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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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Monday - January 30, 2012

From: Pittsburgh, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Deer Resistant, Erosion Control, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like, Shrubs
Title: Deer resistant plants for Pittsburgh PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What shrubs can I plant on a wet slope that gets partial sun that will help control erosion? They need to be something the deer won't eat! We have lots of deer.

ANSWER:

Let's begin with the hardest part of your question first-deer resistant. You do know, we are sure, that there few plants that deer won't eat. We have a list of Deer Resistant Plants, with 344 plants on it. When we sorted that list by Pennsylvania and part shade (2-6 hours of sun a day) we got a list of 62, but we knew from experience that many of those were listed as  "moderate deer resistance," and that's not what you are looking for. So we looked again at plants native to Pennsylvania that we knew were highly resistant and came up with a list of 12 plants of various habits.

Please heed the paragraph that leads into our list of deer resistant plants:

"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."

So, with a palette of 12 plants to work from (and we will list them), we can try to establish how good they would be at controlling erosion. You may notice from our list that there are a number of grasses listed as highly deer resistant. That is good news, because grasses are also the most effective plants at controlling erosion with their long fibrous roots, hold their place in the soil year-round and are attractive landscape elements, and deer tend not to browse grasses.

Shrubs that spread by roots and form thickets:

Rhus aromatica (Fragrant sumac)

Amorpha fruticosa (Indigo bush)

Grasses with deep fibrous roots:

Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem)

Andropogon glomeratus (Bushy bluestem)

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Tree:

Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)

Wildflowers:

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)

Capsicum annuum (Chile pequin)

Ratibida columnifera (Mexican hat)

Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed susan)

Follow the plant links to our webpage on each plant to determine how well it will work for the area you are concerned with. You can then go to our National Suppliers Directory, type in your town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box, and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and landscape and environment consultants. All have contact information and can give you information on plants for your specific area.

 

From the Image Gallery


Indigo bush
Amorpha fruticosa

Big bluestem
Andropogon gerardii

Bushy bluestem
Andropogon glomeratus

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Chile pequin
Capsicum annuum

American sycamore
Platanus occidentalis

Mexican hat
Ratibida columnifera

Fragrant sumac
Rhus aromatica

Black-eyed susan
Rudbeckia hirta

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

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