En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
2 ratings

Saturday - September 24, 2011

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Deer Resistant, Groundcovers
Title: Deer-resistant groundcover for New Braunfels, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Could you recommend some deer resistant ground cover plants for the New Braunfels area? We have tried Ajuga and Katie's Ruellia and they have been eaten.


We would like first to point out that both Ajuga reptans, common bugle, and Ruellia brittonia 'Katie' are non-native to North America, and both are capable of being invasive. Obviously, the deer don't care if ajuga is native to Africa, Europe and Asia or that Mexican petunia, ruellia is native to (surprise!) Mexico, and with the deer around, there is not much chance either of them will become invasive, just the deer.The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants grow natively.

We do have a Deer-Resistant Plants list, which can be sorted to list plants native to Texas on the list. Before you start celebrating the perfect solution to your problem, please note this paragraph which is at the beginning of that list:

"Few plants are completely deer resistant. Several factors influence deer browsing including the density of the deer population, environmental conditions such as drought, and plant palatability. Deer tend to avoid plants with aromatic foliage, tough leathery and/or hairy or prickly leaves or plants with milky latex or sap. Try using some of the plants listed here to minimize deer damage to your landscape."

This has been an unusually lean year for both plants and animals. We have been hearing tales at the Wildflower Center of deer eating prickly pear right down to the roots, of small shrubs being cleaned of leaves overnight, and even grasses, which deer tend to avoid, disappearing. The deer have multiplied in good years, as has the population of Central Texas. Now we are all sharing habitat which is short on water and therefore short on vegetation.

If you just want a groundcover, could we suggest a good quality shredded hardwood mulch? It is attractive, smells good, will shelter the roots of other plants beneath it from heat and cold, help hold moisture in the soil (when there is any) and, as it decomposes, will improve the texture of the soil and make it easier for roots to access nutrients in the soil. Actually, we have no hard information on whether or not deer will eat mulch, but at this point, whatever you plant is going to be eaten, so it's worth a try. It will have to be replaced from time to time, but you would also have to replace plants, apparently. We hate to see scarce resources, like water, money and your back muscles, expended on deer dinners, over and over.




More Groundcovers Questions

Native ground cover for Houston
March 02, 2009 - I'm interested in finding native ground cover, either perennials or grasses, that would help control erosion on a steep slope along Soldiers Creek. Currently there is Jasmine, ivy, prairie spiderwort...
view the full question and answer

Native groundcovers to replace non-native St. Augustine
May 24, 2007 - I live in west Travis County just south of Lake Austin. My backyard is very shady and does not drain well. I want to spend some time and effort landscaping it. I have thought about Amerishade St. A...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for memorial garden in Michigan
March 04, 2008 - I want to start a memorial garden for my daughter. I live in northern Michigan and the area has very tall white pines we have pruned them up about 15' so the area does get partial sun. Which plants w...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for East Texas
November 07, 2010 - I live in the country of east Texas and wish to grow native ground covers around my house and property. I have no way to control this growth, as I have no fences or borders. I have sandy soil and th...
view the full question and answer

Removing St. Augustine for natives in Grapevine TX
September 29, 2012 - We have St Augustine in our yard and we hate it. It guzzles water, we have to cut it often, and it's thick and hard to work with. Anyway, we want to replace it with a combination of some kind of g...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center