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
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - September 12, 2013

From: Wakefield, RI
Region: Northeast
Topic: Deer Resistant, Privacy Screening, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Deer resistant, Shaded Privacy Hedge for Wakefield RI
Answered by: Larry Larson


We recently removed the dead undergrowth of white pines that were used for privacy. We need advice as to what type of evergreen would be suitable for growth beneath the branches above. It is VERY shady most of the time. I am looking for something that will grow at least 6ft tall and spreading wide. I'll probably need at least 14 plants. This is primarily for privacy from the road (about 150 foot line). Here is the big problem..DEER!! Thank you for your help.


 OK, Mr Smarty Plants has a few suggestions for you!  My normal process is to use the Wildflower Centers Recommended Species pages for a certain area.  Of course, for you I looked at the “Recommended Species for Rhode Island”.  This didn’t work too well, especially as Evergreen is not a choice, but then I went to the Plant Database directly and was able to successfully search for "Rhode Island, Forb or Shrub, Evergreen, and in the 6 ft. plus height range.

One interesting “but” is that Deer Resistance is not one of those selection factors, so you actually need to read the plants description to see how it handles deer.  This will normally be a “Deer Resistance” comment under Benefits.  The kicker - - None of the plants I found listed for Rhode Island had one of these comments, although I list one below that had a comment that it was valuable wildlife food!  So, with that bit of frustration here’s a good set of plants that meet your requirements in general.

For Shrubs, I found 4 plants, and allowing the herbs  to also be 3-6 feet tall, I found 5 more.  Here are the top candidates with some important comments about each:

Ilex glabra (Inkberry) - 6-12 Ft
Juniperus communis var. depressa (Common juniper)  – 6-12 ft, valuable wildlife habitat and food! and needs sun
Taxus canadensis (Canada yew) – 6-12 ft
Rhododendron maximum (Great laurel) – 12-36 ft   Contains toxic substances
Dennstaedtia punctilobula (Eastern hay-scented fern), Osmorhiza claytonii (Clayton's sweetroot)   Ferns, 3-6 Ft at most
Solidago sempervirens (Seaside goldenrod)   Evergreen Herb, but needs sun

  After I wrote up all of this, I went looking elsewhere on the internet and found a bit more on Deer Resistance.  I was delighted to see that Old Farmers Almanac, had a good piece – and also many other Blogs referenced this piece from Better Homes and Gardens.   I see many favorites mentioned in these, but they are normally smaller than you requested and/or not native to your area.

From the Image Gallery

Ilex glabra

Canada yew
Taxus canadensis

Great laurel
Rhododendron maximum

Clayton's sweetroot
Osmorhiza claytonii

Seaside goldenrod
Solidago sempervirens

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Cottony infestation on Turk's Cap in Austin
July 05, 2010 - The Turks Cap in my front planter is well-established and, overall, happy and blooming. However, some of the top leaves, those in the most shaded area, have what looks like a thin, loose layer of cot...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on Fan Scarlet-Cardinal
September 02, 2005 - I have a lobelia x speciosa (Fan Scarlet-Cardinal) plant and was wondering if I should dead head it after blossoming so that the plant continues to flower. Can you help? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Plants to grow in shady sand in Florida
March 31, 2013 - We live in central Florida (directly between Orlando and Tampa). Our yard is mostly sand for soil and difficult parts in shade almost all day from large trees. What ground cover (grass) and hedges can...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for pots for wedding in November
October 03, 2006 - Will any of the plants that are in your big plant sale be flowering in November? I am looking for plants that would do well in pots because I'd like to use them as center pieces at a wedding (in Aus...
view the full question and answer

The origin of Juncus effusus var. Big Twister
May 04, 2008 - Juncus effusus, var. 'Big Twister' We're trying to figure out the nativity of this thing, and whether it is safe to plant in our very wet rain garden. Thank you for any assistance...
view the full question and answer

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