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Mr. Smarty Plants - Deer resistant plants for MD

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Monday - March 26, 2012

From: North Potomac, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Deer Resistant
Title: Deer resistant plants for MD
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

My home backs to the Muddy Branch Creek parkland,which is suffering greatly from a large deer population. Many of the plants that existed in the woods when we purchased our home (1986), such as mayapple,are gone, and the trees are eaten up as far as the deer can reach. For the past several years, we have lost all ornamental plants on our property despite many attempts to keep the deer at bay. Is there a good place to purchase native wildflowers that the deer will not eat? This year, they destroyed all of our rhododendron; the only thing they did not eat were the boxwoods; but I really like flowers!!

ANSWER:

I think that you know that you are fighting a losing battle and that there is no such thing as a highly deer resistant plant.  When they are hungry enough they will eat whatever is there, whether it is fuzzy, thorny or even poisonous.  Once that is all gone, they ring your doorbell and ask for lettuce!  I shouldn't joke about them ... they are a huge problem all over North America ... this Green Guru has battled them in gardens in NJ, Pennsylvania, Texas and Ontario.  The damage they do to the cultivated landscape is enormous, but the damage they are doing to the understory and forest floor of the woodland ecosystem in the northeast now will affect the future of that ecosystem in ways that it is hard to imagine at this point.

You may find these links helpful.  One is an article by Horticulture magazine and the other a list put together by Rutgers for New Jersey, but most of the plants are native to Maryland as well.

We have a list of Deer Resistant Plants, with 344 plants on it. When we sorted that list for Maryland we got a list of 100, but that includes plants of all habits and conditions.  You can narrow the search further according to your requirements and conditions and then check each linked information page for the (perceived) level of resistance. 

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."

You will not see many plants with big, beautiful flowers on the list, but will see many ornamental grasses.  Grasses are the only plants that deer consistently leave alone as they (unlike cows) are unable to digest them.

 

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