plants that deer usually avoid.  Wedelia texana (Zexmenia), Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed), Melampodium leucanthum (Blackfoot daisy) and Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (Turk's cap or turkscap).  I have found that some desirable species, such as Lantana urticoides (Texas lantana) will only be nibbled a little bit if you buy a plant that is mature, with tough, hairy leaves.  Deer go for the young leaves by preference.  The trailing, purple-flowered lantana variety is always eaten at my house, but the wild type is  usually not.  By the way, if you plan to try some of these plants, put at least two of each in the ground.  Often deer will take a bite or even pull up a plant completely before realizing they don't like it.  Then you will have at least one left.

I have resorted to using many hanging baskets and vines.  My deer seldom eat anything that is more than about four feet above ground level.  Three beautiful native vines are Bignonia capreolata (Crossvine)Passiflora incarnata (Purple passionflower) and Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper).  Trumpet creeper has the drawback that it actively sends out underground runners that emerge as growing shoots many feet from the parent plant.  These have to be dug up if unwanted, although the deer will help keep them trimmed to the ground. Of course, vines must be protected until they reach a safe height.

On many occasions I have watched anxiously as the first flowers develop and reach the time for opening, only to find that on that very day they have been eaten.  For those special cases I still use the commercial deer repellant Liquid Fence and sometimes alternate it with Hinder because deer seem to become acclimated to one deterrent if used continuously.  I also use a spray deterrent after putting a new plant into the ground and watering it in.  Deer always seem to notice a new potential snack.

After all this, a final caveat.  Deer may have different plant preferences in different locales and even in different years.  After many seasons of living with deer, I suddenly found that they started consuming my previously untouched spineless prickly pears.  Now only the varieties bearing spines are left.

Most of the plant species mentioned above are not my favorites.  But they are survivors, and that is what I need.  I hope some will also survive at your place too.

 

From the Image Gallery


Mexican hat
Ratibida columnifera

Sacred thorn-apple
Datura wrightii

Gregg dalea
Dalea greggii

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Damianita
Chrysactinia mexicana

Zexmenia
Wedelia texana



Blackfoot daisy
Melampodium leucanthum

Yellow stonecrop
Sedum nuttallianum

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